Thickening Shampoos: Ingredients That Work

Are you worried about thinning hair? If the answer is yes, then you’ve probably considered a hair-thickening shampoo or conditioner at one time or another. However, there are hundreds of different products to choose from. Finding the proper treatment means knowing which ingredients are the most successful at growing thicker strands. 

What is a Hair Thickening Shampoo? 

The simple act of shampooing already helps to thicken your hair. Removing grime and grease releases substances that weigh hair down, giving it a lighter, fluffier appearance. Hair thickening shampoos, however, have the added benefit of including ingredients that make hair thicker, nurture hair growth, and, in some cases, slow or stop hair loss. 

Getting past exaggerated claims and scientific-sounding words can be challenging when hunting for a hair-thickening product that works. While many products are filled with over-the-top promises they fail to deliver, others are exceptionally effective. Not all hair-thickening shampoos or conditioners are the same. But how do you know which one to buy? Check for the right ingredients. 

What Hair Thickening Ingredients Should a Shampoo Include? 

The most efficacious ingredients in hair-thickening shampoos work in one of two ways: 

  • Blocking dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
  • Encouraging hair growth

Both men and women produce the hormone DHT, the primary hormone responsible for hair loss. At normal levels, DHT doesn’t cause balding. Unfortunately, some people experience higher levels of DHT. High levels of DHT can shrink or injure hair follicles, preventing healthy hair growth. Blocking DHT helps to reduce hair loss and maintain follicle health.  (01)

Hair doesn’t contain living cells, but the scalp and follicles that manufacture and grow strands of hair do. Therefore, ingredients that help to keep the scalp healthy, increase blood flow, or feed nutrients to hair follicles can help thicken hair and accelerate hair growth. To grow healthy hair, you need a healthy scalp. 

Popular hair brands may have cache in the drugstore aisle, but they aren’t necessarily more effective when treating thinning hair. When it comes to thickening shampoos and conditioners, it’s what’s inside that counts. The following are the most potent hair-thickening ingredients to look for. 

Hair Thickening Shampoo and Conditioners: DHT Blockers 

About 50% of men and women experience some degree of a hair loss condition called androgenic alopecia, which stems from excess levels of DHT. Therefore, ingredients that block DHT keep DHT from harming hair follicles and keep more strands from falling out. (02)

Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto extract is derived from a fruit grown in the Southeastern United States. This extract is an effective DHT blocker in many studies. For example, one two-year study of a group of 100 males with mild-to-moderate androgenetic alopecia was published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology. The study found that 38% of participants who used saw palmetto saw an improvement in their hair loss. (03)

For men, the prostate is very sensitive to DHT levels. One study saw a significant reduction in DHT levels in the prostate of men who were administered saw palmetto, compared to men who were given a placebo. Although more studies are necessary, saw palmetto is proving to have strong DHT-blocking effects and could help with DHT-induced hair loss. (04)

Hair Thickening Shampoo and Conditioners: Growth Enhancers

An effective hair thickening shampoo or conditioner contains ingredients that create the right environment for optimal hair growth. Substances that nourish and strengthen the scalp and strands are essential for a thicker head of hair. 

Ketarin

Hair is mostly made up of keratin, a protein that’s also found in nails and skin. Keratin is an exceptionally strong material, which makes it an ideal protective protein. Tissues made up of keratin, like your fingernails and hair, are tougher and less prone to damage.  As a result, shampoos and conditioners that contain keratin work well as hair thickeners and strengtheners. 

Thinning or damaged hair experience a loss of structural integrity, where keratin cells have gaps in between or overlap unevenly.  When applied on these hair strands, keratin products fill in spaces in between those cells. The keratin acts like a filler or glue for the hair, which makes the keratin-infused strands smoother and stronger as a result. (05)

Biotin

Biotin, also referred to as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, promotes keratin production. Because hair is mostly made of keratin, biotin ensures healthy hair. A deficiency in biotin can lead to weak, brittle strands of hair and slow hair growth. Although rare, biotin deficiency can occur in people with medical conditions or who use alcohol frequently. Supplementation of biotin, whether orally or through topicals and shampoos, may foster hair thickness. (05)

Argan Oil 

Popularly known as “liquid gold” from the area it comes from (Morocco), argan oil has been used for centuries to counteract hair loss. This oil is made from the fruit kernels of the Moroccan argan tree. Argan oil has anti-inflammatory properties, making it an ideal ingredient for scalp treatments. 

Hair loss resulting from conditions like psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, which may inflame the scalp, may benefit from shampoos and conditioners containing argan oil as an ingredient. 

Perhaps more importantly, however, argan oil also contains linoleic acids that moisturize the scalp and hair. By strengthening and moisturizing the scalp, hair follicles, and strands, argan oil can assist in thickening hair. (06)

Choosing a Multi-Pronged Approach to Thicken Hair

Most people who have hair thinning or balding know that the causes typically stem from more than one source. While genetics may be one risk factor, other elements like scalp health, nutrition, and external influences also play apart. The American Academy of Dermatology Association lists the following possible risk factors that may lead to thinning hair: (07)

  • Increased age
  • Inherited genes
  • Immune system disorders (such as alopecia areata)
  • Medical treatments
  • Overall health
  • Hair care
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Scalp health and infections

There’s no one magic bullet for hair loss, because the causes may stem from many different areas. Because of this fact, combating hair loss should be a multi-faceted approach. For example, eating a nutritious diet, practicing appropriate hair care, and using a medicated treatment to combat hair loss will yield better results than relying on a one-track approach. 

Do Thickening Shampoos Work? 

So, do thickening shampoos actually help with hair loss? Yes! Although finding the right ingredients and utilizing thickening shampoos alongside other approaches is vital for success. 

If you’re experiencing balding or thinning hair, let Happy Head help you manage your hair loss. Our experienced board-certified dermatologists will work with you to find the right prescription topical to regrow your hair. You can also try a multi-faceted approach with our Happy Head hair thickening shampoo and conditioner. Filled with high-quality hair-healthy ingredients like saw palmetto and biotin, our hair thickeners will give your strands volume and depth, as well as strengthen the health of our scalp. Subscribe and save on your purchase! 

Resources: 

(01) https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/hair-loss/symptoms-of-high-dht

(02) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/

(03) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/039463201202500435

(04) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11337315/

(05) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/

(06) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/

(07) https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/causes/18-causes

 

Dutasteride or Finasteride for Hair Loss: Which Should You Use?

You’ve decided to be proactive and treat your hair loss.  After all, you’ve been staring at the mirror day after day, trying to convince yourself that you aren’t really losing your hair.  But, you are.  Now that you’ve decided to do something about it, which medication should you use?  Everywhere you look, there seems to be another hair loss solution that promises to give you a full head of shiny hair in no time. 

Here’s what any qualified dermatologist will tell you. In addition to Minoxidil, you’ll need a prescription DHT (an acronym for dihydrotestosterone) blocker to effectively treat male pattern baldness.  Two are on the market:  Finasteride and Dutasteride.  Both have been tested and are prescribed often.  Which one is better?  We’ll run down the list of pros and cons and give you the information you need to have an educated discussion with your dermatologist.

Why Do People Use Finasteride or Dutasteride?

Before we get into what Finasteride and Dutasteride are and how they work, let’s talk about why you need one of these medications.  There are many types of alopecia that cause balding and thinning, but the most common type is male and female pattern baldness.  Male and female pattern baldness is a genetic condition that occurs when your body converts testosterone into an androgen called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).  If you are genetically predisposed to male or female pattern baldness, DHT can attack your hair follicles and cause something called miniaturization.  Miniaturization occurs when the hair follicles shrink. Healthy new hair can’t emerge and existing hair falls out.  

How Finasteride and Dutasteride Work 

Finasteride and Dutasteride are in a class of medications called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, also known as 5-ARIs.  The medicines were initially designed and marketed to treat Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), also known as an enlarged prostate.   When testing effectiveness in treating BPH, researchers discovered that balding patients taking Finasteride experienced hair growth.   The reason why is that the medications are anti-androgens, which means they prevent the conversion of testosterone to DHT.  DHT causes both enlarged prostates and hair loss.  If the testosterone doesn’t convert, your hair follicles will remain healthy.  

What is the Difference Between Finasteride and Dutasteride?

Finasteride is sold under the brand names Proscar and Propecia.  The medication was FDA-approved to treat male pattern baldness in 1997.  Dutasteride is sold under the brand name Avodart and is used off-label to treat male pattern baldness.  Dutasteride is a newer medication.  

Finasteride inhibits Type 2 isoenzyme of 5a-reductase.  Dutasteride inhibits Type 1 and Type 2. You could say that Dutasteride is stronger because it inhibits an extra enzyme.  Does that mean that Dutasteride is a better choice?  Although one study found Dutasteride to be more effective, that isn’t always the case. (01)

You Need to Give DHA Blockers a Test Run

According to Dr. Ben Behnam, Board Certified Dermatologist and founder of Happy Head, you won’t know which medication will work better for you until you try one.  Logically, Dutasteride should work better for everyone because it has broader coverage, but that isn’t always the case.  He has seen situations where patients respond better to Finasteride.  That’s one of the reasons why dermatologists typically recommend Finasteride first.  Finasteride can often get the job done at a lower dosage than Dutasteride.  Finasteride is also often combined with Minoxidil to get desired results.  The two medications work synergistically to halt hair loss and generate growth.  Minoxidil brings oxygen to the hair follicle, enlarging the follicle, while Finasteride blocks the DHT from attacking the follicle.  

You Need to Consider How Risk Adverse You are to Potential Side Effects

Side effects are always a possibility with any medication.  However, DHT blockers are of particular concern to many men because of potential sexual side effects.  Both Finasteride and Dutasteride have similar risks and safety profiles. (02) The truth is that side effects are rare with both medications.   If you’re still concerned, though, Finasteride comes in a topical formula.  The topical has been proven to penetrate the scalp’s surface and work as effectively as the oral pill.  Men can get the same benefit without systemic effects.  As of now, Dutasteride is only available as a pill.  

Can Women Use Finasteride and Dutasteride?

Just as men get male pattern baldness, women experience female pattern baldness.  Female pattern baldness is also caused by DHT.  Although Finasteride is not FDA approved for women, many dermatologists prescribe the medication to their female patients.  The only caveat is that Finasteride is not recommended for women who are or are thinking about getting pregnant.  Dutasteride isn’t prescribed to women as often as Finasteride, however, women can take the medication if they are not of childbearing age.  Spironolactone, another DHT blocker, is usually prescribed rather than Dutasteride.  

 

Need help selecting the right medication to treat your male or female pattern baldness?  Want more information about whether Finasteride or Dutasteride are right for you?  We’re here to help.  Our board-certified dermatologists are on call to answer your questions and make personalized recommendations.  

 

Resources:

(01) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6388756/#:~:text=One%20study%20discovered%20that%20dutasteride,in%20inhibiting%20type%201%205AR.&text=After%20studying%20the%20mechanism%20of,than%20finasteride%20in%20treating%20AGA.

(02) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24411083/

 

 

The Best Superfoods for Healthy Hair

Hair loss can often leave a person feeling helpless about their appearance. Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes a person can make to encourage healthy hair growth.  For example, replacing processed foods with nutrient-dense superfoods may help manage hair loss. 

Nutrients for Hair Growth

Like the rest of the body, the scalp depends on vitamins and minerals from the food you eat to grow healthy hair. Hair grows out through hair follicles, and these follicles need nutrients to work well. The following are a few of the most vital nutrients necessary for hair growth. 

Vitamin A

Healthy follicles are important for robust hair growth. Vitamin A ensures well-functioning follicles by promoting better blood circulation and mitigating follicle damage from free radicals. Additionally, vitamin A improves overall scalp condition, eliminating dry and scaly skin. 

B Vitamins

Deficiencies in B vitamins have been linked to hair loss. B vitamins support the growth of skin, hair, and nails in two ways: 

  • Enhancing the body’s ability to remove nutrients from foods. 
  • Boost red blood cell formation. 

A variety of nutrients fall under the umbrella of a B vitamin: (01)

  • B1 (also known as Thiamine)
  • B2 (also known as Riboflavin)
  • B3 (also known as Niacin)
  • B5 (also known as Pantothenic acid)
  • B6
  • B7 (also known as Biotin)
  • B9 (also known as Folate)
  • B12

Hair-friendly B vitamins help with red blood cell formation, which are vital for carrying oxygen and nutrients throughout the body— including the scalp. 

Vitamin C

A healthy head of hair is nearly impossible without Vitamin C. It’s a powerful antioxidant that impacts hair growth by: (02)

  • Playing a significant role in developing collagen, which is necessary for hair building and structure. 
  • Encouraging the absorption of iron, which prevents hair loss and oxidative stress. 

Like the rest of the body, the scalp and hair is susceptible to damage from free radicals. Vitamin C helps to reduce the injury from free radicals and maintains scalp health. Furthermore, collagen is a key compound that produces keratin, which gives skin and hair cells their structure. Vitamin C amps up collagen production and helps to strengthen and grow healthy hair. 

Vitamin D

Due to our modern lifestyle and diet, most people do not get enough vitamin D. Which is unfortunate, because vitamin D deficiency is linked to hair loss and slow hair growth. Participants in a study of women experiencing hair loss had lower levels of vitamin D. In another study of individuals with alopecia areata (an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss) found that vitamin D levels were also lower in individuals with the disease. (03, 04)

Iron

While many people don’t get enough vitamin D, the most common nutrient deficiency in the world is iron deficiency. Iron plays a significant role in a variety of body systems, but perhaps it’s most well-known for carrying oxygen throughout the body via red blood cells. Without iron, hair follicles can’t get the oxygen they need to grow hair. Therefore, iron deficiency results in anemia and hair loss. (02)

Zinc

Bones, muscles, the immune system, and even reproductive organs all require zinc to function appropriately. Zinc is also essential for healthy hair and skin. This mineral plays a significant role in manufacturing collagen, essential for growing hair. (02)

In addition, zinc affects the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is responsible for the loss of hair in situations like male pattern.  Zinc regulates the activity of the enzyme that keeps DHT in check, 5-alpha reductase.

Seven Superfoods for Hair Loss

The good news is that you can easily obtain these vital hair nutrients by incorporating the following superfoods in your diet. You’ll find some predictable foods on this list, as well as some you may not have expected to be hair-growing superfoods! 

1 Nuts and Seeds

In general, nuts and seeds are high-protein and nutrient-dense superfoods. When it comes to hair, however, they’re chock full of the nutrients necessary for long, shiny hair. Nuts and seeds are high in B vitamins, iron, zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Just keep your intake to a handful a day, because nuts and seeds are also high in calories. 

2 Healthy Cuts of Meat

Meat gets a bad rap. Although it’s true that fatty or heavily processed meats adversely affect a person’s health, this is not the case for all types of meat. Moderate amounts of healthy cuts of meat are rich in nutrients and can help maintain a healthy head of hair. Red meat is full of an easily absorbable type of iron that works especially well in the blood’s oxygen delivery system, which helps bring oxygen to hair follicles. 

3 Oysters

Oysters are more than purported aphrodisiacs, they’re also great for growing hair. These delectable mollusks are low-calorie and high in nutrients, with the minerals it takes to make hair healthy. A 3.5-ounce of oysters provides the following percentage of a person’s daily required nutrients: (05)

  • Selenium: 56% 
  • Iron: 40% 
  • Vitamin B12: 538%
  • Zinc: 555%

These whopping percentages indicate how high oysters are in many of the nutrients needed to grow hair. 

4 Spinach 

In addition to muscles, perhaps spinach should have blessed Popeye with a full head of hair. Spinach is filled with nutrients that benefit both muscles and hair. Loaded with plant-based iron, vitamin C, and vitamin A, spinach can help keep hair follicles and strands healthy. 

5 Eggs 

One superfood that contains what you need for healthy hair are eggs. Hair is mostly protein (collagen and keratin) and eggs are a rich non-red meat source of protein. High in vitamin A, vitamin E, and B vitamins like folate and biotin, eggs help keep strands strong and healthy. Eggs also do wonders for the scalp by infusing the area with nutrients, allowing healthier  follicles to hang on to hair. 

6 Oats 

You’re probably aware that oats are high in fiber, which is beneficial for the digestive system. But did you know oats improve the health of your hair? Oats contain fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids that reduce excess scalp oils and soothe inflammation, helping prevent hair loss in stress-related cases like telogen effluvium. Furthermore, oat is high in zinc, which keeps strands sturdy and less prone to breakage. (06)

7 Peas

Just like oats, green peas are a surprising superfood that’s good for your hair. Because green peas are full of iron and zinc, they strengthen hair and stimulate growth. Additionally, peas are also high in protein, which helps prevent or slow down hair loss. Interestingly enough, research regarding pea sprouts has shown promising results in slowing hair loss. (07)

You’re More than What You Eat

The saying goes that you are what you eat. While this may be true, you’re also more than what you consume. The environment, your genes, and your lifestyle all play some role in your health. And although a healthy well-balanced diet goes a long way to keeping a healthy head of hair, sometimes it takes more than superfoods to grow your locks back. For those cases, Happy Head is here to help. Our board-certified dermatologists will review your case and make recommendations that are unique to your needs. Customizable and delivered straight to your door, Happy Head’s prescription medications is the hair treatment you’ve been searching for. 

 

Resources: 

(01) https://medlineplus.gov/bvitamins.html

(02) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/

(03) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23428658

(04) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260993460_Vitamin_D_Deficiency_in_Alopecia_Areata

(05) https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175171/nutrients

(06) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25607907/

(07) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31680356/

Worried About Going Bald? Why Men Are More At Risk Than Women.

Unless you were lucky enough to be born with perfect genes, the odds are that you’ll experience hair loss at some point in your life if you’re a guy.   By age 35, about two-thirds of all men begin to notice that their hair isn’t quite as thick as it once was.  Or even more alarming, they start to see a bit of recession on their foreheads.  By the age of 50, that number shoots up to 85 percent. (01)  Yes, women lose their hair too.  But why does it seem like men have noticeable hair loss while women still have their standing weekly appointments to get their hair blown out?  

Androgenetic alopecia affects both men and women.  However, it affects each gender differently.  If you’re wondering why male pattern hair loss seems so much more prevalent, we’re here to fill you in.  We have the facts and tips on what you can do if thinning or recession are stressing you out.  

Why Do Men Go Bald?

There are several reasons why men lose their hair.  The most common is due to androgenetic alopecia, male pattern baldness.  The hair loss condition is genetic.  You can inherit it from either your mother’s or father’s side of the family.  Hair loss begins when testosterone converts to an androgen called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).  DHT attacks the hair follicles and shrinks them during a process called miniaturization.  When the hair follicles miniaturize, a couple of things happen.  First, the hair that is already there falls out.  Secondly, the smaller hair follicles make it more difficult for new hair to emerge.  Newer hair tends to be finer.  Eventually, the follicles close off, leading to thinning and baldness.  While most people think of balding happening to older men, the truth is that male pattern baldness can affect any male after puberty.  It’s not unusual for men in their 20s and 30s to lose their hair.

Does Too Much Testosterone Cause Male Pattern Baldness?

There’s a theory that bald men have more testosterone than men with a full head of hair.  Which would explain why more men than women go bald.  That’s just a myth, though.  The amount of testosterone isn’t what causes male pattern baldness.  The amount of testosterone that converts to DHT is what matters.  If a man has low testosterone levels, but a high percentage of the testosterone he does have converts to DHT, male pattern baldness can result.  

Can Women Go Bald Too?

Women experience androgenetic alopecia too.  It’s called female pattern baldness.  However, women’s and men’s hair loss patterns are different.  Men tend to lose hair in the front of their heads and on top.  Male pattern baldness often starts as an M shape.  If the condition progresses, it can result in a donut shape.  The pattern of women’s hair loss is different, however.  Women tend to lose their hair along the part line.  Although the hair loss can and does spread, women with female pattern baldness usually don’t go completely bald the way men do.  That’s one of the reasons why it seems like men are more affected by genetic hair loss.  

If a Man Loses His Hair Due to Male Pattern Baldness, Can it Grow Back?

Men with androgenetic alopecia can regrow their hair if the hair follicles have not fully miniaturized and are still intact.  It’s also possible to make thinner hair fuller and healthier looking.  Fortunately, there are two FDA-approved medications designed to help.  

Minoxidil Is Easily Accessible

The first is Minoxidil.  You can buy Minoxidil over-the-counter at drug stores and big box retailers that sell pharmaceutical products.  Minoxidil is sold in two and five percent liquid and foam formulas.  Higher percentages, up to ten percent, are available by prescription.  Not surprisingly, research indicates that five percent (02) is more effective in achieving regrowth. Researchers do not know the exact mechanism that makes Minoxidil work.  But, they do know that Minoxidil brings oxygen to the scalp, enlarging hair follicles, preventing miniaturization and hair loss.  

Finasteride Is a First-line Prescription Treatment for Male Pattern Hair Loss

Finasteride is a prescription DHT blocker that has been FDA-approved to treat male pattern baldness.  The medication, marketed initially to treat enlarged prostates, is effective in promoting hair growth and stopping hair loss in men. (03)  Finasteride prevents testosterone from converting into DHT, which can attack and shrink the hair follicles.  Some men, however, are reluctant to try or use Finasteride because it has a reputation for causing sexual side effects.  Using topical Finasteride is a good, often preferred, alternative that allows men to benefit from the medication without experiencing systemic effects.  

Treatment for Male Pattern Baldness Often Requires a Combination of Prescription Medications

If you’re starting to see thinning or bald spots and are worried about losing your hair, don’t wait to seek treatment.  As mentioned, you want to act while your hair follicles remain active.  A combination of medications are typically used at the same time.  Minoxidil and Finasteride are often prescribed together.  Minoxidil, a vasodilator, enlarges the follicles, while Finasteride stimulates growth. (04)  Depending on your particular case, your dermatologist may also recommend Retinol to help absorption, Cortisone to eliminate irritation or other medications.  Liquid formulas that combine multiple medications into one are available if you’re concerned about taking multiple medications and side effects. 

Customized Hair Loss Treatments Can Be Modified

Keep in mind that treatment for male pattern baldness isn’t one-size-fits-all.  It may take some trial to determine which combination of medications works best for your body’s chemistry.  Finasteride is typically the first-line treatment since it’s highly effective.  However, some men find that Dutasteride, a more broad-spectrum DHT blocker, works better for them.  The key is to remember that once you start treating your hair loss and find a solution that works, you’ll need to keep using it.  If you stop treatment, any growth will be lost.

No, you can’t change your genetic makeup, but you can treat your hair loss.  If you have questions about what medications are right for you, contact us.  Our board-certified dermatologist will review your case and recommend the best way to start regrowing your hair.

 

Resources:

(01) https://www.americanhairloss.org/men_hair_loss/index.html

(02) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12196747/

(03) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9951956/

(04) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4314881/

 

Is Caffeine the Next Hair Loss Solution?

 

If you’re losing your hair, you may be rethinking your diet.  After all, diet does affect the quality of your hair.  We know that processed foods and too much alcohol aren’t recommended if you are experiencing hair loss.  If you’re one of those people who can’t get your day started without a steaming hot cup of coffee, though, you may be excited to learn what you thought was a vice may actually help you.  Yes, it’s true.  Researchers have been studying the effects of caffeine on male and female pattern hair loss.  So, here’s the million-dollar question.  Is caffeine the secret weapon to fighting genetic hair loss?  Grab a cup, find a comfortable chair, and keep reading.  

Caffeine:  Drink or Drug?

You’re probably very familiar with caffeine found in coffee, tea, chocolate, some sodas, pain relievers, and other over-the-counter medications.  But, this may come as a surprise to you. Caffeine is categorized as a drug by the FDA.  The reason why is that caffeine stimulates the nervous system.  That causes you to be more awake after downing a cup of coffee, tea, or energy drink such as Red Bull that contains caffeine. Caffeine is also found in many pain relievers, over-the-counter medications, and supplements.  Research shows that when caffeine is added to ibuprofen and other common analgesics, patients experience a higher level of pain relief. (01)  Caffeine increases the absorption and strength of the medication.  Patients with migraines are often told that caffeine can help relieve their symptoms.  

What’s the Connection Between Caffeine and Your Hair?

If you are experiencing androgenetic alopecia, you may be wondering whether caffeine can contribute to your hair loss.  The good news is that you don’t have to go into panic mode.   Caffeine won’t make you lose more hair.  Dr. Ben Behnam, board-certified dermatologist, hair specialist, and founder of Happy Hair hair loss solutions, doesn’t mind when his hair loss patients indulge in coffee or tea.  Although he recommends avoiding energy drinks and processed foods, he gives thumbs up to caffeine.  

Does Caffeine Stimulate Hair Growth?

Not only is caffeine not harmful, research indicates that caffeine can help patients who are experiencing male or female pattern hair loss.  In one study,, concentrations of .001 percent and .005 percent caffeine led to growth of hair follicles preserved in test tubes. (02)  Another study on the effects of caffeine contained in cosmetics discovered that caffeine acts as a DHT blocker. (03)  As a stimulant, caffeine can also increase circulation to your hair follicles, allowing it to work similarly to Minoxidil. (04)   

Can You Substitute Caffeine for Hair Loss Treatments if You Have Male or Female Pattern Hair Loss?

Don’t abandon your Minoxidil, Finasteride, or other prescription hair loss treatments just yet.  More research needs to be conducted on the most effective amount of caffeine and the best delivery method.  Low to moderate amounts of caffeine are safe; however, you would need to ingest a large amount of caffeine to prevent genetic hair loss. Yes, you can buy caffeine pills, but they come with many potential side effects, including high blood pressure, increased urination, and heartburn.  

What About Using Caffeine Topically to Treat Hair Loss?

Another option to try caffeine to treat male or female pattern hair loss is applying it topically.  One research study indicated that a .2 percent topical caffeine solution worked almost as effectively as Minoxidil. (05)  Caffeinated shampoos are an option.  When selecting a shampoo, however, keep in mind that the concentration of caffeine will most likely not be as high as the formula used in the study.  Many shampoos do not include the concentration of caffeine on their ingredients list.  Another option is a coffee rinse.  Again, there isn’t a guarantee that a coffee rinse will work, but if you try it, make sure that the coffee you use is completely cool before you pour it into a spray bottle and spray it on.

Other Hair Loss Treatments

If experimenting with caffeine isn’t for you, other hair loss treatments are worth using.  Prescription medications have been proven to be the most effective for treating male and female pattern hair loss and other forms of alopecia.  FDA-approved Minoxidil and Finasteride are first-line treatments for male and female pattern hair loss and produce measurable results in many people.  Minoxidil enlarges the hair follicles so hair can grow healthy and strong.  Finasteride is a hormone blocker that prevents testosterone from converting to dihydrotestosterone (DHT).  Minoxidil and Finasteride are often used at the same time.  Although Finasteride works for most, some people need to step-up to Dutasteride, a more potent DHT blocker.  Women who need a stronger prescription may try Spironolactone, another pill with a different formulation that is also stronger than Finasteride.  Combination topical prescription medications are also available and more convenient than using multiple medications.  

To sum up, research indicated that caffeine may be a viable hair loss solution.  However, if you’re thinking about using caffeine to prevent hair loss and to grow new hair, look carefully at the percentages of caffeine in the product you plan to use.  Odds are that the concentration won’t be high enough to prevent further hair loss and stimulate regrowth.  Additional research and product development still needs to occur.  

In the meanwhile, if your hair is thinning or balding and you would like to start treatment, customizable Happy Head hair loss solution may be just what the doctor ordered.  Contact us so that one of our board-certified dermatologists can review your case and determine whether you would be a good candidate for our topical prescription hair loss medication.  

 

Resources:

(01) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6485702/

(02) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-4632.2007.03119.x

(03) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23075568/

(04) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5804833/

(05) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5804833/

 

Men’s Hair Can Be Damaged and Dry Too. Here’s What You Can Do.

Men usually worry more about losing their hair than about if their hair is healthy.  Women are generally the ones who stress over dry, damaged hair.  After all, hair dryers, flat irons, bleaching, coloring, tight ponytails, and braids can take a toll.  Most men are happy not to deal with all of that.  Even so, it’s not ideal when men’s hair looks dried out or frizzy.  Not to mention that hair that doesn’t look healthy sometimes isn’t.  So, guys, let’s talk about your hair’s appearance and texture.  We have some tips on how to improve your hair’s condition and what to do if you think there’s something causing damage that’s out of your control.

What Causes Men to Experience Dry Hair?

Before we talk about what you can do to repair your hair, let’s discuss the reasons why your hair may be dry or damaged.  Let’s start understanding what happens when your hair gets dried out.  Oils that keep your hair healthy are produced in your hair’s roots.  There isn’t a source of natural lubrication.  When your hair’s natural oil and moisture are lost, it also loses its smooth texture and shine.   There are many reasons why this could happen.  The most common reasons are aging, health conditions such as thyroid disease, and the effects of sun, wind, and other weather-related conditions.  If your hair begins to thin due to male pattern baldness, your hair’s texture can also change.  Thinner hair can become wavy, dry, and brittle.  

How Does Men’s Hair Get Damaged?

Here’s what happens when your hair gets damaged.  Each strand of your hair is protected by a cuticle, which is a protective layer.  When your hair cuticles are healthy, they sit closely together and lock in moisture.  The cuticle protects your hair from elements such as chlorine and sun exposure.  However, those cuticles can peel away from your hair when they separate.  Your hair can’t hold moisture or natural oils.  Contrary to what many people believe, you cannot repair damaged hair.  It’s not a living tissue and doesn’t have regenerative abilities.  However, damaged hair that is cut can grow healthy cuticles.   

How Guys Treat Dry or Damaged Hair

If your hair doesn’t look in tip-top shape, all is not lost.  Here are some tips that can help:

  • Use the Right Shampoo 

If a two-in-one is your go-to for the shower, you may want to rethink your shampoo.  A good quality shampoo helps not only clean your hair, but will help balance your scalp’s chemistry.  Shampoos include detergents, pH adjusters, preservatives, thickeners, scents, and additives.  Harsh ingredients strip the oils out of your hair.  If your hair is dry, you’ll want to avoid lauryl sulfates, sarcosinates, and other harsh ingredients known for deep cleaning.   Instead, look for mild cleaning agents such as polyoxyethylene fatty alcohols, polyoxyethylene sorbitol esters alkanolamides, betaines, sultaines, and other gentle cleansers that also help make your hair more manageable. (01)

  • Remember the Conditioner

Skipping conditioner may save time, but it also means that you’re missing the opportunity to add moisture.  Conditioning seals your hair’s cuticles to keep the moisture locked in between washes.  Topical hair loss treatments such as Minoxidil or Finasteride may affect the texture of your hair, especially at the beginning when the medications first start working.  A good conditioner can help by making your hair more shiny and manageable.  Conditioners will often include ingredients such as hydrolyzed silk, animal protein, and glycerin.  When selecting a conditioner, look for protein-derived substances.  Protein works with the keratin in your hair to hold the cortex fragments together.  Your split ends will mend temporarily until the next time you shampoo. (02) 

  • Hair Masks Aren’t Just for Women

If you’re looking for a quick-fix to make your dry, brittle hair softer and more manageable, we’re going to share a secret weapon to treat your hair: hair masks.  Yes, women are the ones who usually use hair masks.  But, not only can men use them once or twice per week, they give short-term results that make your hair stronger, shinier, and tamer.  Keep in mind that you should only apply a hair mask from the roots to the ends of your hair.  Hair masks aren’t meant to be used on your scalp. The hair mask that you choose will depend on your hair’s texture.  It’s helpful to look for keywords such as “fine” or “coarse” that match your hair type.  Hair masks with all-natural ingredients and keywords such as “keratin” and “biotin” are good choices.  

  • Visit Your Barber Regularly

Sure, it was probably fun having long Covid hair and not having to visit the barber every five weeks.  However, if your hair is dry or damaged, it’s important to keep those appointments.  Overgrown split ends make your hair look messy and frizzy.  Not to mention that when men go too long between trims, they end up with an awkward, unflattering shape that’s tricky to camouflage.  No matter how many styling products you use, your hair will still look unkempt. 

  • Eat a Protein-rich Diet

If your hair is dry or damaged, make sure you’re eating plenty of protein.  Protein will strengthen and repair the keratin in your hair strands.  You’ll still need a trim to get rid of the damaged ends, but more protein and keratin means your hair will grow stronger.  A lack of protein has actually been linked to hair loss. (03)  When your body doesn’t get enough protein, your body will conserve what it has by shifting hair into a resting phase when your hair falls out.  Good protein sources include eggs, chicken, shrimp, fatty fish, nuts, tofu, legumes, and cottage cheese. 

  • Ask Your Dermatologist About Vitamins or Supplements

If your hair is dry or damaged and you aren’t sure why, it may be a good idea to have your vitamin, iron, thyroid, and other blood levels checked.  Hyper and hypothyroidism can both cause dry, brittle hair.  Low iron and other vitamin deficiencies can cause the same effect.  Balancing your thyroid or supplementing with vitamins usually brings noticeable improvement.  

  • Stop Using Harsh Coloring Products

If you color your hair and notice signs of damage, it’s a good idea to stop.  In some cases, hair dye lifts the cuticle from the hair and changes the texture.  The hair that’s been colored won’t return to its natural state.  However, only the hair that has been dyed will be affected.  New hair that grows from your scalp will have your original texture and sheen. 

  • Don’t Wait to Get a Professional Opinion

By the time you notice that your hair’s texture and finish has changed, there’s a good chance that damage has already occurred.  A visit to the dermatologist can help you understand why your hair doesn’t seem as smooth or manageable as before.  Once you identify the culprit, you can start to get your hair back on the road to good health.

Sometimes men don’t realize that the change in their hair’s texture or appearance is due to male pattern baldness, telogen effluvium, or another type of alopecia that can be treated.  If you aren’t sure why your hair’s texture or appearance has changed and want a professional opinion, we’re here to help.  Simply fill out the questionnaire.  One of our board-certified dermatologists will review your case and make recommendations on what you can do to get your hair back on track.   

 

Resources:

(01) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458934/

(02) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458934/

(03) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/

 

Alopecia Areata: Is it Hereditary?

Genes play a major role in our appearance. For example, you may have inherited your father’s striking eye color and his sunny smile. But did you inherit his bald patches? If you’re reading this article then you’ve probably noticed a family member’s thinning hair and wondered, “Is alopecia areata hereditary?” Let’s find out. 

What is Alopecia Areata?

The term “alopecia” means hair loss. Therefore, alopecia occurs under a variety of conditions, like chemotherapy-induced alopecia and frontal fibrosing alopecia. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that results in discrete bald patches throughout the scalp, face, or body. The immune system mistakenly targets hair follicles, which results in hair loss. In some cases, the entire head is affected causing complete baldness. (01)

Alopecia areata is not life-threatening, but it can negatively affect a person’s mental health. A study of individuals diagnosed with alopecia areata found high levels of anxiety (62%) and depression (38%) among participants. Therefore, hair loss conditions like alopecia areata don’t cause physical pain – but they can cause a great deal of psychological distress. (01)

What Causes Alopecia Areatea?

The body’s immune system fights against foreign invaders, protecting the body from pathogens. For the most part, the immune system does their job excellently. In some cases, however, the immune system can attack the body’s own cells. In the case of alopecia areata, the immune system strikes at the hair follicles, triggering an early start of the hair follicle’s “resting phase,” also called the telogen phase. The follicle loses its strand of hair and stops producing more strands.  The exact cause of alopecia areata is yet unknown. 

What are the Symptoms of Alopecia Areata?

Most people visualize a bald head when they hear the term alopecia areata. However, alopecia areata can affect any part of the body, like the legs or beard area. Symptoms of alopecia area include: 

  • Distinct oval or round-shaped patches on the scalp.
  • Areas of hair loss that get larger with time.
  • Two or more patches that grow larger and connect. 
  • Hair loss that affects one side of the head more than the other (asymmetrical). 
  • Fragile or white-spotted nails. 

One of the hallmarks of alopecia areata are the short broken hairs or “exclamation point” hairs located at the perimeter of bald patches. These hairs are narrower at the base and thicker at the tip. A frustrating aspect of alopecia areata is the condition’s unpredictable nature. The condition may come and go, with hair regrowth and then subsequent episodes of hair loss. Some individuals may experience a complete loss of hair on their body, though this occurrence is very rare. (01)

What are the Types of Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia areata shows up differently in each person. For example, one person may find small bald patches on one side of their head, while another person with alopecia areata may experience total hair loss. 

The three primary types of alopecia areata are: (02)

  • Patchy Alopecia Areata. Individuals with patchy alopecia areata develop one or more round bald patches on the scalp, eyebrows, armpits, or eyelashes. 
  • Alopecia Totalis. Alopecia totalis causes complete baldness, resulting in total loss of hair on the scalp. 
  • Alopecia Universalis. People with alopecia universalis experience a total loss of hair throughout their body, including the hair on their finger and toes. 

Fortunately, lost hair from alopecia areata often grows back, particularly with treatment. Even with the loss of hair, hair follicles remain “alive” and operational. Therefore, it’s possible to regrow hair, even after long periods of hair loss. People with alopecia areata may experience cycles of hair loss and regrowth throughout their lives. New hair may appear fragile and white, at first, then slowly return to their original color. (02)

Who Gets Alopecia Areata?

According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF), about 7 million people in the U.S. are affected by the condition. Alopecia areata also affects all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world. Any person at any age can develop alopecia areata, but the condition appears before the age of 20 in about 60% of people with the disorder. When alopecia areata develops in children under 10, however, hair loss tends to be more extensive and progressive. (03)

People with following disorders have a higher risk of developing alopecia areata: 

  • Vitiligo
  • Eczema
  • Allergies
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Down Syndrome
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
  • Ocular Cicatricial Pemphigoid 
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

Cancer patients receiving treatment may also develop alopecia areata. For example, a cancer drug called nivolumab has been known to cause alopecia areata a few months after treatment. This form of alopecia areata is called nivolumab-induced alopecia. In this case, hair loss is thought to be a good sign that the cancer medication is doing its job well. (03)

Having a family member with alopecia areata may raise a person’s risk of developing the condition. Data indicates that approximately 10% to 20% of people with alopecia areata have a blood relative with the condition. Having said that, having a family member who is diagnosed with alopecia areata does not guarantee that you will develop the condition. (02)

Is Alopecia Areata Hereditary?

Whether alopecia areata is hereditary or not is unknown. Research into the condition has identified hair follicle specific genes, such as (peroxiredoxins) PRDX5 on chromosome 11q13. PRDXs are enzymes within hair follicles, and may be responsible for influencing autoimmune disease. Additionally, autoimmune disorders in general are thought to have genetic components, making them likely to have hereditary factors. (04)

However, the environment, lifestyle choices, and individual health may also play significant roles regarding whether an individual will develop an autoimmune condition like alopecia areata. A recent article in the journal Nature stated that autoimmune diseases occur due to a combination of variables, like genetic predisposition and environmental triggers that disturbs the immune system’s ability to decipher the body’s own tissues. (04)

It’s important to keep in mind that more than half of people who are diagnosed with alopecia areata do not have a family link to the condition. Furthermore, genetic diseases often skip generations or people in families with no predictable pattern. In short, there is no definite answer – at this time– whether autoimmune diseases like alopecia areata are hereditary. 

As with many health conditions that have a genetic component, alopecia areata’s genetic links are not the only deciding factor.

So, is alopecia areata hereditary? All the signs point to a definite “maybe.” 

Managing Alopecia Areata

Will your children develop alopecia areata? They may, but the chances are more likely that they will not. Will you develop alopecia areata if your mother has the condition? Your risk is higher than people who do not have a family member with the condition, but the chances are that you won’t develop alopecia areata. The crystal ball is murky when it comes to alopecia areata. 

That said, the true issue is managing alopecia areata if and when it appears. Hair loss can cause psychological anguish. Getting a handle on alopecia areata symptoms before they worsen helps prevent undue stress. Happy Head’s board-certified dermatologists and hair specialists are here to help. Whether hair loss is due to alopecia areata, male pattern baldness, or telogen effluvium, we can answer your questions and assist in finding the right treatment. Contact us and start regrowing your hair today.

 

Resources: 

(01) https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/alopecia-areata

(02) https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/types/alopecia

(03) https://www.naaf.org/alopecia-areata

(04) https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01839-6

8 Facts That People with Hair Loss Should Know About Rogaine (aka Minoxidil)

Dermatologists often recommend Rogaine as the first line of treatment for many different types of hair loss.  It’s well-tested, relatively inexpensive, and easy to find on drugstore shelves.  However, if you skim through Facebook groups for people experiencing androgenetic alopecia (male and female pattern baldness) and other types of hair loss, you’ll see that people are often hesitant about using Rogaine for a wide variety of reasons.  Whether you’re on the fence, heard a rumor about Rogaine that you’re not sure is true, or just want a little more information before picking up a 3-month supply, you’re in the right place.   We’re here to give you the facts.  

1. Rogaine is FDA-approved to Treat Male and Female Pattern Baldness

In the 1970s, Rogaine, the brand name for the generic medication called Minoxidil, was tested in an oral pill form to treat hypertension.  During research studies, physicians noticed that the medication caused a side effect of regrowing hair that patients had lost.  The discovery led to the development of a topical hair loss formula designed to treat male and female pattern baldness.  In 1986, a two percent topical formula was marketed, and the five percent was made available in 1993.  Rogaine is only available in liquid and foam formulas.  Minoxidil is also available as a pill that is taken orally.  

Currently, Rogaine and Finasteride, a DHT blocker, are the only FDA-approved medications available to treat androgenetic alopecia.  However, Rogaine is often used off-label to treat other types of hair loss, including alopecia areata and scarring alopecias.  

2. Rogaine is Effective

Rogaine has been used for over 30 years and has been thoroughly tested over the years.  Although the exact reason why Rogaine works is still a bit of a mystery, research indicates that the hair loss medication is effective when patients use the medicine as prescribed.  What is known is that Rogaine is a vasodilator, which means that the medication brings oxygen to shrunken hair follicles and enlarges them, allowing new, healthy hair to emerge.  Rogaine may also prolong your hair’s growth phase.  When more follicles are in the growth phase, you’ll see more hair coverage on your scalp.  A study conducted in 2004 by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatologists indicated that over 90 percent of patients in the study achieved growth or halted hair loss after using Rogaine for one year. (01)

Dermatologists can also combine Rogaine with other hair loss medications to maximize results.  Research indicates that Rogaine combined with Finasteride has better efficacy than Rogaine alone when treating male or female pattern baldness. (02)

3. You may shed hair before new hair begins to grow

You may have heard of the dred shed people get when they first use Rogaine.  Yes, it’s a real thing.  Not all people experience initial shedding, but some do during the first few months of using the medication.  When shedding occurs, it means that the Rogaine is doing its job.  Keeping it simple, Rogaine accelerates the last stages of hair growth when the old hair falls out so that your hair can go through the growth phase faster.  That means you may see more hair loss for a short period before seeing new growth.  Most people notice small changes in three or four months.  It can take up to a year to get complete results.  

4. Certain application techniques make Rogaine more effective

You may have heard about a derma roller before.  It’s a little roller that gently punctures the skin to allow topical products to penetrate the skin deeper than if you apply the products with your hands.  According to research, people with androgenetic alopecia who use a derma roller to apply Rogaine get significantly better results. (03)  If you have another type of alopecia that isn’t male or female pattern hair loss, check with your dermatologist before using a dermaroller.  Dermarollers aren’t recommended for people with scarring alopecias.  

5. Rogaine is available without propylene glycol

Fortunately, topical Rogaine doesn’t have a lot of side effects.  If you do experience irritation, it’s possibly due to propylene glycol in one of the liquid formulas.  Propylene glycol is an active ingredient that contains two different types of alcohol.  If you experience irritation, you can make a couple of easy changes.  The first is to use Rogaine foam rather than liquid.  The foam does not contain propylene glycol.  If you use a compounded liquid formula that includes other medications, such as Finasteride and retinol, you can request that the propylene glycol be omitted.  

6. Yes, it’s true that once you start using Rogaine, you have to continue

Once you begin using Rogaine, you’ll need to continue to maintain the hair you grow.  If you stop using the hair loss product within three to four months, you will most likely lose any newly grown hair.  Your hair will look the way it did before you started using Rogaine.  

7. Stronger formulas do give better results

Rogaine is sold over-the-counter in two and five-percent liquid and foam formulas.  As you might guess, the 5 percent formula is more effective than the two percent for both men and women.  According to a study conducted on men, the five percent formula worked faster and resulted in better scalp coverage than the two percent formula. (04)  Although Rogaine is not sold over the counter at a higher dose, the generic equivalent, Minoxidil, is available by prescription for up to 10 percent and can be prescribed off-label.  Higher doses can cause more irritation than lower doses.  Minoxidil combined with cortisone helps prevent irritation from occurring.  Combining retinol as well helps improve absorption.  

8. Rogaine is safe to use on facial hair too

Some people with forms of alopecia are disturbed when they realize that they have lost hair in their eyebrows, mustache, and beard areas.  Fortunately, Rogaine is effective for facial hair as well as hair on your head.  According to a research study, Rogaine was superior in enhancing beard growth.  Adverse effects were mild. (05)

If you have male or female pattern baldness or another type of alopecia, being able to take proactive steps toward halting your hair loss and stimulating new growth can be empowering.  If you are a bit nervous about giving Rogaine a try, remember that it is a trusted medication with few downsides and many potential benefits.  And our board-certified dermatologists and hair specialists are here to help.  Let us know if we can answer any further questions or be of assistance.

 

Resources:

(01) https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(03)03692-2/fulltext

(02) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32166351/

(03) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746236/

(04) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12196747/

(05) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/

Is Propecia (aka Finasteride) the Right Medication for You?

After months of stressing out about how much hair you’ve lost, you finally pay a visit to your dermatologist.  You talk to your doctor, have an examination, and finally get the news you’ve been dreading.  You have androgenetic alopecia, another name for male or female pattern baldness.  You were trying to process the diagnosis and heard the dermatologist mention the medication Propecia, but couldn’t fully concentrate on what he or she was saying.  You were too focused on the fact that you are losing your hair.  Now that you’ve calmed down, you have decisions to make. Should you try taking Propecia or not?  Will it work?  Is there a less expensive generic version?  Does it have any side effects?  If these or other questions are swirling around in your head, you’re in the right place.  We’re here to give you all of the information you need to help you decide whether Propecia is right for you. 

Why is Propecia Prescribed?

Propecia, the brand name for the generic medication Finasteride, is FDA-approved to treat male pattern baldness. Although the medication is not FDA-approved to treat women, it is often prescribed off-label for female pattern baldness.  Both Propecia and Finasteride work the same.  The difference between the two medications is the price.  Since Propecia is a brand name, it is more expensive due to associated marketing costs.

Is Propecia a New Hair Loss Medication?

Propecia has been available to treat hair loss for over 25 years.  The medication was first used in 5-milligram doses in 1992 by urologists to treat enlarged prostates among men aged 50 and older.  During trials, it was discovered that a side effect was hair growth.  In 1997, one milligram of Propecia was formally approved for hair loss in men who are 18 and up.

How Does Propecia Treat Androgenetic Alopecia?

Propecia inhibits type II and type III 5-alpha-reductase isoenzymes.  In simple terms, that means it prevents testosterone from converting into an androgen called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).  Blocking DHT is important because excess DHT shrinks your hair follicles and interrupts your hair’s growth cycle.  When your hair follicles shrink, hair becomes thinner and weaker.  Hair falls out easily and doesn’t grow back.  

How is Propecia Dosed to Treat Male or Female Pattern Hair Loss?

As mentioned previously, Propecia was originally marketed to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia at 5 milligrams.  The dosage typically prescribed to treat male pattern hair loss is significantly less.  Your doctor will determine the right dose for you; however, one milligram is the most common prescription for men.  Women usually need a higher dosage than men.  Doses prescribed for women can range anywhere from 1.25 to five milligrams.  

Does Propecia Effectively Treat Hair Loss?

If you’re wondering whether or not you should give Propecia a try, the data is favorable.  Propecia is effective in preventing further hair loss and growing new hair.  Research has demonstrated that Propecia reduces serum DHT by 70 percent. (01)  With the medication, testosterone cannot convert to DHT, which can damage the hair follicles. Furthermore, one study indicates that 48 percent of users achieved growth after one year.  After two years, that number increased to 66 percent.  The study also shows that Propecia halts hair loss.  After two years, 83 percent of users in the study had no further hair loss. (02)  It’s important to know that results are only seen while using Propecia.  If you stop using the medication, new growth will likely fall out and your hair will look like it did before taking it.  Further hair loss can also occur.

Can You Combine Propecia With Other Hair Loss Medications?

Dermatologists often find that combining Propecia with Minoxidil gives better results than using Propecia alone.  The two medications serve different purposes.  Propecia blocks the DHT from converting, while Minoxidil sends oxygen to the hair follicles, helping them open so healthy new hair can break through.  You may also hear about retinol.  When using topical Propecia, retinol has been proven to improve absorption of the medication, giving better results.  

How Long Does it Take Propecia to Work?

It’s normal to be anxious to see results after starting a hair loss medication.  When you take Propecia, you may see hints of new growth around the three or four-month mark.  However, it typically takes six months to notice significant improvement.  It generally takes a year to see full results.  

Does Propecia Have Any Side Effects?

Many men are apprehensive about taking Propecia because they have heard it can cause undesirable sexual side effects.  Some report erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, and ejaculation disorders.  The side effects are rare, only affecting approximately one percent of men who take oral Propecia. If side effects are a concern, topical Propecia is an alternative that has been proven equally as effective without the same risk of side effects.  Topical solutions work specifically at the site of the hair follicles without risking systemic exposure. (03)

Can Women Take Propecia?

Although Propecia is not FDA approved for women, many dermatologists prescribe the medication off-label for their patients with female pattern baldness.  Both oral and topical Propecia has been proven effective for treating women. (04)  Topical Propecia is absorbed into the skin of the scalp without systemic effects.  Oral Propecia can be prescribed for women who are post menapausal, but isn’t recommended for women of childbearing age unless oral contraceptives are also being taken.  

Are There Alternatives to Propecia to Treat Androgenetic Alopecia?

Other hair loss treatments exist, but keep in mind that prescription medications are most effective.  Minoxidil is often used in conjunction with Propecia for both men and women.  Propecia is effective for most, but in cases where stronger medications are needed, Dutasteride can be prescribed to men or women.  Dutasteride works similarly to Propecia; however, it blocks an additional enzyme.  Spironolactone can be prescribed to women but isn’t recommended for men because it can cause breast enlargement.  Combination topical treatments are often a good choice because they conveniently combine multiple medications into one formula.  

Propecia is a well-tested medication proven to help people with androgenetic alopecia.  The medicine helps stop further hair loss and stimulates new growth in many patients with male and female pattern baldness.  If you have additional questions about Propecia, let us know.  Our board-certified dermatologists are available to review your case and recommend dosages, formulas, and other medications that work well with Propecia.

 

Resources:

(01) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/#:~:text=2%5D%5B3%5D-,Finasteride%20is%20an%20FDA%2Dapproved%20pharmacologic%20agent%20for%20treating%20benign,a%20dose%20of%205%20mg.

(02) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9951956/

(03) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jdv.17738

(04) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29464847/

 

Is Your Hair Healthy?

Has your hair been a little drier and frizzier than usual?  Is it less manageable than it used to be?  Figuring out whether or not your hair is healthy can be challenging.  It can be difficult to distinguish between when it’s time for a deep conditioning treatment and a haircut or if something else is affecting your hair.  If you know what to look for, though, assessing your hair’s health is easy.  Here’s a simple guide designed to help.    

How Do You Know When Your Hair is Healthy?

Is your hair smooth and shiny or dull and coarse?  Hair that’s shiny and smooth is deemed more healthy, even when hair is wavy or curly. (01)  As we age, natural graying can make hair seem dull or frizzy, but that doesn’t have to be the case.  Daily conditioners, moisturizing treatments, and shine-boosting sprays can help.

Androgenetic alopecia, a fancy name for male and female pattern baldness, can also change your hair’s texture and appearance.  Sometimes hair becomes finer due to miniaturization of the hair follicles.  Because the hair becomes thinner, it could become curlier.  In other cases, previously curly or wavy hair can flatten and be less able to hold its curls or waves.  

Healthy Hair From the Inside Out

Healthy hair isn’t just what you see on the outside.  What’s on the inside also counts.  Hair is primarily made of keratin, which is a protein.  Keratin is made out of amino acids and other molecules that come from foods we eat.  That’s why eating a balanced diet and ensuring that you have all the right vitamins are so essential.

Your hair grows from a follicle beneath your scalp’s skin.  A hair shaft extends from the follicle.  The shape and angle of your hair shaft are what determines what type of hair you have.  It’s made out of three layers:

  1.  Medullar- Inside layer 
  2. Cortex – Middle layer that determines your hair color and elasticity
  3. Cuticle – Outside layer that makes your hair look shiny

When the cuticle is damaged by the sun, chemicals, blow drying, or other elements, the cells in the cortex can break or unravel, making your hair look dull or brittle. 

What Damages Healthy Hair?

Typically, the hair’s cortex is filled with keratin, and the cuticle is smooth, allowing light to reflect.  When the cuticle is damaged, your hair may seem dry and frizzy.  The ends may be thinner than they used to be, but there is still an opportunity for repair.  A haircut, deep conditioning, and time to regrow usually solve the problem.  When the cortex is damaged, salvaging the hair is more complicated.  At that point, hair is coarse and dull with split ends and some breakage.  

Does Healthy Hair Fall Out?

According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, losing about 50 to 100 hairs per day is normal as part of the hair’s growth cycle. (02)  So, even if your hair is healthy, you might still see a few strands in the sink.  When you lose more than that, there’s a problem.  Hair loss due to physical defects is unusual compared to other types of alopecia.  Here are four of the most common ones:

  1. Loose anagen syndrome – When hair is loose and easily pulls out of the follicle because the root sheaths are not fully formed.  More common in children than adults.  
  2. Traction alopecia – When hair is pulled out of the follicle by tight hair bands, braids, or any other styling habits.
  3. Trichotillomania – A type of obsessive-compulsive behavior when people pull out their own hair.
  4. Overprocessing – Straighteners, perms, bleach, and dyes use harsh chemicals that can break down your hair’s fiber.  Using these harsh chemicals too often or incorrectly can irreversibly damage the hair’s fiber.  

Other Reasons for Hair Loss

If you are losing your hair, and it’s not due to a physical defect, it may be due to alopecia.  Here are some examples:

  • Telogen effluvium is a temporary form of hair loss that can happen after sudden illness such as Covid, surgery, or a stressful occasion.  Hair spontaneously regrows after a few months.  
  • Androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness) is the most common form of alopecia.  Although it commonly occurs during middle age, people in their 20s may have this type of hair loss due to an overproduction of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT).  Minoxidil, Finasteride, Dutasteride, and Spironolactone are prescription DHT blockers often prescribed to reverse hair loss caused by male and female pattern baldness.
  • Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition that causes circular bald patches about the size of a quarter.  In addition to Minoxidil and Finasteride, immunosuppressants have recently been found effective in helping people with alopecia areata regrow their hair.  

How to Keep Your Hair Healthy

Want your hair to look shiny and healthy?  Here are some tips to help you keep your hair in top condition:

  • Diet – Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit, and plenty of protein
  • Vitamins – Check your vitamin levels, especially biotin, iron, vitamin C, niacin, and zinc.  Work with your dermatologist to supplement if any levels are low 
  • Exercise – Regular exercise not only helps manage your weight and keep your heart healthy, but it also reduces stress which has been proven to affect your hair
  • Habits – Quit smoking and only drink in moderation
  • Sun protection – Wear a hat when you’re in the sun to prevent damage from ultraviolet rays
  • Chlorine – Wear a swim cap when swimming, or rinse your hair before or after swimming to get all of the harsh chlorine out
  • Wet Hair – Use a wide-tooth comb and treat wet hair gently
  • Condition – Use a quality conditioner each time you wash your hair
  • Styling – Watch heat styling, eliminate or minimize chemical treatment, and avoid tight hairstyles (ponytails, braids, buns, etc.)

No matter your age or gender, having healthy hair is a confidence booster.  If you have questions about your hair’s health or are concerned about hair loss, let us know.  One of our board-certified dermatologists will review the information you provide and let you know if you would benefit by using one of our customized prescription medications.

 

Resources:

(01) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18004288/

(02) https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding#:~:text=It%27s%20normal%20to%20shed%20between,this%20condition%20is%20telogen%20effluvium.