Sorry guys, but despite establishing a beachhead in the battle against male pattern baldness, the three best weapons against a receding hair line are not exactly ideal:
* Take medications that offer modest hair growth potential and hope they work especially well just for you.
* Undergo expensive hair transplants and hope that the top of your head isn’t mistaken for a Chia Pet.
* Get over it. Of course, few men wish to see such symbols of youth and vitality fall from their head and clog the bathroom drain. And there is hope. There is always hope.
At a recent conference of the American Academy of Dermatology, specialists in the field of balding revealed the latest approaches to covering the top of men’s heads. Improved transplant techniques, some say, are giving bald men a fresh set of hair that looks more natural than what could be expected before. New findings also suggest that more potent hair-loss drugs may be on their way. The era of comb-overs and Elton John wigs may not be over, but experts do say that these dark days are numbered.
Side Effect Turns Gold
There is no shortage of fly-by-night products that play off men’s hopes and fears concerning a full head of hair. Some of the newer strategies include
* Rubbing copper or zinc gels on your head.
* Taking amino acid supplements.
* Using herbs such as Serenoa repens (saw palmetto).
So far, however, only two medications have been tested in rigorous clinical trials. “It’s very encouraging to now see long-term controlled data that show we can do something to stop progressive hair loss,” says David Whiting, a dermatologist at the University of Texas South West Medical Center in Dallas.
Minoxidil is the first treatment to demonstrate some promise as a treatment for male pattern baldness. (Estrogen and simply cutting off testosterone production, such as with medical castration, can effectively reestablish hair growth, but men in search of full locks of hair usually want to be more attractive to women, not more like women per se.) Minoxidil was originally used to treat hypertension. However, when some began complaining that the treatment left them with excessive amounts of arm hair, the drug was quickly reshaped into a topical solution called Rogaine.
When dabbed on a moderately balding scalp, studies show that Rogaine prevents hair follicle shrinkage and promotes new, denser hair on the crown of the head in some cases. In a recent 2-year-long study that tested a 2% and a 5% Rogaine formula against a placebo, hair counts were 45% greater with the 5% solution compared to the weaker one, and extra-strength Rogaine users had almost five times as much hair as the placebo (control) group.
No one can say for sure how Rogaine works, but laboratory and animal studies suggest that the topical application increases blood flow to the scalp and stimulates certain growth factors that build hair, according to Dr. Ronald Trancik of Pharmacia & Upjohn, the company that makes Rogaine
Making Hair Loss History (Sort Of)
The other well-tested hair loss treatment is Propecia (generic name finasteride), a slimmed-down version of the drug Proscar, which is used to treat prostate problems. This pill blocks one of the enzymes that converts testosterone into DHT (short for dihydrotestosterone). Overproduction of DHT is thought to be one key reason why many men eventually lose the need for a comb.
By keeping male hormones in check, Propecia increases hair scalp counts and leads to a thicker, fuller appearance of hair that is left. It probably does this somewhat better than Rogaine, experts say. Moreover, studies show that Propecia pushes hair up through much of the scalp, whereas Rogaine seems to only work on back of the head.
Propecia may work best as a preventive measure. As ads in just about every men’s magazine point out, 83% of Propecia users were able to keep the same amount of hair after 2 years, compared to 28% who used a placebo. How long can men hope to keep their hair with Propecia?
Dr. Keith Kaufman of Merck Laboratories announced new findings from men who have now used Propecia for 4 years. Compared to the few subjects who were still using a placebo during this time, Propecia was associated with better-quality hair, plus more of it. By the end of the fourth year, however, there was distinct drop in the initial improvements seen with Propecia, suggesting that gains may not last forever.
For men who don’t mind shelling out $100 or so dollars a month for two treatments, studies on monkeys show that combining Rogaine with Propecia leads to better hair growth than using either drug alone. Rogaine can sometimes cause an itchy and dry scalp, and Propecia might decrease your sex drive, so men should be prepared for these added effects as well.
A new hair loss drug developed by Glaxo Wellcome may soon give men another option. At the dermatology conference, Dr. Roger Rittmaster announced his company’s work on a drug called GI198745 (currently lacking a catchy brand name). The experimental treatment blocks two enzymes that convert testosterone into DHT, rather than just one enzyme like Propecia.
When hundreds of men were given high doses of GI19875, scalp biopsies showed that DHT was suppressed by 82%, compared to a 38% DHT suppression rate with Propecia. “Our hypothesis is that greater hormone suppression will lead to more hair,” says Dr. Rittmaster. Stay tuned.
Article By: Eric Sabo, Medical Writer