The nonsurgical medical treatment of hair loss is directed at preventing the formations of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) from testosterone
Minoxidil | Rogaine(R)
In the late 1970s, the drug company Upjohn introduced minoxidil – a prescription tablet used to treat severe blood pressure. Inadvertently, it was discovered that minoxidil reduced and, in some cases, regrew hair. 40% of patients grew some hair but only 40% of these patients were satisfied with the amount and quality of hair that grew back ( peach fuzz ).
In 1988, Minoxidil in a lotion form became the first pharmaceutical ever to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for hair growth. Marketed under the trade name Rogaine, a prescription was initially required.
Rogaine helps to reverse hair follicle shrinkage, which characterizes inherited pattern hair loss. In 1995, 2% minoxidil lotion was approved for sale in the United States without a prescription.
Currently, it is available for men and women as an over-the-counter lotion in 2% and 5% concentrations. If applied in the early stages of hair loss directly to a peach-fuzz covered balding spot in the crown area, Rogaine can reduce the rate of hair loss, and sometimes regrow hair.
The success of re-growth of hair has been limited. It has not proven to be effective in the frontal portion of the scalp or hairline. Rogaine must be applied twice daily. In some cases it causes scalp irritation. If discontinued, any hair that was retained or re-grown will be lost.
Patience is a virtue, and this is especially true of Rogaine, where it can often take from 4 months to one year to actually see results.
During most of the 80’s and the early part of the 90’s, Rogaine completely dominated the market for nonsurgical hair loss medications. Some competition arrived in the form of another medical accident, Propecia (Finasteride). Propecia was devised to help men who had enlarged prostates; it just so happened to stop hair loss. Medication like Propecia works by blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone) one of the main causes of hair loss.
Finasteride | Propecia(R)
Finasteride, marketed under the trade name Proscar by its manufacturer Merck & Co., was first developed to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia.
It was later discovered that a side effect of Proscar was that it actually grew hair. This discovery lead to the clinical studies and trials that would bring finasteride to market as the first FDA approved pill for hair loss. It is marketed under the trade name Propecia.
Clinical tests revealed that Propecia stopped hair loss in over 80% of test cases and actually re-grew hair in over 64% of the test cases – unprecedented success rates.
A scientific and medical fact is that male and female pattern hair loss is due to the effects of Dihydrotestostrone (DHT) on genetically predisposed hair follicles. DHT causes increased hair shedding, gradual miniaturization of hair, and eventual hair loss. Propecia works by inhibiting 5-alphareductase – the enzyme that produces DHT. By reducing the production of DHT, Propecia prevents and eventually, to some extent, reverses hair loss.
Propecia is only a treatment, not a cure. If discontinued, any hair that was retained or re-grown will be lost.
Taking Propecia does not guarantee results and it is difficult to determine who it will work for before taking the hair loss medication for at least 4 months. But patients often prefer Propecia to Rogaine for its convenience, (no topical solution to apply), and also its effectiveness rate of nearly 80%. It is important that women not take Propecia, and pregnant women especially should never handle Propecia tablets because of a risk of birth defects.