Ask an Expert: Is It Actually Possible to Regrow Hair?
There’s a lot of mythology and misconception in the world of male vanity. So we’re tracking down industry professionals to set the record straight.
Every guy is at risk of losing his hair, some more quickly than others. It sucks. The follicle itself shrivels up and is rendered incapable of regrowing anything. This type of hair loss is called androgenetic alopecia, often referred to as male pattern baldness. (That’s the permanent kind, not the temporary thing that happens sometimes due to stress.) This plays out in two ways: the thinning of each hair and the overall loss of density. But, in certain cases of alopecia, these losses are not truly “permanent.” At least, not right away. Sometimes, it can be slowed down or delayed.
So there’s hope! If you’ve been losing hair or if you think you’re at risk of hair loss of thinning, then read on for some possible fixes. The insight and advice comes from Dr. Francesco Fusco, MD of Wexler Dermatology in NYC. His main point? You’ve got to be proactive.
First of all, why is my hair falling out?
Fusco says that there’s something called miniaturization happening at the follicular level when a hair falls out. “Miniaturization refers to the slow shrinking of the hair follicle and the diminution of the hair within, until eventually the follicle no longer exists,” she says. “The remaining tiny hair falls out and nothing grows back.” She says that this is often genetic and caused by a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a byproduct of testosterone. DHT clings to the follicle and then slowly shrinks it. This most commonly happens at the temples, the crown, and the front of the head. (This is also why you don’t see guys losing their hair around the sides and back.)
But it is possible to regrow that hair, right??
It depends. “If a follicle has closed, disappeared, scarred, or not generated a new hair in years, then a new hair wouldn’t be able to grow,” Fusco says. But if the follicle is still intact, yes, it is possible to regrow the hair—or to improve the health of the existing thinner hairs.
What can I do?
There are some common solutions and some uncommon ones:
Oral Medication: “In cases of androgenetic alopecia, finasteride is still the gold standard,” says Fusco. (Finasteride is the generic version of Propecia, which can be prescribed by your dermatologist and is also available via mail subscriptions.) Fusco says that even younger men can slow or delay hair loss by starting a daily finasteride prescription. “This medication works by inhibiting an enzyme that leads to hair loss,” she notes. “In clinical trials, 90 percent of the patients either gained hair or maintained their hair over a five-year period.”
Topical Medication: There are a few alternatives to finasteride, should it prove to be ineffective or if it starts causing side effects (some patients report losing their sex drive on the drug). One of these options is minoxidil (aka Rogaine). It’s a topical product, available over the counter, that stimulates hair growth “by activating potassium channels in the follicle—this results in growth factors and prostaglandins that promote hair growth,” Fusco says. “This keeps the hairs in the growth cycle for a longer period of time.” Your dermatologist may be able to prescribe minoxidil formulations of higher percentages, she adds. So, see your doctor to decide which route is best.
Herbal Supplements: “Saw palmetto is available over-the-counter and is an herb that has traditionally been used to treat men with prostate problems,” Fusco says. “It is popular among men who do not want to take finasteride because it has been suggested that saw palmetto may block some of the receptor activity on the hair follicles which are stimulated in androgenetic alopecia.”
Fusco suggest other herbal botanical products if you don’t want to take finasteride. Ones that are considered active for hair growth include ginseng, pumpkin seed, zinc, vitamin B6, horse tail extract, rosemary, and chamomile. (Some as supplements, some topical.) “It has been suggested that one of these ingredients or a combination of them may activate follicle growth and improve the health of the scalp and hair,” she says.
One especially effective supplement has emerged in the last few years, and Fusco calls it “a real game changer.” It’s a multivitamin blend called Nutrafol for Men. (Fusco is not paid to endorse it.) She says they many of her patients have “seen regrowth, thicker hair and a healthier scalp after using it. It’s packed with botanical ingredients that help multiple causes of poor hair health, including hair loss from inflammation, stress, hormone imbalance, genetics, and environmental toxins.”
Plasma Injections: Here’s one we hadn’t heard of before: “Platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP) have been used in other fields of medicine for over a decade but have only reached dermatology within the last five years,” Fusco says. Put simply: “Blood is extracted from the person with hair loss and ‘growth factors’ are extracted from the blood, then injected back into the scalp where the hair loss is occurring.” She says that a lot is still being studied and learned about the process, but that it looks promising for the treatment of hair loss and potential for regrowth.
Won’t they be able to fix this with technology in the future?
“There has been a lot of buzz about cloning hair follicles and then injecting them into the areas where someone is losing hair,” Fusco says. “I believe this is the next step and am very excited about it.” She is also optimistic about a new technology that injects growth factors into the scalp and follicles in order to stimulate hair growth, as well as a low-level light therapy that uses laser therapy.
So what should I do, like, right now?
Fusco says that if your family has a history of androgenetic alopecia or thinning hair, you should make an appointment with your dermatologist and discuss the best prevention or treatment methods. Some of them will require routine check ins. Additionally, “maintain a healthy diet and proper hair and scalp hygiene to keep the existing hair healthy,” she says. (Try a hair-strengthening shampoo like Brickell for Men’s. Starting a supplement like Nutrafol for Men, plus annual visits to the dermatologist will be most beneficial in slowing or delaying the onset of alopecia.
Article by Adam Hurly