Hair today . . . gone tomorrow?
Bruce Willis may embrace his baldness, but that’s scant consolation to those of us who worry about looking more like a billiard ball every day.
Approximately two-thirds of all men have noticeable hair loss by the age of 35, according to the American Hair Loss Association. About half of all women also suffer hair loss, although it tends not to be as severe as men’s.
While medical conditions can result in hair loss, genetics are the main culprit. Androgenic alopecia — commonly called male pattern baldness, although it applies to both sexes — starts as a thinning of individual hair shafts, but eventually results in the death of the hair follicle.
Is there a solution to baldness? Here’s what we found.
Drugs and lotions
Only the prescription drug finasteride, sold as Propecia, and over-thecounter treatments, such as Rogaine scalp lotion containing minoxidil, have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. We accept FDA approval in Canada.
Propecia will halt hair loss, especially on the top of the head, in about 40 per cent of men, according to Dr. Jeff Donovan, a dermatologist at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre who specializes in hair loss. It will produce some new growth in about the same percentage of users.
The Canadian Hair Research Foundation says the numbers are higher, with hair loss halted in more than 80 per cent of cases and “visible regrowth” in two-thirds of users.
As to minoxidil, Donovan says, “it helps a little bit. If there are dormant follicles, it can help them to grow again.” The main effect is to increase the thickness of individual hairs.
Propecia should not be
used by women who are or become pregnant (the manufacturer says it’s for men only). “It would be good to ask your medical practitioner or dermatologist before starting (any treatment),” cautions Donovan.
Both treatments take several months to work and require continued use. Any regrowth tends to be fine hair, not the lush carpet of your youth.
Transplants have come a long way since the days of those hair “plugs” that looked like divots from a golf course.
Surgeons such as Dr. H. Rahal, founder and medical director of the Ottawa-based RAHAL Hair Transplant Institute (rahalhairtransplant.com), now use the follicular unit method. They cut a small strip from areas where hair is still thick, painstakingly divide the strips into tiny grafts of one to three hairs, and implant those in bald spots.
Rahal charges $15,000 to implant 5,000 grafts, which is a lot. The procedure takes 10 hours or more, healing requires about 10 days, and the hair starts to grow after three months.
“It takes eight to 12 months to really show results,” he says.
Rahal encourages his patients to use treatments, such as Propecia and Rogaine, to slow future hair losses.
Although “women are devastated by hair loss,” he says only 50 per cent are candidates for transplants. That’s because their hair loss is so diffused, there’s often no area thick enough to serve as a donor region.
He does, however, sometimes lower female patients’ hairlines or thicken eyebrows. In selecting a transplant surgeon, Rahal says to look for one who’s a member of the American Hair Loss Association and the International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons.
Extensions and wigs
Extensions, whether synthetic or made of the real thing, are useful for lengthening or increasing fine hair. However, a “topof-head system” is what women with hair loss turn to, according to Caralyn Tierney, owner of Caralyn’s Hair Solution Centre in Ottawa (caralynswigs.com).
Made of real hair and costing anywhere from $1,300 to $3,000, the system is either clipped to the client’s existing hair or, if that’s too thin, bonded to hair or the scalp. The procedure takes two to 21/2 hours.
Tierney also supplies wigs. Made of real hair or synthetic material, “they are hand-tied and beautiful.” They cost $600 to $2,500.