For many people, a cure for baldness would be the holy grail. If you could take a simple pill and regrow your locks, that pill would surely become one of the bestselling medications out there.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet. While hair transplants (beloved of certain footballers) have received a lot of press, the procedure is too expensive for most. For most guys who lose their hair, the simpler option is simply to rock the bald look, as per Jason Statham or Bruce Willis.
That said, while there isn’t a cure per se, it would be wrong to suggest that nothing can be done. In recent years, there have been significant advances in the hair regrowth industry, and there are a number of products out there aimed towards slowing hair loss. The question is how much they help, and where to begin.
What causes baldness?
For the majority of guys who are losing their hair, the culprit is something called androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness). This is a very common condition, affecting roughly 20% of men by the age of 20, 30% by the age of 30 and so on. (The exact prevalence varies a bit by race, with white Europeans the most likely to be affected.)
While there are other forms of alopecia too, male pattern baldness follows a predictable pattern. You’ll experience thinning from the temples and the crown of the head, generally over a period of years or decades. This occurs when the follicles on your scalp become more sensitive to male sex hormones.
Although the exact causes aren’t fully understood, it seems to come down mostly to genetics. If your dad and granddad went bald early, there are higher odds that you will too. There are probably also some lifestyle factors at play (such as stress, life circumstances or diet).
Whatever the case, male pattern baldness isn’t medically concerning, and is often just part and parcel of being a man. In fact, by the time you reach middle age, it’s the guys with the full head of hair who are in the minority.
Sifting through the snake oils
The good news is that most hair loss can be stopped in its tracks, if you take appropriate and timely action. The bad news is that there are many bogus treatments on the market (just check your email spam folder). It can be difficult to sift through all the snake oils to find something with science to back it up.
This is why Many has scoured the marketplace for solutions that have been shown to work. Ignoring all the dubious claims and testimonials, we’ve dived right into the research studies and found three solutions that are actually effective.
Minoxidil is a topical solution best known by its brand name, Rogaine, and one of only a few hair loss medications approved by the US FDA and the MHRA. You spray it onto your scalp morning and night, and, in many cases, will start to see results within three to six months.
It works as a vasodilator, meaning it increases blood flow to the hair follicles and creates an optimal environment for hair growth. However, patience is key with minoxidil, as there is an early, temporary ‘shedding’ phase in which dormant hairs are shed and new growth begins. The key is to persist. In one clinical study, 26% of men saw ‘moderate to dense regrowth’ after using the treatment for four months, and 33% had ‘minimal regrowth’.
Finasteride, also known as Propecia, is a daily tablet that works by blocking a hormone known as DHT (dihydrotestosterone), which has a harmful effect on male hair follicles.
In one major study, 90% of men taking finasteride had experienced no further visible hair loss after five years, and 77% had experienced some regrowth. However, the amount of regrowth is unpredictable, and if you’ve gone completely bald it’s unlikely to restore your crowning glory. It seems to be most effective at an earlier stage of hair loss, when it can stop or reverse the thinning altogether.
Ketoconazole (or Nizoral) is a medicated shampoo that counteracts follicular inflammation, making your scalp a happier place for hairs to grow. While there isn’t as much data out there as there is for minoxidil or finasteride, the studies that do exist are very encouraging.
One study, from 1998, found it was roughly as effective as minoxidil. Another, from 2004, suggested it may work on the same hormonal pathways as finasteride (although we don’t have enough information to say for sure). We do know that it’s helpful for scalp conditions, and that it reduces the fungus that causes dandruff.
Why it’s important to act early
While these treatments are effective by themselves, using them together will reap the best results. In the hair loss community, they are known as ‘The Big Three’, because they tackle the problem from all angles.
Although you shouldn’t expect miracles – treating hair loss requires sustained effort and persistence – some guys will see noticeable results as early as three months. For others, it can take a year or longer, so don’t be discouraged. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Of course, denial is never the solution. The longer you wait, the more follicles will have been damaged permanently, and the more hairs will have been lost for good. However, if you take action at an early stage, you stand every chance of making a noticeable difference.
To get started with The Big Three Hair Kit, sign up here.