For hair loss due to heredity, age, and hormones, the topical
medication Rogaine (minoxidil) can be helpful for both male and
female pattern baldness. Expect to wait 6 months before you see
results. The oral medication Propecia (finasteride) is effective
in some men. This medicine can decrease sex drive. When either
medication is stopped, the former baldness pattern returns.
For hair loss caused by illness (such as fever),
radiation therapy, or medication use, no treatment is necessary.
The hair will usually grow back when the illness has ended or
the therapy is finished. A wig, hat, or other covering may be
desired until the hair grows back.
Hair loss from menopause or childbirth often returns
to normal 6 months to 2 years later. In the meantime, keep a healthy
diet and practice good grooming.
Hair weaving, hairpieces, or change of hairstyle may disguise
hair loss and improve cosmetic appearance. This is often the least
expensive and safest method of treating female pattern baldness.
However, men too may benefit from this.
Hair weaves, hair pieces, or changes of hair style
may disguise hair loss. This is generally the least expensive
and safest approach to hair loss.
Hair pieces should not be sutured to the scalp because
of the risk of scars and infection. Suturing hair pieces to the
scalp is not recommended. It can result in scars, infections,
and abscess of the scalp. The use of hair implants made of artificial
fibers was banned by the FDA because of the high rate of infection.
A hair transplant performed by a physician is a
surgical approach to transferring growing hair from one part of
the head to another. It is somewhat painful and expensive, but
usually permanent. Hair transplants consist of removal of tiny
plugs of hair from areas where the hair is continuing to grow
and placing them in areas that are balding. This can cause minor
scarring in the donor areas and carries a modest risk for skin
infection. The procedure usually requires multiple transplantation
sessions and may be expensive. Results, however, are often excellent
· For men
There are two main drugs used to treat male pattern baldness:
· Minoxidil (Rogaine)
-- a solution that you apply directly to the scalp to stimulate
the hair follicles. It slows hair loss for many men, and some
men grow new hair. The previous degree of hair loss returns when
you stop applying the solution.
· Finasteride (Propecia,
Proscar) -- a prescription pill that inhibits the production of
the male hormone dihydrotestosterone. Like minoxidil, you are
more likely to have slower hair loss than actual new hair growth.
In general, it somewhat more effective than minoxidil. The previous
degree of hair loss returns when you stop taking the drug.
· For women
The hair loss of female pattern baldness is permanent. In most
cases, it is mild to moderate. No treatment is required if the
person is comfortable with her appearance. The only drug or medication
approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
to treat female pattern baldness is minoxidil, used topically
on the scalp. It may help hair to grow in 20% to 25% of the female
population, and in the majority it may slow or stop the loss of
hair. Treatment is expensive, however, costing about $600 per
year for the recommended twice-daily use. For women, the 2% concentration
is recommended. Hair loss recurs when minoxidil's use is stopped.
Before taking any medical treatment, a careful medical history
and examination of the hair and scalp are usually enough to diagnose
the nature of your hair loss. You need to consult a doctor if
you have the following symptoms:
· You are losing hair in an atypical pattern.
· You are losing hair rapidly or at an early age (for example,
teens or twenties).
· You have any pain or itching associated with the hair
· The skin on your scalp under the involved area is red,
scaly, or otherwise abnormal.
· You have acne, facial hair, or menstrual irregularities.
· You are a woman and have male pattern baldness.
· You have bald spots on your beard or eyebrows.
· You have been gaining weight or have muscle weakness,
intolerance to cold temperatures, or fatigue.
Diagnostic tests that may be performed (but are
rarely needed) include:
· Microscopic examination of a plucked hair
· Skin biopsy (if skin changes are present)
Ringworm on the scalp may require the use of an
oral drug, such as griseofulvin, because creams and lotions applied
to the affected area may not get into the hair follicles to kill
Treatment of alopecia areata may require topical
or injectable steroids or ultraviolet light.