Three proven ways to restore your hair, the price to pay, and the truths you must accept now. DEXTER MATILLA lines up your options.
Why is it that when a man starts to lose hair, it’s seen as some form of weakness, a loss of virility, of youth? Thus, with every strand of hair that goes down the drain, so goes a portion of his self-esteem.
According to a survey, over 5 million Filipinos suffer from male pattern hair loss or MPHL (the medical term is androgenic alopecia). Around the world 50% of all men will have MPHL by the time they reach 40. Even teenagers can start experiencing hair loss and it will only progress as they age.
The presence of specialists in the field of natural hair restoration and even of word-of-mouth testimonies on the effectiveness of home-made treatments is proof that men-and women—who suffer from natural hair loss will do anything to make sure their self-esteem remains intact—and rooted deep in their scalps.
Most studies confirm what we’re all likely to know (and fear). Men who start losing their hair experience negative socio-emotional events such as getting teased by peers, feeling they look old, self-consciousness, and envy at good-looking men. Another set of studies, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology adds that men who experience hair loss claimed that they had a less attractive appearance and decreased sexual confidence.
SELF MEDICATION IS A BAD THING
Dermatologist Dr. Adolfo Bormate Jr., Clinical Associate Professor at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), cites the case of worldwide heartthrob Prince William who was reported to be in fear of losing his hair. It is visibly thinning and it runs in the family.
The doctor says, “Here is a man who has everything, royalty, fame, fortune, adoration, yet he is worried about losing his hair.”
Dr. Bormate notes the equation of hair with potency seems to be timeless, as the tale of Samson and Delilah indicates. Whatever its roots, for some men, the onset of hair loss produces a real emotional catastrophe, a source of genuine anguish.
Dr. Bormate was key speaker at the recent launch of ProHAIR (www.prohair.com.ph), an advocacy campaign insighted by MSD, an international pharmaceutical firm that manufactures Propecia (generic name Finasteride), one of two medications proven to re-grow hair. The website aims to provide those with MPHL the proper information and support they need. Think of it as a community of MPHL sufferers who can interact with one another by posting questions and solutions in a forum made especially for them. The website also has a list of accredited doctors who support ProHAIR’s advocacy if ever a member needs to get in touch with a specialist.
A primary point of the advocacy is to prevent men from self-medicating, which is just going to lead to frustration, is a waste of money, can aggravate the condition, or worse. With so many old wives’ tales and snake oils on the Internet and shopping channels, the desperate are easily misled. According to informational material given out during the launch, “Only 216,000 Filipino men with MPHL out of a massive 5.4 million sought treatment options, with ultimately 21,000 receiving medical treatment. It is an alarming statistic, considering that MPHL is a progressive condition, making its sufferer lose 5% of hair each year if it isn’t correctly diagnosed and properly managed.”
THREE PROVEN WAYS TO RESTORE HAIR
Dr. Bormate emphasized that, currently, there are three medically accepted ways to restore hair that have been proven effective: hair transplant surgery, the topical solution Minoxidil, and the oral pill Finasteride. Surgery is the surest way to put back lost hair, however, cost and fear may prevent some men from opting for it. Some men have found Minoxidil tedious to apply; success is dependent on correct application. Dr. Bormate says it requires a twice daily application on a completely dry scalp and must be left untouched to absorb for two hours before any product is applied. This means no blow drying, too. This daily regimen must be strictly observed for as long as you want to keep results. Finasteride turns away some men who like pill popping. It is unsafe for women, particularly pregnant women who are warned from even touching a crushed poll.
However, Dr. Bormated did show us dramatic results from treatments combining both medicines on some of his own patients. On an average of a year’s usage, a much thicker crown is seen. Even on a scalp in an advanced stage of alopecia, a smattering of hair was grown. The patients were happy with the results and were particularly excited when hair started to grow. The doctor sets it straight, however—a person losing hair will never be able to recover completely what he had when he was younger.
“It’s more of improvement and stabilization of the hair loss,” he says. “Would you be able to restore it completely? No. Hair recovery reaches a plateau, which means that after about two years of undergoing treatment, whatever hair you’ve gained since, you just have to maintain it. If you stop the treatment, then the hair goes, too.”
DON’T EXPECT RESULTS ‘TIL AFTER A YEAR
According to the doctor, roughly 35 to 50 percent of users will have a relatively good response to Minoxidil.
“With Finasteride, it’s roughly 60 to 65 percent. But stabilization of hair loss would be about 70 to 90 percent.”
He says his patients are happy with results because he’s very clear to them that the medications won’t filly restore the lustrous mane of their youth and that they are no instant potions and require patience.
“You shouldn’t expect results until about a year,” he says.
Some of the men who attended the launch said in an open forum that they gave up on Minoxidil because they didn’t notice any growth after a month or so of use. The medications cannot spring up new hair follicles but it can rejuvenate hairs lost through alopecia, making them grow thicker and longer. The growth will help with scalp coverage, says the doctor, and the best results are “cosmetically acceptable,” but satisfaction is dependent on realistic expectations.
Finasteride costs P65 per pill and must be taken once a day. According to Bormate, a month’s supply of Minoxidil will run from P700 to P1,000.
A small number of men (under 2%) who take these medications may suffer from the loss of sex drive or even experience erectile dysfunction.
According to hair transplant expert Dr. Andrew Pineda, who lends his services to Belo Medical, these medications don’t grow hair to a substantial length.
“It doesn’t go very long, just about a half an inch to an inch then it stops growing,” he says. “But it gives you a semblance of a hair.”
Minoxidil was initially used as an antihypertensive drug, to lower blood pressure. But patients complained that they had hairs growing out of their ears. So the manufacturers thought that if hair growth is an offshoot of Minoxidil, and then maybe if it’s used on the head, it would grow hair. True enough, hair grew. Likewise, there’s Propecia, a drug usually used for prostate cancer. People who took it noticed that they started having more hair, too.
HOW TO POSTPONE HAIR LOSS
Dr. Pineda states that the medications do not cut hair loss. They only slow it down.
“If you’re meant to lose hair at 30, if you use both Minoxidil and Propecia, then you’re probably going to start losing hair at 35,” Dr. Pineda says. “But that means you have to keep using those products for the rest of your life and it’s a very expensive thing to do.”
“What are the other options?” Dr. Pineda continues, “There are hair piece. But its life span is just two to three years. You’d have to get a new one again. Plus, it’s just a hair piece. When you take it off, you know you’re still bald underneath.”
For those who want a permanent solution, Dr. Pineda suggests hair transplantation. Since, as mentioned earlier, progressively balding men will still have hair in the back and the sides, these “donor” hairs are used and redistributed to the thinning or balding area.
HOW TRANSPLANT WORKS
Local anaesthesia is used on the donor site from which strips of hair are removed and dissected into 1-3 hair grafts. This procedure takes around 3-5 hours to perform depending on the size of the bald area. After the procedure, the patient is instructed to follow post-operative measures, but Dr. Pineda says they can even start washing their hair after eight hours and resume normal activity the next day. Lifting heavy weights for one week, however, is not advised as well as swimming and going to public steam or sauna baths to avoid infection. After two weeks, the patient needs to have the sutures removed.
Hair transplants are very natural, Dr. Pineda says, and people won’t even know that a person has undergone it unless he mentions it himself.
“The only problem with hair transplants is knowing when to start,” Dr. Pineda explained. “Because if, for example, you’re 28 and you’re only balding in front, I can put hair in there. But when you grow older and you start losing hair in other parts, you’d have to come back and have those done as well. It’s easier if a patient has completely lost his hair in front and at the top because I will only have to do the procedure in one go instead of doing one part initially then doing the progressively balding parts years later.”
Dr. Bormate says some hair surgeons recommend hair medications even with a hair transplant, “not to stimulate transplanted hairs, but to stimulate susceptible originally miniaturizing hairs, and also to somehow hold down the progression of their thinning.”
Hair transplant procedures can range from P70,000 to as much as P300,000 according to Dr. Pineda but he says that it’s going to be worth it since it’s a permanent answer to baldness.
“Average cost per procedure would be P150,000 to P180,000, but we can sometimes offer discounts to help patients,” Dr. Pineda says. “I’ve had a patient who is a taxi driver who was very depressed but he spends P2,000 a month on hair products to stop his balding. You’d be surprised at what people would to try to hold off their balding. I told him to save his money for two years and come back to me and we’ll see what can be done.”
For those who have fear of surgical procedures on the other hand, Svenson offers programs such as Laser Cell Accelerator, one that they recommend for those with weak, slow-growing hair. It introduces vitamins and nutrients, revives limp strands, and boosts hair cell regeneration.
HOW TO PREVENT HAIR LOSS
“Svenson specializes in treating hair loss and associated scalp problems,” says trichologist Ma. Teresa Cruz, head of Svenson Makati. “The focus of our treatment is the early detection and elimination of certain conditions that may lead to hair loss and to provide the correct environment on the scalp and within the follicle to allow for optimum healthy growth. If baldness has already occurred, we provide the latest and most appropriate hair replacement methods.”
Another treatment involves administering a Trich-DHT Inhibitor, which counters dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the male hormone known to be responsible for hair loss. Ms. Cruz adds that it can speed up the hair’s re-growth process and restore its natural thickness.
Depending on how severe the hair loss is, Svenson gives its clients a customized program to specifically solve their problems. And since hair follows a growth cycle, Svenson says that the treatments must be undergone on a regular basis so as not to disrupt the hair production and to regain hair’s thickness and health faster.
For those who are in an advanced baldness stage—bald areas have substantially inactive roots—and wish to have a full head of hair instantly, there’s the Transdermal Cosmetic Reconstruction. According to Ms. Cruz, “It is the most advanced non-surgical skin-graft hair replacement technology. It’s a super fine synthetic skin with natural hair that is seamlessly bonded to your scalp. It gives you a full head of hair in an instant without the hassles of wigs, hair donors, painful transplants, and worries of dislodging. TCR is so secure that you can even swim, sleep, and engage in rigorous sports.”
And since it’s non-surgical, there is no pain and no long recovery periods. Patients do need to visit Svenson every two weeks or so for hair maintenance, something that can be likened to having a regular haircut.
Svenson declined to quote a price for their services, saying each treatment is individualized and so the prices vary.
There are viable solutions to hair loss, each comes with a set of pros and cons. For some men who experience it, it is no problem at all. And if it isn’t a problem, it is advised that it shouldn’t be made into one. It never killed anyone. For those however, who are bothered by it, there are avenues open that can be explored.
Published in the August 2008 issue of Metro HIM Magazine