Hair loss treatments are a dime a dozen, but do any of them actually work? To find out, we turned to the experts. Medical journals detail many studies and clinical trials of various treatments, pointing out which are more effective than others. Renowned skin care expert Paula Begoun also weighs in on the subject with practical advice in her books and on her website. The website for the American Hair Loss Association also proved to be very informative about the various causes of hair loss, as well as the many treatment options available. Consumer Reports last covered this topic in 1996, and while the article is informative, it does not cover the latest advances in hair loss treatments. User reviews and discussion can be found at Amazon.com, Drugstore.com and HairLossHelp.com.
According to the American Hair Loss Association, two thirds of American men experience some degree of hair loss by the age of 35. By the age of 50, approximately 85 percent experience significantly thinning hair. Balding is commonly associated with aging men, but for approximately 25 percent of them, the process begins before the age of 21. What's more, hair loss is not limited to men. It is almost as common for women to experience thinning hair as it is for men. According to Good Housekeeping magazine, 25 percent of women experience some amount of hair loss by the age of 40. The numbers go up to 60 percent by the time menopause begins.
Although it is the subject of many jokes, hair loss can have devastating psychosocial effects on those that suffer through it. The American Hair Loss Association says, "Contrary to societal belief most men who suffer from male pattern baldness are extremely unhappy with their situation and would do anything to change it." Results may be even more devastating for women.
Unfortunately, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of companies that prey on these strong emotions to make a profit off products that do not work. Paula Begoun, author of Don't Go Shopping for Hair-Care Products Without Me, says, "The number of hair-growth products on the market is literally hair-raising! Sadly, however, very few actually grow hair, though the companies that sell them are taking in a lot of your money."
Still, experts say that there are a handful of treatments that actually do work. However, they may not work on everyone, nor are any of them without some downsides.
Propecia (discussed in further detail below), for example, is very effective for the majority of men who use it, but it is known to cause sexual side effects in some. Most experts say that less than two percent of men experience loss of libido and other sexual side effects, but Dr. Richard Lee of Regrowth Hair Clinic in Los Angeles is not so sure.
In an article at HairLossHelp.com, Lee is quoted as doubting some of the findings in a five-year study of Propecia. According to the article, Lee says that he believes that the incidence of side effects is "approximately 5 or 6 times higher" than the report indicates. He adds that because those who do suffer sexual side effects would not continue with the product for the full five years, "the report of 0.6% of Propecia users having sexual side effects after five years of use sounds incorrect and misleading." Lee is also quoted as saying that he has asked to see a copy of the original clinical trials, but has been rebuffed by the manufacturer.
Paula Begoun, on the other hand, points out that what the studies did not show is that some men experienced raised levels of testosterone and increased libido. Regardless of this discrepancy, experts across the board agree that the side effects, if any, will diminish when patients discontinue using Propecia.