Shining a Light on 9 Hair Loss Treatments

Originally designed to treat enlarged prostate, Propecia, known scientifically as finasteride, can be taken orally on a daily basis to counter hair loss.

It has been shown to be highly effective, but it is not perfect.

"It works best when the patient is younger and the hair loss is early," said Bernstein. "It doesn't grow hair on a bald scalp; it only reverses the miniaturization process."

Rogers said that despite the side effects, "Propecia has really remarkable results."

She notes that in about "one out of 50 [cases], it can cause a loss of libido. That means 98 percent of men are totally fine."

Because of the drug's origins as a prostate treatment, she said, patients need to communicate with their doctors.

"There are receptors for the medicine in the prostate," Rogers said. "For men who are on it, I always tell them to let your urologist know."

Of course, Propecia also has the drawback that it must be continuously used to enjoy its benefits.

"I always tell patients to be prepared to use it in an open manner, at least until the next best medicine comes along," Rogers said.

Flap Hair Restoration

The hair flap, also known as flap rotation, has not been done in a while.

"That's a blast from the past, that's 20-plus years ago," said Newburger. "I haven't seen that but once in my entire career."

And for good reason.

The hair flap involved isolating a flap of skin from the back of the head -- where the hair was still growing -- and rotating it to the front, maintaining the blood flow through the artery attached to the skin.

"The problem with the flap is it's much too dense and you're using up too much hair in a small area," Bernstein said.

The procedure -- which was only done by a few doctors when it was done -- had other drawbacks.

"It's very unnatural looking and the hair is in the wrong direction," Bernstein said.

But while the flap transplant is not used for male pattern baldness, it can be used for people who have lost a patch of hair.

"People who have had a traumatic injury on their head, sometimes a flap is better than a follicular unit transplant," Unger said. "It isn't done for male pattern baldness, but for traumatic injuries it's very useful."

Laser Combs

The laser comb has drawn some attention in recent years because of its novelty, but that same newness remains one of its drawbacks in the opinion of some doctors.

"I would say basically the evidence is still forthcoming," Rogers said. "We don't really have any large, independently conducted, placebo-controlled double-blinded studies confirming that it works."

The HairMax LaserComb remains the only treatment of this type approved by the FDA. Some doctors have found encouraging results in stopping hair loss.

"We use the HairMax Laser Comb," Newburger said. "We use it in patients who have not yet completely lost their hair and get a reasonable response."

But Rogers said she favors using older methods.

"It's really something that may work for some people, but we don't have the data for that nearly that we do for these other modalities, like the minoxidil and the Propecia," she said.

"With the generics of the minoxidil, you can buy a lot of minoxidil for the $400 to $500 you might spend on one of these laser comb lamps," she added.

Stem Cells

Needless to say, stem cells aren't used as a hair loss treatment now, but hopes are high.

"We'll have an endless supply of hair 20 years from now," said Unger. "How much sooner than that I don't know."

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