Thinning hair or a bald spot doesn’t mean you’re not a great-looking guy. You’re probably noticing pink skin more than anyone else does. But if you’d like to fill in the pink, you have options.
You can find minoxidil (Rogaine) right in the drugstore as a liquid or foam. It won’t work on bald areas but is about 50 percent effective at reinvigorating patches where you’re thinning out. The foam version may work best. Apply it twice a day to a dry head. You’re likely to see good signs after two months, and feel cocky after six. Consider this part of your routine, since you’ll be losing hair again if you stop.
If minoxidil doesn’t work, there’s a prescription that might. In clinical trials of finasteride (Propecia, Proscar), a drug developed to treat an enlarged prostate, researchers noticed that it boosted hair growth. This oral drug blocks an androgen hormone that causes hair loss. Talk to your doctor about the possible effects on you — some men experience a loss of sex drive and other sexual issues. Like minoxidil, finasteride doesn’t work on a bald scalp and the effects only continue as long as you take the drug. Finasteride may take longer to work — up to a year to show the full impact. You may get the best results by applying minoxidil and also taking finasteride, some research suggests.
Another option is to get your scalp injected with platelets that contain growth factors to stimulate your follicles. You’ll need four treatments the first year — every three months you’ll give a tube of blood and receive an injection — and then one a year to maintain the new look. Each treatment might cost $1,000 to $1,200. You might have a mild swelling on your head for a day or two. Although this treatment isn’t yet approved for hair loss by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is effective for more than half of all patients, reports Ivan Cohen, a dermatologist who teaches at the Yale University School of Medicine.
Laser therapy is less effective than these treatments, but it is FDA-approved and helps some men. After four months you might see a 35 percent increase in your hair count. You’ll wear a cap or use a comb emitting laser light that increases blood flow and stimulates your scalp. You can do this in a doctor’s office or at home, typically for up to 15 minutes three times a week.
Hair transplants look more natural than they once did. You can get back a full head of hair and return to work after a few days. But you won’t see your new head of hair for six to nine months, and some men need a second round.
The oldest procedure is follicular unit transplantation (FUT). A strip of hair is removed from the back of the scalp, separated into units of one to four hairs, and then implanted in tiny slits. The procedure costs about $5,000.
Follicular unit extraction (FUE) costs a bit more and may have less predictable results, but you run less risk of scarring and may feel less pain afterwards. In this procedure, the surgeon removes individual hair units rather than a strip. For considerably more money — about $8,000 — you can have the units extracted by a device using cameras and software, rather than by hand. The operating time is shorter.
If all this sounds unappetizing, or too expensive in time and money, you might just shave your head! Experiment by talking to a barber. Do you have unusual ears or an especially long or short neck? Is your skull bumpy? You may not be a good candidate. A good barber will tell you the truth and give you an expert shave if you decide to go ahead.
Like the look? Here’s how to do your own shave, using whatever razor you’re accustomed to.
First trim any regrowth down to a stubble.
Then get your head as wet as possible, to prevent razor bumps or ingrown hairs. The simplest way is to shower first. You can also splash your head with hot water for at least half a minute, or wrap your head in a towel that was soaked with hot water and wrung out.
Next, apply a shaving lubricant, an oil, cream, or gel, and work it in thoroughly.
To shave, start at the highest point of your head and shave towards your forehead. Return to the crown and shave another path that slightly overlaps. Repeat on the other side. Take it slow and steady. For the first few months you’ll want to see the reflection of the back of your head in the mirror — mount a second mirror at the right angle or ask your wife for help! Rinse your work, and apply an astringent like witch hazel and then a moisturizer.
If your hair is coarse or curly, you run more risk of razor bumps or ingrown hairs. Be extra sure your head is wet and try not to make more than two passes over the same area, advises headshaver.org.
August 18, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN