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Published April 03, 2013, 11:35 PM

Positively Beautiful: A closer look at hair loss treatments

Last week I investigated causes of hair loss and how we can look for clues to see what our body is telling us. Assuming our diet is adequate for good hair growth, our hormones are in check and we are managing stress like a Zen master, what else can be done to maintain and regain our hair?

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, Areavoices.com, INFORUM

Last week I investigated causes of hair loss and how we can look for clues to see what our body is telling us.

Assuming our diet is adequate for good hair growth, our hormones are in check and we are managing stress like a Zen master, what else can be done to maintain and regain our hair?

We all know the power of a good hair day, and I distinctly recall my niece Ellie getting her first big-girl hair cut at age 2. She was so proud of her new look, beaming with a confidence that seemed to transform her personality. Ellie is now a senior in high school, and though the hairstyle has evolved, she still shines with the delightful personality we first glimpsed on that day so many years ago.

Most of us also know the despair of a hair day so bad it makes us want to crawl under a rock.

Given the psychological impact our hair can have, it’s important to know our options.

One of the most popular hair treatments available in drug stores is Nioxin. It contains niacin (vitamin B3), which stimulates blood flow to the scalp. It also contains phospholipids, biotin and B12. It has a pleasant minty smell, and women give it good ratings for making their hair feel thicker. It seems to have a mild stimulatory effect for non-hormone-related hair thinning.

Another option is RevitaLash Hair Advance, which contains a prostaglandin analogue and has also been shown to stimulate mild hair growth.

We’ve talked about the importance of a healthy diet in our pursuit of better hair, and supplements help fill in the gaps. Biotin has long been thought to stimulate stronger growth of hair and nails. L-arginine has also been shown to increase hair growth by stimulating nitric oxide production in the hair follicle.

Proper levels of iron, zinc and copper are also important for hair growth, but beware of too much Vitamin A and selenium, which can be culprits for hair thinning.

Viviscal is a product that’s gotten Hollywood buzz in the past few years. It contains a trademarked marine protein complex, horsetail extract and vitamin C. A study done in 1992 found that young men with thinning hair treated for six months had a 38 percent increase in hair growth, compared with 2 percent increase in the placebo group.

Topical medications for hair growth are minoxidil (Rogaine) and ketoconazole (Nizoral).

Rogaine has been around a long time and was originally an oral medication used for high blood pressure. These patients noted impressive hair growth, so research was directed toward this use. Applied to the scalp, it seems to increase blood flow and stimulate hair growth. It is available in drug stores in 2 and 5 percent formulations.

Nizoral is an anti-fungal shampoo that seems to have some anti-androgenic effects on the hair follicle, which seems to decrease hair loss in the case of hormonally mediated hair loss. It is available in a 1 percent form in stores, while the 2 percent is available by prescription.

Oral medications include Propecia, which inhibits the hormone known as DHT. It works well in men to prevent further hair loss as well as encouraging new growth. It is not recommended for most women because of the potential for birth defects. Spironolactone is a medication that can be used for high blood pressure and acne treatment and may minimize hair loss for appropriate patients.

Laser biostimulation is also a hot topic and can be delivered as a comb or cap. It uses wavelengths in the red to infrared spectrum and seems to stimulate the follicles to go into active growth phase. The devices can be used in a provider’s office or at home, though cost may be an issue. Research does show a statistical increase in hair counts after treatment. Reduced hair loss and thicker hair were also noted by patients.

Hair transplants have come a long way from the doll-plug look of decades ago. A technique called micro-follicular transplantation has made transfer of one to two hair units possible, and the results look very natural. It takes about a year after surgery to get the full effect.

And what if it gets to be too much? While I’ve never heard of someone complain that they had too much hair on their head, I get plenty of patients in my office who have excessive hair growth in other less cosmetically appealing areas. Vaniqa is one topical option. And thankfully, we can rely on laser hair removal to help manage growth and keep us smooth.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at shesays@forumcomm.com.

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