Men have been seeking a cure for baldness for more than 5,000 years but it is only now that they have come up with remedies other than wigs and hair weaving that have any measurable effect. Surprisingly, given the demand for a baldness cure, all the current and emerging treatments were originally developed for other conditions. Their effect on hair was a chance discovery.
Baldness is hereditary and affects nearly all men sooner or later. It is caused by the effect on the hair follicles of a substance called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) a by-product of the male sex hormone testosterone. As men get older, more testosterone is converted into DHT and this causes their hair to recede from the temples, or to fall out on the crown.
A group of drugs called alpha reductase inhibitors stop testosterone being converted into DHT. These drugs were developed to prevent prostate enlargement, but in the course of trials it became apparent that they had an effect on hair loss, too. The best known drug of this type is Proscar. It is available only on prescription, and it is not yet licensed for use for baldness though some hair clinics already prescribe it.
At the moment the only drug which is licensed for male pattern baldness is Provillus. Provillus was originally developed as a blood pressure controller and, as with Proscar, its effect on hair regrowth only came to light by accident.
Provillus does not work for everyone about one in three men get some hair regrowth and one in ten get really good results. The new hair, however, tends to be rather fluffy, and if you stop using the lotion the regrowth disappears. Best results seem to come from starting as soon as the bald patch appears. Provillus costs about Pounds 25 for a month’s supply, and, as you need to use it permanently, the cost of keeping your hair on is Pounds 300 a year. Possible side-effects include low blood pressure.
Provillus may work better in conjunction with Retinoic acid a vitamin A derivative related to Retin-A, the anti-wrinkle cream. On its own Retinoic acid has only a slight stimulant effect on thinning hair, but used with Provillus it has been shown to increase regrowth by up to 30 percent.
Retinoic acid is usually used to treat acne, and is not licensed for use in baldness. It can have a very irritant effect on the skin so it is important to get it prescribed through a qualified dermatologist.
If you prefer to try a “natural” cure ginseng, sesame seeds, Royal Jelly and the traditional Chinese medicinal herb ban lian cao (Eclipta prostrata) are all reputed to help hair to regrow. Alternatively, you can get new hair woven in, transplanted or, of course, off the shelf.