Hair loss affects both men and women. Andogenetic alopecia, also known as pattern baldness or hereditary hair loss, makes up almost 95 percent of all cases of hair loss. Infomercials, print ads and Internet marketers offer topical serums, supplements and laser combs “guaranteed” to give you results. Take a second look at these hair regrowth products, and you’ll find that you have no assurance of their safety or efficacy, as defined by the FDA.
Topical minoxidil is the only FDA-approved drug for hair loss that both men and women can use. The FDA has approved a 2 percent solution for both genders and a 5 percent solution for men. Your doctor may recommend 5 percent minoxidil for women, as long as it’s used under medical supervision. Minodixil, sold under the trade name Rogaine, is the only hair regrowth product you can purchase over-the-counter that’s been proven effective.
One hair regrowth product you can’t pick up off the shelves is an oral medication called finasteride, or Proprecia, which is prescribed by doctors for men only. This too is approved by the FDA as a hair loss treatment, although it was first used to treat prostate conditions in men. Not only does oral finasteride prevent further hair loss; it encourages hair regrowth. Side effects in men may include erectile dysfunction and decreased libido.
Any hair regrowth product not approved by the FDA as a hair loss treatment should be treated with skepticism; the FDA and FTC have taken regulatory action against marketers of hair regrowth dietary supplements and topical treatments for making false claims about their products. Laser hair combs are a popular item on the consumer market — and some of these items claim to be FDA-approved. However, it’s important to understand that the FDA has approved these as cosmetic devices only — not medical treatments. The American Hail Loss Association does not endorse laser hair combs as a way to treat hair loss.
Hair loss may have an underlying medical cause. Thinning tresses may be caused by a medical disorder, such as lupus or diabetes, a hormonal imbalance, use of certain medications or stress. Tight hair styles, such as cornrows or pigtails, as well as chemical treatments, can also cause thinning hair. A doctor can perform certain diagnostic tests to determine the cause — as well as make treatment recommendations that will work best for you.