Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/01/2020
Dealing with hair loss can be a stressful, challenging experience. It’s also a very common one, especially for men in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
Research indicates that up to 50 percent of men experience some form of androgenic alopecia by the time they reach 50 years old.
Unfortunately, although some interesting developments appear to be on the horizon, there’s no cure for male pattern baldness at the moment. This means that if you’re prone to hair loss, you can’t take a magic pill to stop it forever (at least, not yet).
With this said, there are several effective treatments available today that can help you stop hair loss, maintain the hair you have and, in some cases, even grow back some or all of the hair that you’ve lost so far.
These treatments aren’t miracles, and there are limits on what they can do. However, scientific studies show that they do work and that they may be a solution if you’re losing your hair.
Currently, some of the most popularly used hair loss treatments are finasteride, minoxidil and topical ketoconazole shampoo, each of which targets hair loss from a slightly different angle. Below, we’ve explained how these treatments work, as well as how you can use them to stop hair loss for good.
Before we can get into the finer details of treating hair loss, it’s important to cover the basics of how and why male hair loss happens in the first place.
Luckily, the biological mechanism behind male pattern baldness isn’t too complex. In fact, it all comes down to two factors: your genetics and a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
DHT is a hormone that’s produced by your body as a byproduct of testosterone. Before you’re born, DHT plays a vital role in forming the male genitals. During puberty, it’s one of several key hormones responsible for the development of male secondary sexual characteristics.
In short, you can thank DHT for a variety of things that make you, well, a man — from your voice to things like body hair and your Adam’s apple.
Unfortunately, DHT can also affect your hair. If you’re genetically sensitive to DHT, it can target the hair follicles around the hairline and scalp, causing them to shrink. Over time, hair follicles affected by DHT stop producing new hairs, resulting in a receding hairline or thinning hair.
Not everyone is equally sensitive to DHT. People whose hair is resistant to DHT can maintain a full or nearly full head of hair well into old age. On the other hand, people who are very sensitive to DHT can go completely bald in their 20s or thirties.
You can learn more about DHT and its effects on the body in our guide to DHT and male hair loss.
Male pattern baldness is caused primarily by a genetic sensitivity to DHT. As such, there are two theoretical ways to treat it:
Change your DNA so that you’re no longer sensitive to DHT.
Reduce the level of DHT in your body to prevent hair loss.
Although technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 have garnered headlines recently, we’re still a long, long way away from gene editing technology. As such, changing your DNA so that you’re resistant to male pattern baldness isn’t yet an option, and likely won’t be for quite some time.
Luckily, the second is. Through medications like finasteride (the active ingredient in Propecia), it’s possible to significantly reduce the amount of DHT that’s present in your body, allowing you to effectively treat hair loss from male pattern baldness.
Finasteride is a hair loss medication that works by decreasing the body’s production of DHT. Right now, it’s an effective FDA-approved medication available for treating hair loss.
More specifically, finasteride is a 5α-reductase inhibitor. By inhibiting the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT, finasteride reduces the amount of DHT that’s present in your bloodstream, meaning less DHT can make its way to your hair follicles and cause damage.
Clinical data shows that finasteride reduces serum DHT levels by about 70 percent. Other studies of finasteride show that it’s very effective at preventing hair loss.
In a 1999 study of finasteride as a treatment for hair loss, 83 percent of men with vertex hair loss who used the medication “had no further hair loss” after two years. In trials of finasteride, 66 percent of the men who used the medication experienced an increase in hair growth.
In short, finasteride works. It’s also easy to use. Because it comes in tablet form, all you need to do is take one tablet per day.
Finasteride is a prescription medication, meaning you’ll need to talk to a healthcare provider before you can purchase and use it. We offer finasteride online, following a medical consultation via an online assessment with a licensed healthcare professional.
Minoxidil is a topical medication that widens the blood vessels in the scalp, increasing the flow of blood to your scalp and hair follicles. This increased blood flow allows your body to supply a greater amount of nutrients to the hair, promoting healthy hair growth.
A 2002 study that tested minoxidil’s efficacy at treating hair loss on the scalp at both two- and five-percent concentrations. In total, 393 men ages 18 to 49 took topical minoxidil for 48 weeks, and both concentrations showed marked improvement in hair growth over placebo.
Another 2014 study with a much smaller sample size of 16 men ages 18 to 49 with androgenic alopecia found that foam minoxidil at a concentration of five percent actually induced hair growth in the vertex and frontal scalp.
Minoxidil is easy to use. It comes in liquid form and is designed to be applied to the scalp twice per day.
Unlike finasteride, minoxidil has no significant effects on your levels of DHT or other hormones related to hair loss. While finasteride works by shielding you from the hormones responsible for hair loss, minoxidil works by promoting the growth of new hair.
Interestingly, there’s some evidence that minoxidil and finasteride are most effective when used together. In a 2015 study published in Dermatologic Therapy, 94.1 percent of men who used minoxidil and finasteride together showed improvements in male pattern baldness symptoms.
In comparison, only 80.5 percent of the men treated using finasteride on its own and 59 percent of the men who used minoxidil alone showed improvements.
Minoxidil is not a prescription medication, meaning you can purchase it without having to talk to a healthcare professional. We offer minoxidil online with discreet, convenient delivery to your address, both on its own and as part of our as part of our Hair Power Pack.
Although they’re less effective than finasteride and minoxidil, certain shampoos can reduce the level of DHT that’s present in the scalp, potentially reducing the severity of hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.
Currently, the most popular ingredients in DHT blocking shampoos are ketoconazole, a topical antifungal, and saw palmetto, a naturally-occurring ingredient that’s linked to reduced levels of DHT.
Although neither of these ingredients are as effective at lowering levels of DHT as finasteride, they’re both backed up by some scientific evidence:
Ketoconazole is linked to local disruption of the DHT pathway in the scalp, making it a potentially useful adjunct to treatment with finasteride.
In a 2001 study, researchers found that a saw palmetto herbal blend reduced levels of DHT by 32 percent.
Some hair loss prevention shampoos also contain biotin, a B vitamin that, in some cases, can help to improve hair growth.
Although many DHT blocking shampoos are backed up by real science, they’re less effective than medications like finasteride and minoxidil. As such, it’s best to think of them as an extra layer of defense that you can use alongside finasteride and minoxidil to prevent hair loss.
Medications like finasteride and minoxidil can be highly effective at treating hair loss, provided you still have a reasonable amount of hair left.
If you’ve already lost a lot of hair, medications like finasteride and minoxidil might help to stop your hair loss, but it’s unlikely that you’ll experience a significant amount of regrowth.
In short, while you might not get more bald, you generally won’t go from a Norwood Type V to a Norwood Type I.
Enter hair transplantation. This type of surgical procedure involves removing hair follicles from the back and sides of the scalp (areas that are less sensitive to DHT and generally unaffected by male pattern baldness), then transplanting them to areas with extensive hair loss.
The end result is the appearance of a full head of hair using your existing follicles, all without hairpieces, concealer sprays or other products used to cover up thin spots.
Unlike the hair plugs of the 80s and 90s, which were infamous for creating clumps of hair that didn’t look at all natural, modern hair transplant techniques allow for surgeons to remove tiny groups of hair follicles at a time. This produces a more natural looking result.
If you have extensive hair loss and want to treat it, a hair transplant might be an option worth considering. If you have enough donor hair, a skilled hair transplant surgeon can often create the appearance of a full head of hair with a natural, fuller hairline.
Like with all cosmetic surgery, the results can vary. Some hair transplants look fantastic, while others look artificial. There’s also a chance that you’ll need to use finasteride or minoxidil after the procedure to maintain your hair, depending on the extent of your hair loss.
However, the technology itself has come a long way over the last few decades, making this an option worth considering if you have extensive hair loss that you want to treat.
Although there isn’t currently a cure for hair loss, it’s possible that scientific research could lead to a cure one day.
Currently, researchers are investigating the potential use of stem cells to stimulate the growth of hair in men affected by male pattern baldness. Researchers from Yokohama National University in Japan, for example, have developed a method for generating new hair cells from stem cells in animals.
Other technologies, such as gene editing, may eventually play a major role in curing hair loss. In a 2018 study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers manipulated the gene responsible for mitochondrial function in mice, allowing them to worsen and then reverse loss of hair caused by the aging process.
While these studies are interesting, it’s unlikely that we’ll see any major developments towards a hair loss cure in the next few years. Most are in the early stages of clinical testing, with a variety of steps required before carrying out a clinical trial on humans is even possible.
Even after initial trials, any potential cure will need to pass through the extensive FDA approval process before it’s available to the public. In total, this development and approval process can often take as long as 10 years to complete.
Still, it’s interesting science, as well as an important step towards potentially developing a real, permanent cure for male pattern baldness.
Currently, there’s no cure for male pattern baldness. However, medications like finasteride and minoxidil can help you keep the hair you have and, in some cases, potentially regrow some of the hair you’ve lost due to male pattern baldness.
If you’re beginning to lose your hair and want to stop it, it’s important to start treatment as early as you can. By acting fast, you’ll be able to control the level of DHT in your body and limit any further damage to your hair follicles.
Interested in learning more? View our range of hair loss medications and treatment products or read our guide to the most common early signs of baldness to find out if it’s time for you to start taking action to protect your hair.
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