Topical Hair-Loss Products Overview

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Tony Clemente, Senior Staff Writer

Tony Clemente has been writing for newspapers, magazines, websites, and other publications for over 20 years, covering subjects as diverse as lifestyle trends in the Southwest, health and wellness tips for Medicare recipients, and world-class quality improvement processes for major corporations. In addition to spending time under the knife during two major and five minor surgeries, Mr. Clemente has written extensively about cosmetic surgery procedures, including cosmetic dentistry, hair restoration, and bariatric weight-loss surgery. He has a BA in history from Williams College.


November 15 2007

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A full, thick head of hair is hardly a birthright as men mature, but many men who suffer from thinning or balding hair believe that their hair loss affects not just their appearance but their appeal to women, their sense of youth, even their self-confidence.  To meet the demand for hair growth/regeneration, a variety of hair-loss products have been introduced to the marketplace in recent years. In fact, Americans spend over $3.5 billion a year on hair-growth products.  These products include hair-loss shampoos, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) blockers, hair-growth stimulators, gels, hair sprays and more. Two hair-loss products have received approval from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), but the vast majority of recently introduced hair-loss products make claims that have yet to be proven.

Hair-loss product reviews across the Internet generally include everything from "user testimonials" that support a product's claims to scientific debunkings of the ingredients and potential results of the latest hair-loss shampoo. Here's a quick overview of the latest consensus on a few types of topical hair-loss products:

RogaineĀ®.  Does Rogaine work?  The FDA has approved the use of Rogaine (or minoxidil, the active ingredient) as an over-the-counter hair-growth stimulator, and in clinical trials, approximately 55% of men saw some type of improvement in their hair loss, including either increased hair density or a decrease or cessation of lost hair. Rogaine only works on the top of the scalp, though, and according to those same clinical trials, it doesn't work on 45% of the population. On the other hand, Rogaine can be used by both men and women.

Hair-growth stimulators.  In addition to Rogaine, hair-growth stimulators include products like Tricomin, Folligen, Proxiphen, and Retin-A. Typically, most of these products work better when they are combined with minoxidil use or other hair stimulators.

Hair-loss shampoos.  Shampoos that contain minoxidil or DHT blockers like finestaride can promote hair regrowth, but again, only for as long as users continue to wash their hair with the shampoo. Shampoos that don't contain these ingredients are generally ineffective and should be avoided.

Hair-loss sprays and gels.  There are a few hair-loss sprays and gels that contain minoxidil as an active ingredient and therefore can help stimulate hair growth. More typical are the hair-loss products that allow you to coat your hair with non-toxic hair filler, thereby increasing the thickness of your hair. Unfortunately, these will wash out during your next shower.

Overall, there are indeed a few hair-loss products on the market that can help you arrest or reverse thinning or balding hair. These are temporary solutions, though, that last only as long as you continue using the hair-growth product. Also, the results are typically more prominent in younger men, particularly those with less than five years of hair loss. For permanent results, hair-loss restoration surgery is usually the best bet.