Hair replacement has become a powerful industry over the last few years. Hair loss is a problem for both men and women; though replacement options are mostly focused on male baldness, there are some products available to treat female hair loss. It is important you are aware of your options before deciding on hair replacement therapy.
Hair Replacement Options
There are four main options for hair replacement - medication, hair transplants, hair flaps and scalp reduction.
There is an estimated 40 million men and 20 million women in the United States affected by baldness or hair thinning. In 95 percent of cases, baldness or thinning is heredity. The other 5 percent of hair loss is due to chemotherapy or a condition called alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata often corrects itself over time, and no one is absolutely sure what causes it - though it's thought to be an autoimmune disease. There are hair restoration options for chemotherapy and alopecia areata, though you should consult a health care provider about them to be sure they do not interfere with other treatments.
Male balding tends to be in patches, such as from the crown of the head or hair loss at the brow and up. Female baldness tends to be an all over thinning pattern and can be especially pronounced after menopause.
Medication Treatment for Hair Loss
Monoxidil is a topical product approved by the FDA and is the active ingredient in Rogaine. Monoxidil works best the sooner you start using it twice a day. Reports vary on its effectiveness. Some say that Rogaine stops hair from falling out while others say it simply grows short fuzzy hairs, often referred to as peach fuzz.
In addition to topical treatments, there is also oral monoxidil, although side effects such as lower blood pressure, increased heart rate, and weight gain due to fluid retention make this an inadvisable product for many people.
Released in 1997 under the name Propecia, finasteride is another FDA approved medication for hair loss treatment in men and male pattern baldness. While entirely controversial, finasteride has also been prescribed as an experimental preventative treatment for prostate cancer. Side effects of finasteride may include testicular pain, impotence and abnormal ejaculation.
A hair transplant or hair grafting involves moving hair from the sides or back of the head to bald areas of the scalp. For this to work, you must have a lot of hair on the sides or back of the scalp. Other factors such as curliness, color, and thickness can affect the results of this procedure. Prosthetic hair fibers for transplantation are banned by the FDA, so you can't buy new hair to have implanted into your scalp. Hair transplantation does not typically work for women, since their hair loss is a scalp-wide thinning.
A scalp reduction is the surgical removal of large sections of a bald scalp. Elastic devices such as extenders and expanders are placed beneath the skin to stretch the hair-bearing scalp regions to cover a greater portion of the head.
Another method of hair replacement is the hair flap, which rotates hair-bearing areas to bald areas. There are many potential complications with the flap technique though, so make sure you understand them before you agree to this technique.
Women's Hair Loss
At this point, there is little women can do to deal with hair loss. However, Rogaine does have a product that can help with female baldness, though results vary. There are many products on the market that claim to thicken hair, but in actuality many of these products seem to thicken hair by coating it with chemicals and helping it to retain moisture so each individual hair swells slightly. The effectiveness of these products is minimal, though it may help hair loss appear less, particularly if the thinning is not severe.