For the past two decades, scientists have made strides in developing hair loss treatments that are both safe and effective. However, the market is inundated with ineffective products; "99 percent of all products being marketed in the less than ethical hair loss treatment industry are completely ineffective for the majority of those who use them," according to the AHLA.
Each hair develops from a follicle — a narrow pocket in the skin — and goes through three phases of growth. Anagen (A), the active growth phase, lasts two to seven years. Catagen (), the transition phase, lasts about two weeks. During this phase, the hair shaft moves upward toward the skin's surface, and the dermal papilla (the structure that nourishes cells that give rise to hair) begins to separate from the follicle. Telogen (C), the resting phase, lasts around three months and culminates in the shedding of the hair shaft.
The follicles on the sides of the scalp are more genetically resistant to DHT, which is why male pattern baldness often results in a “crown” of hair. But its downsides are serious. “With women, finasteride is not an option,” says Dr. Wolfeld. “It’s not FDA-approved for women to take, so we don’t prescribe it.” In fact, due to the drug’s effect on hormone levels, pregnant women are advised to not even touch broken or crushed tablets.
Retin-A, or topical tretinoin, is sometimes used as a combination therapy with minoxidil for androgenic alopecia. It’s important to use this type of medication under the guidance of your doctor. In some circumstances, tretinoin can actually cause hair loss. Some people who have used it at home report that topical retinol creams, serums, and lotions may make hair loss worse.

One hard truth: Hair loss is mostly out of your control. “Baldness comes down to your genes,” says Frederick Joyce, M.D., founder of Rejuvenate! Med Spa and a member of the International Society for Hair Restoration Surgery. “If you have the baldness gene, there are some natural remedies that may make your hair stronger and healthier to slow your hair loss slightly—but they won’t prevent you from going bald. Still, maintaining hair health by eating well and using the right products—combined with medical-grade treatments—can really work all together to help you have a fuller, thicker head of hair.”
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Minoxidil (Rogaine, generic versions). This drug was introduced as a treatment for high blood pressure, but people who took it noticed that they were growing hair in places where they had lost it. Research confirmed that a 2% solution of minoxidil applied directly to the scalp could stimulate hair growth. How it works is still not clear. Two double-blind studies of women ages 18 to 45 demonstrated its effectiveness. In one study, 13% of female minoxidil users had moderate hair growth, and 50%, minimal growth (compared with 6% and 33%, respectively, in the placebo group). In the second study, 60% of women in the minoxidil group reported new hair growth, compared with 40% in the placebo group. As a result of these studies and others, over-the-counter 2% minoxidil is FDA-approved for treating androgenetic alopecia in women.
For example, if your hair is thinning because you’ve recently started a new medication or a diet, your approach might be to take an oral supplement or use a laser light device. But if you have hair loss from psoriasis or chemical treatments, you might try a new shampoo and invest in a moisturizing scalp treatment. Throwing everything possible at the problem might not be the most effective method.
The American Hair Loss Association still recommends the drug for those who have not responded favorably to finasteride treatment or for those who would like to add another product to their regimen. The AHLA does not recommend minoxidil as the first line of attack for men suffering with male pattern baldness, but does recognize it as an effective treatment for a small percentage of its users.
The truth is, the amount of propylene glycol in hair loss treatments is not likely to cause any real harm and the FDA has given the chemical approval for many uses. But even though it is safe, we wanted to ensure that our top picks would be as comfortable to use as possible. So when Dr. Khadavi told us that “a third of my patients get irritated from minoxidil products because of propylene glycol,” we decided to cut any treatments with it. In any case, it’s the minoxidil that helps curb hair loss and not the propylene glycol.
Excessive hair loss led me to this product about six years ago, and having sought advice from physicians ("It's stress"), a vitamin guru ($150 later) and all the information I could glean from the internet, I was wisely advised by my dermatologist to try men's Rogaine. The price, however, was a major deterrent, so more sleuthing led me to Walmart, and their version of Rogaine -- just plain minoxidil, but at an affordable price. Equate did wonders! And has continued to work its volumizing wonders over the years. My hair's thick and shiny, and while it undergoes spells of temporary loss, it always returns in full volume. I couldn't live without this product -- and a three-months' supply for a little more than $18 (5% solution), it's not only a bargain, but a blessing!!
Cimetidine, brand name Tagamet, belongs to a class of histamine blockers used mainly to treat gastrointestinal ulcers. The histamine-blocking action prevents the stomach from producing excess acid, allowing the body to heal the ulcer. Cimetidine also has a fairly powerful anti-androgenic effect and has been shown to block dihydrotestosterone from binding the follicle receptor sites.
No. Minoxidil topical solution 2% will not work faster or better if used more than two times a day. Studies have been carefully conducted to determine the correct amount of minoxidil topical solution 2% needed to get the best results. More frequent use or larger doses have not been shown to speed up hair growth and may increase your chances of side effects.
This article is COMPREHENSIVE and sticks to the tried and tested (read scientifically proven) treatment methods. For me, if you’re suffering from pattern baldness, then the best chance you have is the Big Three. That said, it is worth potentially trying other, more natural, treatments if your hair loss isn’t aggressive and if you have an aversion to medicated products. I’m not talking about snake oil here. There are some treatments out there that, while not a primary treatment mode, can help to at least arrest hair loss in milder cases. As always with hair loss it’s a question of probabilities. I don’t think I’ve come across a product that works 100% of the time for 100% of the people. But the best chance undoubtedly comes with the FDA approved products to date. Also loved the future pipeline chart. Fantastic view of what will (hopefully) be more effective treatments in the future.
In our research and our conversations with experts, one name kept popping up repeatedly: Rogaine. As the first topical brand FDA-approved to help regrow hair (all the way back in 1988), Rogaine benefits from more than 20 years of clinical trials and consumer feedback. Rogaine was the first brand to offer a 5 percent minoxidil foam solution when it debuted Men’s Rogaine Unscented Foam in 2006, and virtually every treatment developed since (for both men and women) has been an imitation or derivation of that formula.
Oral supplements like Viviscal Extra Strength dietary supplements (Est. $50 per month) have also been proven to have a measurable effect on hair regrowth; a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that the nutritional supplement significantly increased hair growth among women with thinning hair.
The truth is, the amount of propylene glycol in hair loss treatments is not likely to cause any real harm and the FDA has given the chemical approval for many uses. But even though it is safe, we wanted to ensure that our top picks would be as comfortable to use as possible. So when Dr. Khadavi told us that “a third of my patients get irritated from minoxidil products because of propylene glycol,” we decided to cut any treatments with it. In any case, it’s the minoxidil that helps curb hair loss and not the propylene glycol.
While diet alone won’t save your hair, there may be some truth to the old adage that you are what you eat. “You’re not going to have the healthiest hair if you’re living off doughnuts, because being nutrient-deficient weakens strands and makes them more prone to breakage,” says Denise Kernan, owner of DK Hair Techs, Inc., a member of the International Society for Hair Restoration Surgery, and a hair transplant technician who has worked on everyone from senators to sports stars to actors to mafia guys (she won’t name names to protect the privacy of her clients).
The other main hair-loss treatment that was recommended by all four dermatologists I interviewed is finasteride, often called by its brand name Propecia. This FDA-approved medication is only available with a prescription, but these days, it’s found as a generic and ordered online after a virtual consultation, through start-ups like Hims, Keeps, and Lemonaid.
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