Got a hair loss treatment regime in place? Your efforts may be commendable but the outcome of the treatment, not so much—not in the long run anyway. Dr Jonathan Chong of DTAP Clinic tells us about the most common cause of hair loss in men, the permanence or lack thereof of popular hair loss treatments, and their potential adverse effects.
Hair loss in men is usually heritable.
Some of the more commonly encountered causes of hair loss in men are androgenetic alopecia, otherwise referred to as male-pattern hair loss; alopecia areata, a condition that results in patchy areas of hair loss; and telogen effluvium, a condition where a shift in the stages of the hair life cycle occurs, resulting in diffuse hair loss.
Male-pattern hair loss is the most common type and can occur at any age post-puberty, though it increases in prevalence with advancing age. Not all men will necessarily experience hair loss as they grow older, but those that do often have a family history as male-pattern hair loss exhibits a strong genetic predisposition.
In addition, men who have higher levels of activity of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, which is a part of the testosterone metabolism pathway, may also be at a higher risk of developing male-pattern hair loss. This is also largely determined by genetic factors and there are no specific lifestyle factors that can cause or accelerate the loss of hair.
The efficacy of common hair loss treatments varies.
The first treatment options for male-pattern hair loss are Finasteride, an oral medication; and Minoxidil, a topical lotion.
Finasteride is taken once daily and works by blocking the activity of the aforementioned 5-alpha-reductase enzyme. Depending on the strength of Minoxidil used, it can be applied directly to the scalp once or twice daily, and achieves its effects through modifying the duration of certain stages of the hair life cycle.
These treatments do not produce immediate effects and need to be taken for at least several months to a year before the full effects can be seen. However, while some men may experience significant regrowth of hair, others may only experience at best a slowing down of further hair loss.
The treatments work better together, but the effects are not permanent.
Finasteride and Minoxidil can be taken together and may result in better results but the results are not permanent. Any hair regrowth will be lost over the course of several months once medication is stopped.
Finasteride may have adverse effects on sexual function.
This includes erectile dysfunction, reduced sex drive, problems with ejaculation and reduced sperm count. That said, these deleterious effects on sexual function and sperm counts are generally reversible once medication is stopped.
In rare instances, Finasteride can also cause testicular pain and breast development, otherwise known as gynaecomastia.
For a more permanent solution, consider hair transplantation.
In this surgical alternative, hair follicles are surgically removed from non-balding areas of the scalp and then transplanted onto areas affected by male-pattern hair loss. A standard hair transplantation procedure takes about five to eight hours on average.
But while it offers a longer-lasting solution, men can still continue to lose non-transplanted hairs from susceptible areas of the scalp, so continuing treatment with medications may be required to reduce any further loss of preexisting hair.