Best treatment for hair loss
Hair loss affects millions of men around the world. Male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of genetic factors and a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Because many men can experience anxiety or low mood over their hair loss, it’s understandable that so many seek treatment for it.
If you’re looking for the best treatment for hair loss to suit you and your lifestyle, here is a summary of the most popular options.
Finasteride is the active ingredient of the well-known hair loss treatment Propecia. It's now also available in generic form, under the name Finasteride. Both Propecia and Finasteride are prescription medicines, but they're not available on the NHS for the treatment of hair loss.
They can be prescribed privately after an online consultation to make sure they're safe for you to use.
How Finasteride works
Finasteride works by combating the effects of DHT upon the hair follicles. In this sense, it is a “DHT blocker”, however it is not referred to by this name in the medical community. As a treatment for male pattern baldness, Finasteride is available in the form of tablets (either as Propecia or as generic Finasteride).
This treatment works better if used early in the natural history of hair loss development, and is much less effective when hair loss is well established.
How it's taken
One tablet must be taken every day for as long as you wish to combat hair loss, improvement is usually seen at 3-6 months. Finasteride cannot provide a permanent cure for hair loss, so if you stop taking it, your hair loss will resume. Any new hair that has grown will likely fall out after you have stopped taking Finasteride.
Does it work?
There is good clinical evidence for the effectiveness of Finasteride in the treatment of male pattern balding. It is important to be aware of the potential side effects of Propecia/Finasteride which may be uncommon or rare but are significant if they occur: decreased libido, erectile dysfunction (possibly persistent), breast tenderness and enlargement (possibly contributing to male breast cancer; any breast changes should be reported to your GP immediately).
Minoxidil, the active ingredient in Regaine reinvigorates shrunken hair follicles – they increase in size and regrow thicker hair over time. Minoxidil works by helping the blood flow to the hair follicles and increasing follicular size and hair shaft diameter, stimulating and prolonging hair growth.
Minoxidil was discovered during clinical trials for high blood pressure treatment. During trials, minoxidil showed signs of being able to regrow hair.
Minoxidil increases blood flow which stimulates hair follicles, promoting hair regrowth in 4 ways:
- Reverses miniaturisation of follicles
- Increases blood flow around follicles
- Stimulates follicle movement from resting to hair growth phase
- Extends each follicle’s growth phase
Some common side effects of Minoxidil include: headache, skin irritation, unwanted non-scalp hair, itchiness, facial swelling. Please read the information leaflet that comes with the product for a full list of potential side effects before starting to use it.
Minoxidil 2% solution is usually applied twice a day though this can be increased (for men only) to a twice daily application of 1 ml minoxidil 5% solution. This may be slightly more effective than the 2% strength, but carries a higher risk of scalp irritation.
It may take twice daily applications for 2 months or more before evidence of hair growth can be expected. There is a good clinical evidence base for effectiveness.
This is caffeine based treatment, with additional zinc, vitamin A and niacin. There are several small research papers showing some effectiveness of Alpecin in improving hair strength and increasing activity in hair roots after a few months of regular use.
There are a number of small studies that support the effectiveness of these oral supplements. The manufacturers report a high consumer satisfaction. Viviscal also offers shampoo, conditioner and hair elixir; however, the small studies were done with the oral supplements.
Improved hair quality including overall hair growth and increased hair strength were demonstrated in these small studies. The use of these tablets twice a day for 90 days increased the number of terminal hairs and decreased hair shedding in women with self-perceived thinning hair. These changes were associated with improved hair quality including overall hair growth and increased hair strength. There were no reports of adverse events.
How much does it cost to get hair loss treatment?
Propecia is not currently offered on the NHS, but it can be provided by private prescription. You can request Propecia online through the LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor service, where your suitability will be checked and prices start from £55.
Finasteride (Generic Propecia)
Finasteride is the non-branded form of Propecia. It also may be prescribed privately by your GP, as well as via our Online Doctor service after an online consultation that checks your suitability. Prices start at £28.
Minoxidil does not require a prescription; so it is available from many high street pharmacies, including LloydsPharmacy online. It has an average cost of £199 per year and is often known as the brand Regaine.
Can hair loss be stopped or reversed?
Although there is no cure for male hair loss, the right treatment can prevent further hair loss. The most established treatments available in the UK are Finasteride, known also as the brand Propecia, and minoxidil. Propecia is very effective at stopping hair loss, with 90% of men having positive results.
Men usually need to take Propecia or Finasteride every day for a minimum of 3 months before noticing any results and the balding process will usually resume if treatment is ended.
In some cases Propecia or Finasteride can lead to renewed hair growth, with 66% of men noticing improvements. This is because it blocks the effect of the DHT hormones that shrink the hair follicles, meaning they can continue to allow hair growth, which reduces loss of hair.
Is it safe to use combination therapy?
Yes, it is safe to use Finasteride/Propecia, Minoxidil/Regaine and Alpecin shampoo alongside each other. Combining Finasteride and Minoxidil to form the basis of your treatment course is often effective. Adding in a hair growth booster like Alpecin shampoo to complement this treatment can offer optimum levels of hair regrowth.
Image for illustrative purposes only. Posed by models.