Treatments and remedies to regrow hair are big business in the United States, netting over $1 billion dollars a year. Baldness, it has been estimated, affects nearly half the male population by the age of 50, 95 percent of these cases involve male pattern baldness. The remaining 5% may be traced to a number of causes including: poor nutrition, bacterial and fungal infections, the effects of stress, trauma due to injury and illness, and poor thyroid function.
It’s In Your Genes
Male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia is a genetic condition and has a corresponding form called female pattern baldness which affects women. At conception there is a 4 in 7 chance of receiving the gene that is responsible for hair loss. While genetic destiny cannot be altered, there are ways for men to regrow hair, if the condition is treated before baldness is total. Hair cannot regrow where there are no follicles left in the scalp and in cases of complete baldness the only interventions that may be of use are surgical: hair transplants, scalp flap surgery, scalp expansion surgery, and scalp reduction surgery.
There are two FDA approved drugs that can be taken as regrow hair pills. Minoxidil and Finasteride are two pharmaceutical solutions to hair loss that work by inhibiting the production of the androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT),. This hormone causes actual shrinkage and diminished functioning of hair follicles. Both drugs were originally formulated for other medical uses, their ability to stimulate hair growth and help with its retention were discovered as side effects to the intended end use. These drugs are recommended in pill form for men only; only topical forms (solutions, shampoos and other hair products) of both drugs can be used to regrow hair in women safely. Topical solutions of Minoxidil and Finasteride are available in many over the counter formulas, but in pill form both are only available by prescription.
One synthetic drug that shows promise, but is not yet FDA approved to regrow hair is the antifungal medication Ketoconazole, marketed under the name of Nizoral. Nizoral as a topical application was shown to be effective for men with androgenic alopecia in a 1998 study that compared it to Minoxidil. In cases where fungal infections of the scalp and not genetic factors are involved in hair loss, this medication may provide even greater benefit.
Best Way to Regrow Hair May Be Naturally
There are regrow hair products that are naturally based which also work to block the production of DHT. Saw palmetto is a popular herbal ingredient in many hair loss products, as is pygeum (extracted from the bark of the Prunus Africana (also known as “red stinkwood”). Other herbal solutions to regrow hair include:
• Pumpkin seed oil
• Green tea
• Emu oil
Another natural product that is said to regrow hair fast is apple cider vinegar (referred to in hair loss circles as ACV). ACV is most effective in cases where hair loss is the result of bacterial and fungal infections; it has a proven track record of being especially useful in destroying bottle bacillus which has been implicated in dandruff, itchy scalp and thinning hair. ACV is full of nutrients as well as being highly acidic and has the effect of stimulating the production of sebum in the sebaceous glands of the scalp which are necessary for strong and healthy hair growth. Taken internally as well as used topically in shampoos or direct from the bottle much anecdotal evidence has been gathered supporting is a viable and natural alternative to pricier treatments for baldness conditions that are not genetically based.
When hair loss is based on nutritional deficiencies, how to regrow hair becomes a matter of paying better attention to your diet. Foods rich in the B Complex vitamin family are especially well regarded as agents of hair regrowth—particularly Biotin. Antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C and E are also powerhouses of nutrient value that create an optimum environment for the growth of healthy hair. The best ways to get these vitamins is through eating a variety of fruits and vegetables from across the color spectrum, but for those unable or unwilling to incorporate these foods into their diet, vitamins in supplement form may be used. Any course of vitamin supplements should be approved by a medical professional however, as some dosages of even these beneficial substances have been known to aggravate hair loss and some vitamins can interfere with medications being taken for pre-existing medical conditions. A primary care physician or a nutritionist can offer guidance in adding more variety to one’s diet and offer guidelines for the use of vitamin supplements.
Protein intake is also another way to encourage hair to regrow. Protein is an essential building block and diets which completely eliminate meat, dairy and eggs are often lacking in this vital nutrient. There are vegetable sources of protein as well, but a healthy, well balanced diet incorporates all food sources in a sensible manner. Beware the diet that tells you that one food group alone is the Miracle Cure and all other foods are evil—extreme dieting can cause hair loss due to nutritional deficiencies.
Often in the name of beauty and in trying to appear more attractive, we abuse our most alluring asset—our hair. Many times the best advice in how to regrow hair comes in the form of understanding that treating scalp, follicles and hair shafts with tender loving care is the most basic and sensible solution.
There is a myth that wearing a hat too much will cause hair loss—and while this is patently untrue, how we style our hair can have an impact on the health of scalp, hair follicles and individual hairs. Harsh chemicals contained in curling and permanent wave solutions can damage the scalp and make hair brittle, dry and prone to breakage. Bleaches not only strip the hair of color but also of essential oils necessary for healthy hair growth. Salon strength blow dryers and curling wands can scorch hair strands and burn the scalp. Even over vigorous rubbing when drying hair after a shampoo can have negative effects, for best results, gently blot and squeeze hair to remove excess water. Further, tight curls, hair weaving, cornrow braids; even severe ponytails can place undue stress on hair roots and follicles resulting in patchy baldness and strand breakage.
Even personal habits can undermine efforts to regrow hair! Smoking and the use of alcohol are known to have serious effects on healthy hair growth. Lack of exercise can result in poor circulation—which can present itself as inadequate blood flow to the scalp. Follicles starved of blood cannot function efficiently. Lack of sufficient sleep affects all body systems and creates chronic stress which can zap the body of energy and nutrients which can express itself in poor skin condition and loss of hair.
Hair loss is a serious problem and has no simple, overnight solution. If you are truly committed to regrowing your hair, get to the doctor for a thorough exam to eliminate physical causes for hair loss, once these are eliminated, consult with the experts on diet and pharmaceutical treatments. Above all, treat not only your hair, but all of your self with gentleness and respect. A well cared for body will reward you with glowing good health and a luxuriant head of hair for years to come.