Hair loss is a common issue that is thought to affect over 30% of men and women over the age of 30. With such high figures, it may be surprising that there is a sense of shame attached to hair loss. When people start to notice that their hair is thinning or that they have a receding hairline, they can feel anxious and embarrassed.
Pharmacists are often approached with questions about hair loss medications and treatment options, so here is a guide to two of the most common questions.
What Causes Hair Loss?
Most people naturally lose between 50 and 100 hairs from their head every day, so a few hairs appearing on the pillow in the morning or falling out in the shower is nothing to worry about.
As people get older, the growth rate of hair slows down, so everyday hair loss becomes more noticeable and hair can look thinner.
Hair loss can also be down to a number of other reasons. For many, genetic factors play a role; male and female pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss and can occur at any age. Stress and other mental health factors can also play a part in hair loss, as can illness and childbirth. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes hair to fall out in patches; for some, this will mean a few bald spots, but others may lose large quantities of hair.
What Are the Treatment Options?
For some people experiencing hair loss that is not related to the aging process, the hair will eventually grow back on its own. However, for the others there are many treatment options available.
Hair Loss Medications
Two hair loss medications, finasteride and minoxidil, are commonly used to treat hair loss. Finasteride inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (the hormone that causes hereditary balding). It is effective at reducing hair growth and can increase new growth, but the results will begin to reverse once treatment is stopped.
Minoxidil usually takes a liquid form and is rubbed directly into the scalp. It is thought to increase the blood supply to the hair follicles and stimulate hair growth. Minoxidil works best when taken early, so ideally, patients would begin applying the solution at the first signs of hair thinning.
These two solutions have been clinically proven to reduce the rates of hair loss, but regrowing hair can be more difficult. Another downside is that the treatments are only effective if used continuously, so it may become expensive. As with all medication there can be side effects, which include loss of libido, testicular pain and rashes on the skin for finasteride and hypotension, headaches and blurred vision for minoxidil.
Another form of treatment is follicular unit extraction (FUE), a type of hair transplant. FUE hair transplant results are usually extremely promising, with hair growing and moving in a natural way. If medication is not a viable option for certain patients, a FUE transplant could be a good alternative.
Giving patients informed advice about treatment options is an important part of being a pharmacist. Learning about hair loss treatment options can help people when they’re struggling with hair loss.