In the early stages of the hair loss or balding process, medications may serve an important role in not only the prevention or hair loss, but also its treatment. There are several FDA approved medications for hair loss. Propecia (finasteride), which acts by inhibiting a hormone called (Dihydrotestosterone) DHT, is particularly helpful in reversing genetic baldness in its early stages. Rogaine (minoxidil) can be useful for early hair loss by stimulating hair growth, however, it is more effective when used in combination with Propecia (or finasteride). Because medical therapy works to thicken hair in areas that are thinning (miniaturized), rather than to grow hair once it is lost, Medical treatment is best started as soon as possible. Once the hair is lost (the hair follicle becoming non functional or dead), medical treatment is not effective.
It is recommended that Medical therapy be used in conjunction with hair transplant surgery since they serve different purposes. For example, the medical hair loss treatment works best to prevent hair loss, whereas, hair restoration surgery is indicated when the hair loss is permanent or is more advanced. So, medical therapy helps reverse the hair loss process, and Hair Transplant surgery replaces hair that has been permanently lost.
We will discuss FDA approved medical treatments for hair loss, how they work, how they should be used, and their potential problems. There are, however, other medications that are not FDA approved but can be used for hair loss purposes. For example, Avodart (dutasteride) is approved for prostate enlargement, but can be used ‘off label’ for hair loss since it is similar to finasteride and how it works. The theory of how this medication will work is based on how finasteride works. Another medication, the diuretic Aldactone (spironolactone), is occasionally used as a treatment for hair loss in women. This will be discussed briefly.
Concerning laser treatments for hair loss, Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is a treatment based on the principle of photo-biotherapy. The laser stimulates hair follicles on the scalp producing thicker hair shafts and a fuller appearance. It may be useful in patients with diffuse hair loss, a pattern most commonly seen in women. However, keep in mind that this therapy is not inexpensive and, in most circumstances, the results are short lived or not long lasting.