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If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Hair loss is common among men and women alike, but near- or complete baldness is much more common in biological males. Sometimes, hair loss can be due to a medical condition, but often, it is just a consequence of genetics and doesn’t cause any physical health issues.
That doesn’t mean it can’t affect your mental health, though. Hair loss and baldness can cause stress and low self-esteem for many people.
While there is no permanent cure for baldness, there are several treatment options. If your receding hairline or lack of hair is causing you concern, speaking with your healthcare provider about these treatment options means it may not have to be permanent.
Treatments start at $20/month
Find a hair loss plan that works for you.
What are the signs of balding?
Hair loss, regardless of the cause, is called alopecia. There are several different causes of alopecia. When people talk about going bald, they are usually referring to androgenetic alopecia, the condition responsible for male and female pattern baldness (Al Aboud, 2020).
Male pattern baldness affects around 80% of men by age 80. Researchers believe that androgenetic alopecia is mainly caused by genetics. However, they are still trying to determine which genes are responsible (Hagenaars, 2017).
While both men and women can experience baldness due to androgenetic alopecia, the symptoms can differ slightly.
The pattern in which the hair falls out is usually different in men and women. Men will commonly present with hair that recedes starting at the temples. The hair loss progresses in an ‘M’ shaped pattern. Women usually experience a widening part and thinning hair at the top of the head (Murphrey, 2020).
There are also differences in the age at which hair loss typically begins. Androgenetic alopecia in men generally starts in their twenties, while women usually don’t experience it until their forties or fifties (during and after menopause) (Al Aboud, 2020).
Hair loss in women will only rarely end up in complete baldness, whereas men can progress to complete baldness with age (Al Aboud, 2020).
Are there any existing treatments for baldness?
There are several safe and effective treatment options available for baldness. The safest option is a hairpiece, but not everyone likes how this looks or feels. The next safest option is a topical medication, followed by oral medications. Surgery is highly effective but may not be available due to location and cost.
Alopecia: what is it, types, causes, treatment
The over-the-counter medication minoxidil (2% or 5% solution), also known as Rogaine, is a topical medication you apply to the scalp to treat male pattern balding. Women can also use the 2% solution. Minoxidil encourages hair regrowth, but it is more effective at the crown of your head than your front hairline. It usually takes six to 12 months to begin to see new hair growth. You will need to continue using this medication indefinitely, or hair loss will come back when you stop (Phillips, 2017).
Finasteride, also known as Propecia, is approved to treat androgenetic alopecia in men. It is also more effective at regrowing hair at the top of the head versus at your hairline. It isn’t clear how helpful this medication is for women. It shouldn’t be used by anyone who could become pregnant since it can cause abnormalities in the fetus (Ho, 2021).
It’s important to know that finasteride will lower the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level in men. This level is commonly used to monitor men for prostate cancer. If you use finasteride, make sure that all of your healthcare providers are aware that your PSA levels may be artificially low (Ho, 2021).
Hair transplantation surgery is when a specialized surgeon moves hair follicles from a donor site with more hair density (frequently the back of the head) to an area with less hair growth. The most dramatic results are seen when trying to correct a receding hairline. This makes it a good choice for improving androgenetic alopecia (Zito, 2021).
There are a host of other hair loss treatments advertised to help with a receding hairline. Some do have some scientific evidence, though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved any of them for hair loss. At the same time, others have little to no evidence that they are effective. They can also be costly.
Make sure to consult with your primary care provider or dermatologist before you use any new treatments for hair regrowth, such as the following (Ho, 2021):
- Medications used off-label for hair loss
- Red light or low-level laser therapy
- Herbal supplements such as saw palmetto
- Platelet-rich plasma
- Adipose-derived stem cells
Clinical trials for new hair regrowth treatments are ongoing, and even more effective treatments will likely become available in the future.
DHT blocker shampoo: can a shampoo stop hair loss?
Is there a cure for baldness?
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no cure for baldness. The hair restoration treatments available can be very effective, though it’s essential to keep your expectations realistic:
- No treatment will completely reverse your hair loss.
- The response to treatment varies from person to person.
- Some people will not respond to particular treatments.
The type of treatment you choose depends on the type of baldness that you are experiencing. In androgenetic alopecia, anti-androgen medications like finasteride along with minoxidil spray can help. You may still require a hair transplant at some point (Al Aboud, 2020).
Many people seeking treatment for balding will get at least temporary recovery of partial or total hair regrowth. It’s often unpredictable who will respond to treatment, though (Al Aboud, 2020).
Are treatments different for men and women?
Women who have other signs of hormone imbalances and female pattern hair loss should also have an endocrine workup to rule out other medical causes of hair loss. Medications for hair loss will not be as effective if these underlying conditions aren’t treated first (Mounsey, 2009).
In addition to hair loss, other signs of hormone imbalance include (Mounsey, 2009):
- Abnormal menstrual periods
- Abnormal face and body hair
- Cystic acne
- Breast discharge that happens when you aren’t breastfeeding
The medications used to treat hair loss in women can vary slightly from those used in men. As mentioned above, finasteride can’t be used in women who could become pregnant due to the risk of birth defects (Ho, 2021).
Women who have too much of the hormone androgen in their blood might benefit from the androgen inhibitor medication spironolactone (Aldactone). This can help to slow the rate of hair loss (Mounsey, 2009).
Other treatment options for baldness, such as hairpieces, topical minoxidil, and hair transplants, are equally effective for men and women (Mounsey, 2009).
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Can you prevent balding?
Unfortunately, there is no real way to prevent going bald. Hair loss with age is usually due to hormone changes and family history. However, taking care of your general health and sticking to a healthy hair care routine can help you avoid making your condition worse.
While there is no cure for baldness, starting treatment when you first notice hair loss symptoms can help you maximize your chances for success (Mounsey, 2009).
- Al Aboud AM, Zito PM. (2020). Alopecia. [Updated 2020 Sep 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538178/
- Hagenaars, S. P., Hill, W. D., Harris, S. E., Ritchie, S. J., Davies, G., Liewald, D. C., et al. (2017). Genetic prediction of male pattern baldness. PLoS Genetics, 13(2), e1006594. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006594. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5308812/
- Ho CH, Sood T, Zito PM. (2021). Androgenetic alopecia. [Updated 2021 May 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
- Mounsey, A. L., & Reed, S. W. (2009). Diagnosing and treating hair loss. American Family Physician, 80(4), 356–362. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0815/p356.html
- Murphrey MB, Agarwal S, Zito PM. (2020). Anatomy, hair. [Updated 2020 Sep 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513312/
- Phillips, T. G., Slomiany, W. P., & Allison, R. (2017). Hair loss: common causes and treatment. American Family Physician, 96(6):371-378. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0915/p371.html
- Zito PM, Raggio BS. (2021). Hair transplantation. [Updated 2021 Mar 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547740/