Reports of a new and imminent cure for hair loss are almost a daily event. The latest versions usually revolve around ultra-modern gene therapy. What of the established and FDA approved medications already on the market? Just how effective are they? We investigate.
An Ancient Search
Documents outlining cures for hair loss are as old as... well, documents. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians both left us exotic remedies for a hairless head. The intervening millennia have seen countless attempts, some produced by well-intentioned, if badly informed, pseudo scientists genuinely seeking a cure. Others manufactured by nefarious types trying to spin a coin from the sale of useless ointments and salves... this type of activity reached it's peak with the rise of the infamous snake oil salesmen in 19th Century USA.
We are fortunate then to live in a world where agencies are responsible for what can be claimed on the packaging of medicines. It means that when you reach for your Rogaine or Propecia it comes with a promise of efficacy provided by the Food & Drug Administration Dept. of the USA.
Rogaine is the brand name for the active ingredient Minoxidil. It started out life as a treatment for high blood pressure, patients noted hair growth and additional thickness after several months of use... due to the improved nutrition from higher blood flow.
Since then many studies have been performed proving its use as a hair loss treatment, with a success rate that varies between 50 and 85%.
Application is, in its most popular form, a foam that is applied to the scalp daily. Bear in mind that any improvement might take several months to show, with a chance, between 15% and 50%, that no improvement will happen. Improvement, to be sustained, will require the use of Rogaine ad infinitum, forever. Finally, you can expect to pay between $40 and $60 a month.
Propecia is the brand name for the drug Finasteride. Available by prescription through your doctor it works in a very different way to Rogaine. We should start by saying that Propecia is not available to women as it has been shown to have potential side effects on babies in the womb. The most obvious difference is that Propecia comes in tablet form, taken daily. While Rogaine works by improving blood flow and nutrition to the follicles, Propecia does its work by inhibiting the production of an enzyme known to cause hair loss. Because of that it is recommended as the first port of call for a sufferer, it is primarily a weapon for fighting against further hair loss. What it does have in common with Rogaine is that if you cease treatment the progress of your hair loss will begin again.
Your doctor can recommend both be taken simultaneously.
It is a testament to the challenges involved in curing hair loss that these remain the only FDA approved medications on the market. We will continue to be suckered into reading every new promise of a new era of treatment... who knows, maybe one day.