There are very few scientifically proven and FDA-approved treatments for hair loss. There are thousands of unproven claims and products to help with hair regrowth. Many conditioners, shampoos, vitamins, and other products claim to help hair grow in some unspecified way. To slow down hair loss, there are at least four potentially effective, basic options. These include medications like Minoxidil, Propecia, and Avodart which are maintenance-type medications and are for long-term use. Stopping these drugs does not seem to worsen or exacerbate the prior hair loss. In other words, stopping the medication will not leave you worse than you started out prior to the medication.
Minoxidil (Rogaine): This topical medication is available over the counter and no prescription is required. It can be used in men and women. It works best on the crown, less on the frontal region. Rogaine may grow a little hair, but it's better at holding onto what's still there. There are few side effects with Rogaine. The main problem with this treatment is the need to keep applying it once or twice a day, and most men get tired of it after a while. In addition, minoxidil tends to work less well on the front of the head, which is where baldness bothers most men. Inadvertent application to the face or neck skin can cause unwanted hair growth in those areas.
Finasteride (Propecia): This medication is FDA approved for use in only men with androgenic hair loss. Finasteride is in a class of medications called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. It is thought to help reduce hair loss by blocking the action of natural hormones in scalp hair follicles. Propecia is a lower-dose version of a commercially available drug called Proscar that helps shrink enlarged prostates in middle-aged and older men. Propecia 1 mg tablets are available by prescription and taken once daily. Propecia may grow and thicken hair to some extent for some people, but its main use is to keep (maintain) hair that's still there. Studies have shown that this medication works well in some types of hair loss and must be used for about six to 12 months before full effects are determined. It may be best for men who still have enough hair to retain but also can help some regrow hair. Possible but very unlikely side effects include impotence or a decreased sex drive (libido). Studies have shown that these side effects were possibly slightly more common than seen in the general population and are reversible when the drug is stopped.
Dutasteride (Avodart) has recently been used as "off label" to treat hair loss in men. It is FDA approved and primarily used to treat an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) only in men. Dutasteride is similar to finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) and is in a class of medications called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. Dutasteride may help in hair loss by blocking the production or binding of a natural substance in the scalp hair follicles. There is a six-month clearance time required after taking this medication before being permitted to donate blood.
Bimatoprost solution (Latisse) has just been started to be used off-label for help in selected cases of hair loss. It is currently FDA approved for cosmetic eyelash enhancement. Studies have shown it can treat hypotrichosis (short or sparse) of the eyelashes by increasing their growth, including length, thickness, and darkness. This medication is also commercially available as Lumigan, which is used to treat glaucoma. It is not known exactly how this medication works in hair regrowth, but it is thought to lengthen the anagen phase (active phase) of hair growth.
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