Whether you care about going bald or take it in your stride is a very personal thing. Hair loss affects millions of us – men and women alike – and despite a great deal of research by invested parties, a total cure remains elusive. We take a look at where we’re at.
Existing hair loss treatments consist of drugs, hair transplants, laser therapy, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP). Each of these has its benefits and pitfalls, with none quite tipping every person over the hairy line to hair regrowth, though our favourites are lasers and PRP.
Hair loss treatments may currently halt or reverse follicle shrinking, with most treatments just managing hair loss, as opposed to being a permanent hair regrowth treatment. Preventing loss is easier than regrowth.
Hair transplants are probably the most permanent hair loss treatment on offer, but this too has its limitations. Hair transplants take single hairs or a strip from the back of the head (where there is hair), and transplant it to the bald areas. Hair transplants tend to be expensive and time consuming.
There are three drugs used to treat hair loss, that act in different ways.
One drug provides nourishment for hair follicles as it is rubbed on the scalp. This cream was initially being used to treat high blood pressure, and its hair regrowth capabilities were discovered accidentally when hair started growing in strange places. This drug is not really considered a very good warrior in the fight against hair loss, and doesn’t work on hormonal causes of hair loss.
The other two drugs were being used to treat enlarged prostate glands, and work on testosterone pathways, affecting hair follicles as a result and removing the element that prevents hair growth. These treatments don’t work in women, only work so long as you keep taking them, and interfere with testosterone which can have unpleasant side effects.
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a light and heat treatment that is capable of stimulating hair growth in men and women. We’re not sure why, but the light may stimulate stem cells in the follicle, returning it to the growth phase.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP)
PRP is proving a useful treatment, with injections across the scalp at various intervals, to inject the head with growth factors and stem cells from your own blood. Read the research into PRP for hair loss here.
New hair loss advancements in the pipeline
- A switch, the protein called KROX20, has been discovered in skin cells that tells them to become a hair, and produce a protein called stem cell factor (SCF). This is also involved in why our hair goes grey.
- Genetics is also under the microscope, with over 280 genetic regions found to be involved in male pattern baldness. Many genes are linked to hair development and structure, with advancements potentially allowing predictions and new targets.
- Immune faults may also be to blame, with a defect possibly responsible for alopecia areata, a form of hair loss.
- Janus kinase (JAK) inhibition is also proving useful in many aspects of medicine, with JAK being a family of enzymes inside hair follicles. Applying JAK inhibitors to skin causes hair growth, of astounding amounts.