Baldness: Types and Treatments

Medicine to Treat Baldness

Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent baldness. However, companies have come up with a vast assortment of creams, sprays, oils, shampoos, tonics, medications and herbal remedies to combat the problem. Here are a sample of some hair-loss treatments and how well they work.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two medications that can slow hair loss, and in some people, actually re-grow hair. Although they work well, these drugs must be taken continually. As soon as you stop taking them, hair loss will start back up again.

  • Minoxidil (Rogaine) is an over-the-counter liquid applied to the scalp twice a day. It stimulates growth factors in the hair follicle, which thicken the hair shaft, lengthen the growing phase, and slow hair shedding. The dose for men is 5 percent. Women are advised to use the lower-strength 2 percent dose, because they can develop facial hair growth at the higher dose.
  • Finasteride (Propecia) is a prescription pill that blocks the production of DHT, the hormonal culprit in male-pattern baldness. The drug is only for men, both because it doesn’t appear to work in women, and because it can cause birth defects when used by pregnant women. Propecia does seem to help men quite a bit. Studies show that it stops hair loss in 90 percent of men, and can re-grow hair in 65 percent of men. The main side effect is reduced sex drive.
  • Corticosteroids injected into the scalp are the main treatment for alopecia areata. The hair usually starts growing back within a month of starting this treatment. Topical cream versions of steroids are available, but they don’t appear to work as well as the injections.
  • Anthralin (Drithocreme) is a cream treatment for alopecia areata applied to the scalp and then washed off each day. About a quarter of patients who use this treatment have new hair growth within six months.