Men's Health

Balding Remedies

Damn you, Patrick Dempsey, you follicular anomaly. You possess a legendary full head of hair, while most men face this fact: Two-thirds of us experience some degree of thinning hair by age 35. Yep, two-thirds by 35! Those in the minority can stop reading now ("McDreamy," that’s you), but the majority of us must read on and weigh our options carefully.

Today’s cosmetically concerned world offers countless solutions to the thinning-hair epidemic. So we need to examine the possibilities and choose the one right for us, individually.

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For those fighting thinning hair, here’s a list of balding remedies that just might do the trick.

Basic Remedies

Some basic remedies exist in the hair-loss battle. These remedies are simple devices that provide low-cost tactics to camouflage your balding pate.

1. Clever/Strategic Haircuts

The easiest solution is simply to work with what you have… left. Depending on the severity of your situation, you can work with a stylist to craft a haircut that works for you and your fading tresses: Longer bangs disguise receding hairlines and longer cuts make hair look fuller. Or, if you dare, go for a clipper cut or a clean shave; honesty is the best policy!

2. Thickening Shampoos

Thickening shampoos line store shelves everywhere, but your best option is brands found at hair salons. (Ask your stylist for recommendations or try Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree Lemon Sage Thickening Shampoo.) Thickening shampoos utilize natural extracts and chemicals to boost volume, "plump" hair strands and strengthen follicles. The idea is good in theory, but results vary: Some guys will see thicker, more voluminous hair, but for others it’ll be a wash — literally.

3. Hair Dyes and Cover-Ups

For thinning hair, the ever-faithful cosmetics industry offers several inventive dyes and cover-ups to create the optical illusion of hair. For instance, one option, Toppik, consists of organic keratin fibers that intertwine with your own hair, making your mane appear full and thick. Similar products exist and can be found easily online. Just remember these options are costly and sometimes obvious; the only person you may end up fooling is yourself.

Pharmaceutical Options

Only two FDA-approved balding "remedies" exist: Rogaine and Propecia. These medications go beyond cover-up attempts by trying to prevent loss and actually regrowing hair. Both drugs are serious alternatives and should be used in consultation with your doctor, even if one is available over-the-counter.

4. Rogaine

Since earning its FDA-approval in 1988, Rogaine (minoxidil) has become a household name. At its core, the product is a vasodilator — a chemical that dilates the smooth muscles in blood vessels — thus, when applied directly to the scalp, it revitalizes shrunken hair follicles and increases their size, eventually leading to thicker-looking hair and new hair growth. But proven results aside, Rogaine may not be the miracle cure you seek. The average user must apply it twice a day for four months before any results are visible (and results vary). That’s a big time and money investment for potentially miniscule results. On top of that, discontinuation usually leads back to square one within twelve months. And though side effects are generally mild, Rogaine can cause serious conditions like low blood pressure, vision loss, abnormal heart rhythms, and chest pain. Rogaine undoubtedly works for some, but it doesn’t work for all.

5. Propecia

Propecia (finasteride) earned its FDA pedigree almost ten years after Rogaine. An enzyme inhibitor, Propecia blocks DHT, a chemical that can shrink hair follicles until they’re almost nonexistent. What’s more, the drug has also caused hair to regrow in some cases. Average users saw results in about three months. (And similar to Rogaine, discontinuation leads back to where you started in less than a year). One of Propecia’s best aspects is that it’s administered as a once-a-day pill. But the flip side is that it’s a prescription, so the price always varies and a prescription can be more difficult to obtain. And last but not least, some potential side effects make Propecia a double-edged sword: They range from decreased sex drive and sperm ejaculation to abdominal pain and impotence. Who needs hair if you can’t have sex?

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Surgical Procedures

The most serious contenders looking for balding remedies opt for surgical procedures. Since the severity of each alternative varies, guys contemplating any of these options should carefully consider the expected outcome, cost and risk associated with each procedure.

6. Hair Transplants

The most invasive surgical option in regards to balding remedied, hair transplants are more effective and less conspicuous than ever before. Today’s procedures are less painful, less expensive and exhibit less scarring but still require several visits to complete, which means an obvious transition period. Transplants operate by grafting tiny follicular units from hair-growing sections of the scalp to problem areas, so the tiny grafts will be visible until the transplant is finished. (Note: Sometimes "plugs" fall out, take three months to grow and are still visible afterward.) Several options exist (mini-grafts, micro-grafts and follicular-unit relocation), so conduct pre-consultation research before making a decision. Hair transplant surgeons and clinics are abound, so begin you’re research here. Should you go this route, a hair transplant could leave you with a much fuller head of hair; but once you’re in this hair club, it’s hard to get out.

7. Flap Procedure

A more radical option, flap procedures are conducted in three phases and consist of surgically moving a flap of hair-growing scalp to a bald area. While the first two phases are minimally evasive, the third requires a section of skin be moved from point A to point B. But once completed, you have naturally growing hair where there was none before. These procedures can be highly effective when performed properly — again, do your research on the front end — but they do come with setbacks as well.

For one, there’s nothing subtle about the procedure: You’ll need bandages for a few weeks, and you’ll suddenly have hair once those come off. Also, scarring can occur at both the donor and relocation sites, so you may have new "hairlines" all throughout. Despite the time, cost and pain, flap procedures do provide a realistic solution to bald spots.

8. Scalp Reduction

This one is just what it sounds like! In scalp reductions, bald areas of your scalp are surgically removed, and hair-baring tissue is stretched over these areas to offset the difference. Scalp reductions are usually performed in conjunction with flap procedures, but not always. Choosing this alternative means electing the most serious surgical option, and should only be pursued under the care of a highly reputable surgeon. If the procedure is not done properly, permanent "stretch-back" scars can appear at sites where the incisions were made — sure, you’ll have less baldness on your head, but you’ll have jagged scarring to go with it.

It Was There Before

Thinning hair becomes an issue most of us have to face. Some will simply let nature run its course, and others will tackle it head-on. Regardless of which path we choose, we should know that several balding remedies do exist and the best option is always the one that makes us comfortable in our own skin.