Men Spend $1 Billion Yearly Fighting Baldness

Even with all the ribbing by comedians and ex-wives, the majority of the 40 million bald men in the United States eventually accept their shiny pates.

But some 10 percent apparently think they must look like chopped liver: Collectively, they will spend more than $1 billion a year on shampoos, hair pieces, lotions, pills and follicle transplants to cover up their exposed craniums.

Baldness Treatments Cost Money

Men spend the most on hair transplants, to the tune of $800 million a year, according to Mary-Fran Faraji, spokeswoman for Pharmacia Consumer Health Care, in Peapac, N.J., which manufactures Rogaine, an over-the-counter lotion for baldness. That’s because each transplant can cost from $3,000 to $20,000.

Next come hair systems, also known as toupees and hairpieces, which bring in $250 million annually.

Medical therapies, including Rogaine, Merck & Co.’s Propecia and private label brands, add up to $225 million.

Men also will spend some $60 million on vitamins and nutritional supplements in a bid to grow back hair.

The typical guy who wants to do something about his baldness, according to Dr. Bobby Limmer, a dermatologist with the International Hair Institute in San Antonio, usually goes through a series of more and more aggressive steps before he will proceed with the most invasive procedure — a hair transplant.

They first try the grooming agents, the shampoos, lotions and conditioners that promise to “grow hair.”

“They don’t work,” says Limmer, who has been in practice for 32 years, but some give the illusion of a thicker head of hair. Products that contain degreasing agents, such as polysorbate 40 and 80, make the hair look fluffier.

The next approach, Limmer says, is personal grooming: growing the ponytail, combing over the remaining hairs or getting a permanent wave, which curls the hair to give a fuller appearance.

When the three hairs across the top no longer create a sufficient illusion, men will then venture into medical remedies. Rogaine, a lotion of minoxidil, is sold without a prescription in two strengths.

Putting on Creams and Wigs

Rogaine keeps hair from falling out if someone starts using it early in his hair loss, says Limmer. Only about 5 percent in his practice have been able to grow cosmetically beneficial hair; the other 30 percent will grow a peach-fuzz type of covering.

The downside to Rogaine is that men don’t find it easy to use, Limmer says. They have to apply it two times a day. Although women are used to putting on creams and lotions in the morning and the evening, men aren’t. The vast majority, Limmer says, may try it for a year, but then give up.

Somewhere between Rogaine and more aggressive treatments is when men might start with a hair system, or essentially a wig to cover their balding.

“Hair systems have improved and look more natural now,” Limmer says, but they can be costly to keep up. The pieces themselves vary in price, from $600 to $2,000, but maintenance can cost up to $100 to $200 a month. Men need two pieces, one to wear and one that gets cleaned.

If the hair system gets too complicated or the Rogaine is too annoying, some men might consider going even further — taking a prescription for Propecia, a drug that inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone to 5 dihydrotestosterone, or 5 DHT.

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