Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/22/2021
Losing your hair is a serious matter. Noticing thinner hair, a receding hairline or a growing bald spot can be a serious blow to your self-esteem, and send you searching the web in a panic for the “cure.”
Although there’s currently no proven cure for hair loss, hair cloning, also called hair multiplication, is one possible solution gaining a lot of traction in the research community. However, it’s a long way away from the public market.
Understanding where scientists are in the research of hair cloning can help you manage your expectations and better understand what’s currently available.
Below, we’ve explained what hair cloning is, as well as where we’re currently at when it comes to hair cloning research.
We’ve also shared some science-based treatments that are available now to prevent hair loss and potentially grow back “lost” hairs.
Androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, is by far the most common cause of hair loss in men. In fact, it affects more than 50 percent of all men above the age of 50, as well as plenty of guys in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
Hair loss from male pattern baldness is caused by a mix of genetic and hormonal factors. If you have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can bind to receptors inside your scalp and shrink, or “miniaturize,” your hair follicles
As your hair follicles become shorter and thinner, they become less able to grow new hairs. The natural growth cycle of your hair changes, with hair spending less time in the anagen, or growth, phase of the cycle and more time at rest.
This process usually begins at your hairline or crown (the area at the top of your head), resulting in the classic pattern that’s associated with male pattern baldness.
Over time, hair growth can stop entirely and you may start to develop a horseshoe or cul-de-sac pattern of hair around the back and sides of your scalp.
As well as male pattern baldness, other factors can either cause or contribute to hair loss. Some health issues, such as chronic stress, nutritional issues, hormonal health issues or illnesses that cause fever, can cause a form of temporary hair shedding called telogen effluvium.
Hair loss can also develop as a result of autoimmune disease, inflammation or physical tension that’s placed on your hair follicles by a tight hairstyle or harsh styling product.
Although hair loss is common, it can have a devastating impact on people’s self-confidence and quality of life. Hair loss may even cause anxiety, especially if it has a sudden, significant impact on your appearance.
Because of hair loss’s impact on your appearance and quality of life, finding hair loss treatments that work can ultimately become an obsession for many guys.
Currently, the FDA has approved treatments for hair loss. The first is minoxidil, a topical solution that’s applied to the scalp. The second is finasteride, a prescription medication that comes in pill form.
Both treatments are well-researched and can be effective in preventing hair loss and stimulating the growth of new hair. However, they take time to work and need to be used on a daily basis for sustained results.
For many men, the allure of an instantaneous cure for their baldness and a way to permanently grow thick, healthy hair are far more attractive.
Hair cloning refers to a process in which new hairs are created from donor hair follicles in a sort of multiplication process.
Hair, like most of your organs, doesn’t increase in number naturally as an adult, so hair cloning researchers hope to develop technology that allows for donor follicles to produce new hair at a volume sufficient enough to cover up existing hair loss..
The idea is that cloned hairs may eventually be able to fill in a receding hairline, a bald patch or even complete baldness. Hair cloning may also be helpful for women who have female pattern hair loss, a form of androgenic alopecia that occurs in women.
Research into this potential treatment has been ongoing for decades, and many sources claim researchers are on the verge of making successful hair cloning a reality.
To be clear, hair cloning isn’t hair transplant surgery or moving existing donor hair follicles into balding areas. The theory in hair cloning is to duplicate human hair, or have hair multiplication happen naturally where hair would previously not grow.
There are other cell therapy approaches involving stem cells that aren’t necessarily “cloning,” and numerous types of hair transplantation methods. But actual hair cloning is unique.
Short answer: it doesn’t. At least not yet, or at least not at the level that’s needed to begin using it to cure baldness. But scientists are working on it diligently, and they’re learning a lot.
Over the years, researchers have built on each other’s discoveries to get us where we are today in the world of hair cloning.
For example, in 2011, a study revealed that it wasn’t a lack of stem cells in hair follicles that led to baldness, but a lack of progenitor cells.
A progenitor cell is an early descendent of a stem cell. Progenitor cells are incapable of dividing and reproducing indefinitely, but they can differentiate into one or more types of cells.
Stem cells are located inside what’s referred to as the follicle “bulge.” The stem cells give rise to these progenitor cells, which ultimately produce hair.
Unlike other forms of alopecia, which are permanent, the researchers determined androgenetic alopecia may be reversible because it does not destroy hair follicle stem cells.
Instead, it may result from a problem in the conversion from stem cell to the progenitor cell that leads to a reduction in progenitor cells.
Then, in 2013, researchers improved upon attempts to clone or regenerate hair by changing the growth environment in vitro, or in the lab.
Previous attempts to reproduce these hair generating dermal papilla cells (which contain the progenitor cells mentioned above) had failed, as the cells essentially lost their ability to produce in the process.
The researchers found that by producing the growth environment in a petri dish to resemble its natural environment (in a drop or 3D shape), the cells retained their ability to induce hair growth.
Several years later, in 2019, scientists with the company Stemson Therapeutics announced that they had perfected their approach after several previous attempts to grow new hair follicles from human dermal papillae cells after implantation in mice.
Their attempts resulted in new hair growing through the skin of mice, something they deemed a revolutionary success.
However, since then, the company’s website has only made limited mentions of any more recent developments towards human trials or further advancements, with most announcements related to financing for research.
Similarly, a doctor in Japan working on hair multiplication announced clinical trials will be coming soon, but hasn’t released any updates since mid-2020.
“I tried several different options before but Hims combined approach of all four methods by far created the best results.”
“Hims has been the greatest confidence boost, no more bald jokes! I look and feel so much younger!”
“When I show my barber my progress, he is always in disbelief. I have to recommend Hims to any guy who’s experiencing thinning.”
“Cost effective and affordable. My hair keeps growing thicker, fuller, and at a fast rate.”
“I noticed a huge change in the overall health and fullness of my hairline.”
“Now after 5 months I’m able to style waves first time in 10 years!”
“I decided to jump right in and I'm so glad I did. I definitely feel ten years younger!”
“In just as little over two and half months, I can really see the difference in thickness and in color.”
“4-months strong and my confidence boosted back up to 100% using Hims, future me really does thank me.”
“I’m a 34 year old father of two and have been using Hims for over a year now. My hair is back to what it was in my mid twenties.”
Put simply, a lot. Science doesn’t always move quickly. There is a lot of trial and error involved in each discovery. And as of right now, there isn’t any hair cloning treatment available because researchers are still working on it.
We don’t know if and when researchers will be able to take what they’ve learned thus far and turn cloning into a safe, FDA-accepted treatment for hair loss, let alone a treatment that could result in a full head of cloned hair.
To make it abundantly clear: there are no pending release dates or timelines yet available for hair cloning to reach clinical trials, let alone the general public.
That said, at least one company is so hopeful that this technology is inevitable that they’ve announced the opening of a small number of follicle banking locations around the world.
The premise of HairClone’s business is that men with hair today will want to duplicate that hair when the process is available in the future.
By storing their hair follicular units in cryopreservation, those follicles will be available to create new hair follicle cells once the technology is working.
Thus far, the company has announced “upcoming” procurement centers in several states across the United States, and numerous countries around the world.
Hair cloning as a strategy to cure hair loss may have potential, but it’s likely decades from being ready for the world.
For now, you can’t count on this technology to help you treat your baldness or serve as a useful hair restoration treatment, but it is worth keeping an eye on in the future.
Once available, you’ll want to review the research to determine its effectiveness and limitations, side effects and costs to determine if it’s an appropriate option for you.
While hair cloning is likely several decades away, there are real options available now that can help you to protect, preserve and restore your hair if you’re prone to male pattern baldness.
These include FDA-approved medications, as well as surgical procedures to improve your hair’s thickness and appearance. Used right, these treatments can make a serious difference and help you to maintain your hair as you get older.
Finasteride is a prescription medication that’s sold in tablet form. It works by stopping your body from converting testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more powerful androgen hormone that can shrink your hair follicles and cause hair loss.
Numerous studies have found that finasteride works, and works well. In one long-term study of finasteride, researchers found that more than 91 percent of men who used the medication over a 10-year period experienced improvements in hair growth.
It usually takes a few months for finasteride to start working. Finasteride can cause side effects, although they’re uncommon and typically mild.
We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Minoxidil is a topical hair loss medication. It works by moving your hair follicles into the anagen, or active growth, phase of the hair growth cycle. It also improves blood circulation to your scalp, which may contribute to increased hair growth.
Like finasteride, minoxidil has been well studied as a hair loss treatment. In a 2004 study, more than 84 percent of balding men who used minoxidil described it as either very effective, effective or moderately effective at stimulating hair regrowth.
Interestingly, research suggests that minoxidil is particularly effective when it’s used at the same time as finasteride.
In a study published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy, more than 94 percent of men with hair loss who used both treatments showed improvements, versus just 59 percent of men who used minoxidil on its own.
We also offer a topical finasteride and minoxidil spray, which features both medications to target hair loss from multiple angles.
Hair transplant surgery involves removing donor grafts of DHT-resistant hairs from the back and sides of your scalp, then relocating them to your hairline, crown or other areas that have visible hair thinning.
Although hair transplant surgery doesn’t involve cloning hair, it can increase your hair density by a significant amount. Performed by a skilled surgeon, the results can be natural looking and give you the appearance of a full head of hair that’s unaffected by male pattern baldness.
Our guide to hair transplant surgery goes into more detail about how this type of hair procedure works, pricing, potential complications and more.
Hair cloning is an interesting idea that’s attracted lots of attention from scientists, inventors and marketers. However, research into the hair cloning process is still in its very early days, and it’s likely that decades will pass before cloning technology is ready for primetime.
In the meantime, the best way to prevent hair loss is by using existing hair loss treatments, such as minoxidil and finasteride.
While these medications won’t clone your hair, they can protect your hair follicles from DHT and promote healthy, sustainable hair growth, allowing you to curb hair loss and retain more of your natural hair as you grow older.
Worried about losing your hair? You’re definitely not alone. Our guide to the best treatments for thinning hair provides more information about how you can treat and prevent hair loss using the technology that’s available today, without having to wait for cloning or other treatments.