Hair loss is one of the most pervasive problems of mankind, and one we’re curiously sensitive about. Studies have shown that hair loss or receding hairline significantly affects psychological health, self-esteem, and self-confidence. In the Middle Ages, men would go so far as to rub the ashes of bees on their heads just in the hopes of stemming the march of time and aging.
Hair loss is particularly hard on men–it is estimated that half of all men by the age of 50 will be affected. However, although hair loss is less common in women, the condition is not any less concerning for those who experience it. “Often in females it will affect 50 per cent of their hair, so many women will not go truly bald, but their hair can get so perilously thin that it can become a big problem for them,” says Michael Freeman, a dermatologist and professor at Bond University.
A receding hairline, or a bitemporal regression, is the most common form of hair loss in men over 30 years old. Less than 5% of men retain the clear, straight hairline they had as children. Thankfully, many options exist today for in the push against receding hairlines, and none of them as crude as rubbing insect parts on the scalp. Over the centuries we’ve gotten better at receding hairline treatments.
Minoxidil is one of the most common and accessible over-the-counter treatments for hair loss. But as a cure for receding hairlines, minoxidil gets a mix of positive and negative feedback, mainly because of lack of research.
Known in the market as Rogaine, the generic version comes in a variety of types, like foam or serum. The substance was originally developed in the 1970’s to treat hypertension by improving blood flow and nutrient delivery around the body. Researchers found a welcome side-effect of increased blood flow–healthier hair follicles that happily grew more hair, specifically around the scalp and crown.
Consequent studies focused on the effects of minoxidil on the scalp and crown. Until now, minoxidil usage carries the DNA of initial research. There is no definitive study on the efficiency of minoxidil on receding hairlines, but based on anecdotal evidence from users online, the treatment needs to be paired with finasteride for better results.
Finasteride — widely sold as Propecia and Proscar — is an oral medication that directly targets the root cause of hair loss and most cases of male pattern baldness: dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is a hormone that shrinks hair follicles, thereby inhibiting hair growth. Finasteride decreases overall levels of DHT in the body, which promotes healthier hair follicles.
Various studies have been conducted on the efficacy of finasteride in treating receding hairlines. Men with thinning hairlines report slower hair loss and hair regrowth after a year of taking finasteride. In one clinical study, only 17% of men continued to lose hair after taking finasteride, as compared to a staggering 72% who were not given the drug.
Unfortunately, Finasteride’s efficiency comes at a price. The drug has been known to have severe to mild side effects, including impotence, reduced sexual drive, nausea, and swollen limbs. For some, the risk is too high a price to pay for a healthy, strong hairline.
Laser light therapy is a common treatment in the cosmetics and healthcare industry. Skin care professionals use lasers to decrease the appearance of wrinkles, and to destroy acne-causing bacteria. Doctors have successfully used laser therapy for healing wounds and relieving joint pains.
In the area of hair loss, low-level laser therapy (LLLT) has been proven to stimulate hair growth. It does this by stimulating hair follicles into the anagen phase, the period when follicles actively grow hair. Capillus, a producer of LLLT devices, observed a 50% growth in the hair count of those who underwent LLLT therapy.
Platelet rich plasma therapy is a method that involves injecting plasma into your scalp. The doctor acquires plasma by taking a sample of your own blood, and running it through a machine called a centrifuge to separate the platelet-containing plasma from the rest of the components in the blood.
Plasma cells promote cell regeneration, and is used in a wide variety of surgeries that require you to regrow healthy parts, like hip replacement surgery, and is showing promise for reducing pain and swelling for people with osteoarthritis.
Now, the plasma has made its way to our heads. PRP injections have been shown to increase hair growth after three treatment sessions, spaced between 30 days each. The study also noted that no subjects reported any major side-effects, possibly because the use of the patient’s own blood reduces chances of the body rejecting the injection.
Sometimes, even the most aggressive combination of minoxidil, finasteride, and laser light therapy treatment can fail to regrow a receding hairline.
Men and women with severe hair loss can turn to a procedure called Follicular Unit Extraction, or FUE. FUE is a hair transplant method that involves uprooting healthy follicles using an instrument called a “punch”, usually from the back or sides of the head, and transplanting them onto the site affected by hair loss.
Alternatively, patients can opt for a traditional hair transplant called a Follicular Unit Transplant. This method involves the surgeon taking a thin strip of tissue from the back of the head, extracting hair follicles from it, and using those to fill out a thinning hairline.
There is no one size fits all cure for a receding hairline. Some may respond to just a single treatment, some might need to combine methods, and some might even have to resort to hair loss surgery. Consult a surgeon for the right battle plan in your fight against a receding hairline.
You can ask Dr. Andrew Kim, our resident hair restoration surgeon at the Australian Institute for Hair Restoration, all your questions about curing a receding hairline. Dr. Kim is trained in both FUE and FUT, and is a member of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery, and a fellow at the Korean College Cosmetic Surgery. Call us now, or just fill out our inquiry form to schedule your consultation with Dr. Kim today!