Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/21/2021
It’s common and normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs per day. If you’ve noticed more hair loss than this, or if you’re starting to develop a visible receding hairline or bald spot, you may be affected by a type of hair loss called male pattern baldness.
Hair loss is a common issue for men. In fact, statistics show that more than half of all men deal with moderate to extensive hair loss by their 40s.
While reliable, science-based treatments for hair loss are available, many serums marketed as treatments for hair loss rely more on exotic-sounding ingredients and questionable claims than real science.
Below, we’ve explained why hair loss happens and how science-based hair growth serums like minoxidil can help to stop and reverse it.
We’ve also explained how other treatments for hair loss, including FDA-approved medications and supplements like biotin, can help you to stop hair loss, maintain the hair you still have and potentially regrow hair in areas of your scalp affected by hair loss.
Most hair loss in men is caused by androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. This type of hair loss usually begins at your hairline, causing the classic M-shaped receding hairline that many men develop in their 20s, 30s and forties.
Male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of your genetics and the androgen hormone dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
Your body produces DHT as a byproduct of testosterone. If you’re genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness, the DHT that circulates throughout your body can bind to receptors in your hair follicles and cause them to gradually stop producing new hairs.
We’ve talked more about the relationship between DHT and male pattern baldness in our guide to DHT and hair loss.
Treatments for hair loss work in one of several ways:
Some, like finasteride, work by stopping the conversion of testosterone into DHT.
Others, like minoxidil and some other hair growth serums, work by stimulating the growth of new hairs locally.
Although male pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss in men, it’s not the only one. Other causes include stress, use of certain medications, medical conditions, hair products and more. We’ve talked more about these in our guide to the potential causes of hair loss.
When it comes to hair growth serums, the unfortunate reality is that many of the products you’ll see on store shelves aren’t supported by much in the way of science.
For example, many of the most widely promoted serums, revitalizers and tonics for hair growth are formulated using essential oils and exotic-sounding ingredients extracted from fruits, plants and other natural sources.
While these ingredients can smell and feel great, the reality is that there isn’t much research on their effects on hair growth.
Now, this doesn’t mean that they don’t work. However, it does make it hard to recommend them over real, science-based products for improving hair growth.
Currently, the only hair growth serum that’s backed up by large amounts of high quality scientific data is minoxidil.
Minoxidil is an FDA-approved medication. You may have seen it for sale under the brand name Rogaine®. It’s available as a liquid or foam and is designed to be applied to areas of your scalp with hair loss.
The precise mechanism of action of minoxidil isn’t fully understood. However, experts think that it treats hair loss by increasing blood flow to your hair follicles and stimulating the growth of new hairs.
Research shows that minoxidil works, especially over the long term. In a study involving almost 1,000 men with hair loss, 84.3 percent of men who underwent treatment with minoxidil stated it was either very effective, effective or moderately effective at promoting hair regrowth.
We offer minoxidil online, with convenient home delivery every month. Our guide to how long it takes for minoxidil to start working goes into more detail about the results you may experience from minoxidil as a treatment for hair loss.
While minoxidil is the only FDA-approved topical treatment for hair loss, some ingredients used in over-the-counter hair loss serums may offer benefits. Look for the following ingredients when you’re comparing hair growth serums and other topical products:
Tea tree oil. Although scientific research on tea tree oil’s effect on hair growth is limited, one very small study found that a mix of tea tree oil, diclofenac and minoxidil were more effective at treating hair loss than minoxidil on its own.
Our guide to tea tree oil and hair goes into more detail about tea tree oil’s effects, safety and potential benefits as a hair growth ingredient.
Rosemary oil. Interestingly, there’s actually a fair amount of scientific data on rosemary oil’s effects on hair growth. One study found from 2015 that it worked roughly as well as minoxidil, while another found that a combination of oils including rosemary oil helped to stimulate hair growth over seven months.
Vitamins A, B12, C, D and E. While research is mixed on the effects of vitamins on hair growth as a whole, these vitamins have all been linked to certain aspects of hair growth and health in scientific research over the years.
We’ve talked more about these vitamins and their potential effects on hair growth in our guide to essential vitamins for a healthy head of hair.
While topical medications like minoxidil and over-the-counter serums can help to stimulate hair growth, they’re not the only options around for treating hair loss. Other options include:
Finasteride. This prescription medication works the conversion of testosterone to DHT, stopping hair loss at a hormonal level. It’s very effective, especially when it’s used at the same time as minoxidil, although results can take a few months to appear.
We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. Our guide to finasteride results goes into more detail about what to expect if you use finasteride to treat hair loss.
Hair loss prevention shampoo. Several shampoos, including our Thick Fix Shampoo, ketoconazole shampoo and shampoos containing ingredients like pumpkin seed oil and rosemary oil, have been linked to improvements in hair growth.
Since these are available without a prescription, they make for easy addition to your hair loss prevention routine.
Biotin. While biotin doesn’t treat the hormonal side of hair loss, research has found that it may have benefits for improving the growth of thinning hair. We’ve talked more about these effects in our guide to biotin and hair growth.
When it comes to treating hair loss, it’s better to choose reliable, science-based treatments over serums that rely on exotic ingredients and marketing claims.
Currently, minoxidil is the only topical treatment for hair loss that’s backed up by scientific study data and approved by the FDA. If you’re looking for something that you can apply to your hair to speed up growth, it’s likely your best option.
As for other over-the-counter serums, while some oils and other natural ingredients may have a positive effect on hair growth, research into their effectiveness is very limited right now.
Losing your hair can be a frustrating experience. Luckily, it’s almost always treatable. Our guide to male pattern baldness covers why hair loss happens and lists science-based, FDA-approved treatments that you can use to protect and maintain your hair as you get older.
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