When it comes to hair loss treatment, the number one question that new hair loss sufferers have is – do they actually work?
The short answer to that questions is yes.
The more accurate answer is, for some people and to varying degrees.
The two main hair loss treatments currently available are finasteride and minoxidil, although you might know them better by their respective brand names – Propecia and Rogaine. Although they work in different ways, both have been clinically proven to help treat hair loss for men.
Let’s look at how each drug works and what the science behind them is.
Finasteride was first made commercially available in the late 90s and is seen by some men as a true miracle cure. The way finasteride works is that it inhibits the main hormone responsible for hair loss in men – dihydrotestosterone (DHT). By inhibiting DHT at a systemic level, it halts and in some cases, reverses hair loss.
Whilst finasteride is certainly effective for the majority of men (83% to be exact), it is most effective when used as a preventative treatment. That is to say – men who have complete hair loss cannot realistically expect to grow back a full head of hair. Those suffering from mild to moderate thinning at the crown can typically expect their hair loss to be slowed down and in some cases, regrowth.
Minoxidil is significantly different to finasteride in that it’s not marketed more as a regrowth treatment rather than a preventative measure.
Minoxidil works as a vasodilator, which essentially means it increases blood flow to the hair follicles and therefore encourages hair growth. Whilst minoxidil has been proven to be effective, the results do vary quite significantly. Because of this, many men will take both minoxidil and propecia to maximize the results they get from each treatment.
What about side effects?
Both minoxidil and finasteride can produce negative side effects for those taking them.
Side effects for minoxidil can include chest pain, irregular hear beat, bloating and flushing.
Finasteride effects can include weak libido, loss of erections, fatigue, anxiety and depression. The seriousness and duration of finasteride side effects is a topic of fierce debate in the hair loss community – some men believe that the drug is completely harmless whilst others believe it’s dangerous and causes permanent irreversible sexual side effects.
As is usual with these types of debates – the truth lies somewhere in the middle.