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How To Potentially Prevent Hair Loss, Halt Hair Loss Or Regrow Hair

August 2012---How To Potentially Prevent Hair Loss, Halt Hair Loss Or Regrow Hair

First let me start by saying that this article is a bit outside of the traditional blog entry for this page. I decided to research and write this article due to a number of requests for it as referenced below.

If you are female this article will probably be of little value to you. Also, if you are already "shiny bald", you will find little value here. This article is for men who predict that they will have thinning hair due to family history or men that already have thinning hair, but are not yet shiny bald.

About a year ago a friend of mine with thinning hair asked me this question, "Hey, you are a drug guru. Are there any drugs/treatments that will prevent my hair from getting any thinner?" Keep in mind this friend knows I study all types of drugs, legal and illegal. I am the nerd that reads the leaflet attached to prescription bottle from front to back. You know the one glued to the side of the bottle, that when you unfold it, it covers half your table.

Unfortunately I did not have an immediate answer for him. So, I began what ultimately became about a years worth of research to find an answer for him. I read every document, university study and piece of literature I could find on the topic. This is simply how my OCD mind works. Here is what I found. I will keep it simple and non scientific.

About 95% of male hair loss is caused by androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness (MPB). The remaining 5% is caused by traumatic injury, illness or particular medical conditions. MPB is not caused by wearing hats too much, getting your hair cut too short, coloring your hair or any other excuse men come up with. It is simply a genetic issue. It can be a slow moving process or a very aggressive process. It can start on different areas of the head. Basically, no two cases are identical. One man may be entirely bald by 20 and the other by 80. Some never bald at all.

This can come from either side of the family and is not always consistent. The old wives tale of looking at your grandpa on your mothers side, to determine your genetic hair destiny, is not always true. Some families with great "hair history" have an offspring that is bald by 20. Some balding families have an offspring that never loses their hair. Generally speaking, the men that came before you in your family tree are good indicators of where you "are going".....but not always.

Here is why:

All men have Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in their system. DHT attacks the hair follicles and cause miniaturization of each hair until it disappears for good. You see, hair doesn't just fall out. Each separate hair on your head is always in the middle of one, out of three distinct cycles. It grows (anagen 3-7 years), then it rests (catagen 2-4 weeks), then it falls out (telogen). Not all hairs are in the same cycle at the same time. They are distributed evenly so that not all is falling out at the same time. If all is well, each hair that falls out is replaced by a new, equally thick and strong hair. It is normal to lose 50-100 hairs a day and the average human head has about 100,000 hairs on it.

In the case of MPB each time a new hair grows back in, after falling out, it grows back thinner and weaker until it it's nearly invisible to the naked eye. Those are the little "peach fuzz" hairs you sometimes see on top of a bald man's head. This process can take many years depending upon the individual.Eventually even the peach fuzz goes away and that area becomes shiny bald.

So, the real "magic" is to stop DHT from attacking your hair follicles. So that each time a new hair grows in, it does so as strong and thick as the one it replaced. Some men are lucky and have follicles that are naturally resistant to DHT. These are the "old guys" that have full heads of hair. Think Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Some other guys have some level of DHT resistance. They don't have entirely full heads of hair at 80, but they still have a lot.

Keep in mind that every human male, may have genetically pre-programmed DHT sensitive follicles on only certain areas of his head. So, a guy may get deep "recessions" in the front but never go truly bald. A guy may lose all the hair on his crown area, but his frontal hairline stays intact.

But what about the guys that do not have any/very few follicles that are resistant to DHT, except the "monk" fringe around the sides and bottom? The monk fringe is almost always resistant to DHT in all males. What about the guys that want to lose as little hair (or none) as possible no matter what their genetic destiny is. What are they to do?

Let me caution you that there are a TON of snake oil remedies out there designed to separate you from your money. Most do not work. There are a few that are proven to work. Lets go over them.

1. Propecia (Finasteride). This is a prescription only 1mg pill that is designed to be taken once a day. It is not covered by insurance and costs $50-$75 per month. 83% of men are receptive to the pill. Meaning, it works for 83% of them. When I say works, it basically "freezes" the hair loss at it's current location and does not allow any more hair loss to occur. Or, at minimum it slows the loss greatly. A number of men have also experienced incredible amounts of re-growth. Areas that were near bald, but still had "peach fuzz", are now hair covered. This pill works by blocking DHT. There is no doubt that this pill is the best thing since sliced bread in the world of hair loss ESPECIALLY if you get on it as soon as you realize there is hair loss occurring. The average male knows his hair is thinning for 7 years before he decides to try and do something about it. Don't wait this long. However, there are a couple of negatives about this medication.

A. You must take it for about a year to truly know if it's working for you. This is due to the natural growth cycles of hair.

B. You must take it for life. Once you stop, you will lose all gains and "catch up" to the level of baldness you should have been. Meaning, a 20 year old has very minimal thinning and gets on Propecia. The drug halts his hair loss and all is well. At age 40 he decides to stop taking the drug. Within one year his hair will be where it should have been without Propecia intervention. So, he could go from good to bald, if that was his genetic destiny, once the drug is stopped.

C. This drug can have some very serious side effects in a small percentage (1%-2%) of men. The most common are loss of libido, watery semen, decreased seminal output, inability to get/maintain an erection, numbness of the genitalia, enlarged male breasts and mood disturbances such as anxiety and depression. Most men who suffer these side effects report they go away within the first 3 weeks of taking the drug. Most men also report the side effects go away if they stop taking the drug altogether. HOWEVER some men report permanent side effects such as these that never go away. Some men claim this drug has ruined their lives.

D. Many men, in an effort to lower the side effects, go out and buy a pill cutter. They take .5mg per day rather than 1mg per day. They take .5mg three days a week rather than every day. They take .25 every day. There are a hundred variations you can try. The reason men deviate from the Merck recommended dose is because of a UPenn study that found .02mg of finasteride lowers serum and scalp DHT nearly as much as the full 1 mg dose. There are also studies that claim a single dose of at least .02mg of finasteride lowers serum DHT for 4-7 days.

E. There is another drug called Proscar. This is the identical drug in Propecia (finasteride) in it's 5mg dosage used for prostate issues. Not only can DHT cause hair to fall out, it can cause enlargement of the prostate. This drug is only prescribed for prostate issues but many men get it, cut it into pieces and use it for hair loss because it's cheaper than Propecia. They generally cut it into 4 pieces. Each piece would be 1.25 mg of finasteride. There is absolutely zero evidence that more is better. Meaning, all evidence indicates that anything more than 1mg of finasteride per day is a "waste". It gives you no more benefit.

F. If you are on Propecia, and get a PSA (prostate screening exam) of any type, you MUST tell your doctor you are on the drug. Propecia can "hide" the the presence of prostate cancer. Meaning, the drug can make your test results look ok, when they are not. The doctors have a "sliding scale" to deal with this. This simply must be informed if you are taking the drug.

G. Finasteride really works and is the closest thing to a baldness cure we have, if it's taken early enough and continued for life.....BUT....be aware of the potential side effects, do your own research and consult with your physician before going on this drug. Some men claim this drug to be " a miracle drug" and other claim it has ruined their lives. This is not a decision to take lightly

H. Unless under the direct order and direction of a doctor, women should never handle pills that contain finasteride in them. Especially cut or broken pills. They can cause birth defects to the fetus of pregnant women. No evidence that a man, while on finasteride and impregnates his partner, will cause birth defects. All evidence indicates this is safe, but women should not even handle these pills. Again, consult with your doctor for further guidance.

2. Nizoral Shampoo. This shampoo can be bought at Wal Mart for about $14 a bottle in it's 1% strength. It can be prescribed to you by your doctor in it's 2% version. It's active ingredient is ketoconazole, which is an anti-inflammatory/anti-fungal. Nearly all sources swear it is also a mild anti-androgen and it helps to eliminate scalp DHT. Most sources claim that whatever hair preservation regimen you decide to follow, this product should be included. It is meant to be used only 2-3 times per week. Lather it up and leave it on your head for the entire shower. Rinse it out at the end. If you lather and rinse right away, the active ingredient does not have time to "destroy" the DHT. Nobody claims this product will help you re-grow hair. They almost all claim it will help keep what you have if used in conjunction with other therapies. This is the "backbone" of many treatment regimens for many men.

3. Minoxidil. Also known as Rogaine. Much of my research revealed that this can be a good compliment to the above listed remedies, but on it's own people do not generally report great amounts of re-growth. There are a few great success stories, but the reports usually indicate that it helped to keep what they had (sometimes) and caused some to re-grow limited amounts of hair (sometimes). Personally, I did not find enough information that caused me to get overly excited about this product on it's own. Used as part of an "arsenal" though it seems to be a good tool and more effective. Many men have seen great success using Minoxidil and Finasteride at the same time.

4. Diet. One of the most interesting things I discovered was that rural Japanese men have nearly zero MPB. Japanese men who engage in "western" lifestyles and diets have nearly identical rates of MPB as American men, but those Japanese men who stay true to rural Japanese ways and diet hardly ever lose their hair. Prior to WWII balding in Japanese men was almost unheard of. Also, rural Japanese that move to the US with a full head of hair can suddenly experience levels of MPB. Researchers have been intrigued by this for years and have tried to figure out what the difference in diet and/or lifestyle is. Most surmise it's because the rural Japanese consume high levels of two products that we do not. Green/Black tea and foods high in soy. Many studies show that when you combine a high intake of green tea, at the same time you eat foods high in soy, it seems to block DHT and prevent baldness.

I could not find any "hardcore" scientific studies in relation to this, but there is much "anecdotal" evidence that when you combine heavy tea drinking with heavy soy consumption, the rates of MPB plummet. I do not mean the sugary "tea" you buy at the convenience store. I mean the bags of tea where you brew it at home. It seems that either hot tea or iced tea is acceptable. Sweeten it with honey or molasses instead of refined white sugar in my opinion.

BUT REMEMBER......the reason they suspect soy prevents/halts male pattern baldness is because it contains an estrogen like substance (phytoestrogen) that alters the hormonal/chemical balance of the body. Radically high soy intake could potentially cause a man to "feminize" to some degree. Women rarely lose their hair because of their hormonal/chemical "construction". Things like Propecia and soy, in certain ways, aim to mimic what a woman has.....which is generally a genetic "force field" against baldness. The trick is in finding the right amounts/combinations of substances that will block DHT, prevent/halt or at times reverse baldness.....without overdoing it and causing the male to show female traits. 

5. A good multivitamin designed for men. many men choose the "prostate health" formulation because of the ingredients in it such as saw palmetto and pygeum. Again, much anecdotal evidence these substances suppress DHT as well.

Closing Thoughts-----This article is not meant to be the "be all-end all" article on hair loss. It is simply a synopsis of the things I discovered over the past year of research. Research for yourselves, talk to your doctors and make your own decisions. There is a lot of information out there and you have to decide what, if anything, is right for you. Some men find that a cleanly shaved head is the best approach of all.

There is also another possible approach to stop, slow down or reverse hair loss. Scalp exercises. I have no idea they work or not. Some swear they work. Some swear they do nothing. Here is a link to a website with all the info concerning scalp excersises. They are free, so what the heck. 

Also remember that some doctors surmise it's hard to "cheat" your genetic destiny with drugs. We can slow it down greatly, and sometimes even appear to stop it, but for the moment it seems that strong genetics will ultimately win according to these doctors. But....nobody really knows with 100% certainty. Finasteride has been around for quite some time (FDA approval for hair loss in 1997), but not long enough to know if we can truly cheat genetic destiny or not. Time will tell. Many men have been on this drug for years and it seems it's "hair retaining" ability has not lowered with time, but stays effective.

I did not include two drugs that work very well but are rarely used because of their potentially massive side effects and feminizing characteristics. They are Avodart (Dutasteride) and Oral Spironolactone. These drugs can cause more harm than good when your only purpose in using them is hair preservation. What good is a full head of hair if you are "wrecked" in other ways. Some swear by topical Spironolactone (NOT ORAL) as a great product as well. Topical Spironoloactone can be purchased online. If you are interested in Avodart or Oral Spironoloactone, talk to your doctor.

Also, hair transplants have come a LONG way in the last decade or so. The old days of "plugs" and "rows of corn" are gone. Most procedures now transplant one hair/couple of hairs at a time. I have reviewed many amazing transplant procedures while researching this article. Not everyone is a good candidate and you have to have reasonable expectations, but certainly an amazing surgical procedure if performed by a COMPETENT hair restoration surgeon on a good candidate. This is one of the few ways to really give "genetic destiny" a run for it's money. Hair is moved from the "monk fringe" area (actually called the donor area), which is almost always resistant to DHT, to the thinning/bald areas of the head. Remember, a hair transplant does not give you more hair. It just re-arranges the hair you currently have. But, the hair that is being transplanted comes from the DHT resistant area of the head. So, generally speaking, the newly transplanted hair is now "immune" to DHT and is there to stay. Hair transplant doctors almost always combine the use of Propecia with the hair transplant and sometimes a client needs more than one surgical session to get the coverage they desire. There are some very high profile hair transplant doctors that claim numerous, very well known celebrities, have had hair transplants and use some, or all, of the above listed treatments. These doctors will not reveal their clients names, but it seems the transplants that are well done, on good candidates, are imperceptible. Depending upon numerous variables, transplants seem to start at around $4,000 to $5,000 and go up from there.

Hope I helped some of you.

Do you quickly need to go from novice to "expert" in the world of drugs? www.chiefteach.com is your answer.

Chief Kyle J. Fittro

If you are seeing this page as a single blog post, and would like to read more posts about drugs on the chiefteach website, simply click the blog tab at the top right of this page.

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