Recently, a friend showed me a website for a popular brand of vitamins that supposedly help their hair to grow, grow, grow.
Almost everyone wants thick, shiny hair. It is considered a marker of beauty, virility / fertility and attractiveness in our culture.
– What is the problem with these? She wanted to know. “Do they work?” That is a good question!
They were blue, sweet as sweet and very cute, for vitamins. I’m sure my son would love it.
If you’ve wondered what to do with your hair, here’s a list of natural and pharmaceutical options for people looking for longer, brighter, brighter hair.
This is not a complete list of every hair growth option out there – just some of the more common / popular options. For personalized advice, talk to your doctor.
Before entering, it is important to ask why. Hair loss can be genetic for men and women, but it can also be related to aging, disease, malnutrition, stress and hormonal changes (especially related to pregnancy or menopause).
During your visit, your doctor may recommend testing for hormone levels such as DHEA, testosterone, prolactin, FSH, LH, T3, T4, and TSH. A complete blood count, serum iron, and ferritin levels are also important.
Hair density is measured, and sometimes even pulling a small section of your hair to see if it comes out too easily. A small biopsy of the scalp is done to see the tissue under the microscope for possible causes.
Hair Growth Vitamins
What’s in these? Many popular hair growth vitamins contain vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B-6, folic acid, vitamin B-12 and biotin. Basically, you are looking at a standard multi-vitamin with some additional ingredients, such as Biotin, a vitamin B complex that plays a role in maintaining healthy hair, nails and skin.
Do they work? Yes, but slow your expectations. Complementing your diet with hair growth vitamins can improve the health and appearance of your hair, but the effect will be gradual and subtle, not instantaneous and dramatic. Hair Anew, Hairinfinity and Viviscal are the most valued consumer brands on Amazon.
Any negative side effects? A small number of people report skin problems (such as acne breakouts) after taking vitamins that contain Biotin. This is probably not due to the Biotin itself, but due to a vitamin B5 imbalance that Biotin might be creating.
Massage of the scalp
What is the deal? Giving you a scalp massage – either with your bare fingers or a soft bristle brush – is reported to improve circulation and keep your hair healthier, especially when combined with essential oils.
It works? Apparently yes. Researchers at the University of Maryland found that “massaging the scalp with a combination of several essential oils, including lavender, rosemary, thyme and cedar wood improved hair growth.”
But as with vitamins, keep your expectations realistic. The improvement will be subtle, not instantaneous and dramatic.
To test a scalp massage at home, add a few drops of essential oil to 1 tablespoon of jojoba or grape seed oil and massage into your scalp every day. Rinse the oil in the shower, followed by your usual shampoo and conditioner.
Any negative side effects? Unless you are allergic to a particular type of essential oil, I do not see any potential problem with this type of totally natural treatment. Sounds pretty relaxing to me. It would be even better to trade scalp massages with someone you love.
Prescription medicines for hair growth like Rogaine and Propecia
What are they? Rogaine applied to the scalp is helpful for many patients and is available over the counter. I suggest both men and women use the stronger 5 percent concentration.
You’ve probably seen ads for Propecia, a prescription pill that’s used to treat male pattern baldness/thinning/receding hairline. The clinical name for this drug is finasteride. Finasteride has been approved by the FDA to treat hair loss in men, but not in women.
However, that may change in the near future, because researchers are finding that finasteride can be effective for women, too.
Does it work? Yes. Rogaine works to some degree for 80 percent of patients. Propecia works for about 90 percent of men. However, it’s important to be realistic with your expectations. You’re not going to go from Bruce Willis (totally bald) to Josh Groban (luscious curls) by using Propecia.
In most cases, Propecia will stop hair loss from continuing, and you may experience a modest amount of re-growth as well.
Any negative side effects? Unfortunately, yes. In men, Propecia can sometimes cause low sex drive, dizziness, swelling in the hands and feet, and several other issues. These side effects are rare, but serious. Always call your physician immediately if you notice any of these side effects.
Laser combs and helmets
What are they? Brands like Hairmax and Thermodome use low level laser light to stimulate hair follicles.
Do they work? Studies show that most patients had mild improvement in hair density. They seem most effective for hair loss patients who are in the early or middle stages of hair loss.
What are the downsides? Sometimes it is hard for patients to appreciate mild improvement. These devices get mixed reviews on Amazon. And they don’t come cheap. Prices range from $300 to $1000.
If getting Rapunzel hair just isn’t possible for you (or George Clooney for the guys who dare to admit they read this), please be kind and remember that your value has nothing to do with the number of active hair follicles on your head.
Lastly, if you ultimately decide to chop off your hair and/or embrace your baldness, know that you’re in good company. Many people prove that a cropped, buzzed, or totally bald look can be totally striking and gorgeous.
Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo