Health: Hair loss: the treatments

Scalp massage

This encourages the blood flow to the hair follicles, increasing the supply of nutrients needed for hair growth.

Drugs

Minoxidil (brand-name Regaine) is the best-known drug for restoring hair growth, especially in cases of male pattern baldness. It is also used as an antihypertensive. It works by dilating the blood capillaries and relaxing the artery walls, allowing more blood to reach the hair follicles. It has to be used on the scalp for several months and may have side- effects.

Several drugs are available on prescription that block the effect of male hormones. They take several months to work, must be taken continuously, and may have side-effects, such as low sperm count, problems achieving an erection and decreased libido.

Alternative medicine

Recommended treatments include jojoba extract oil and warmed, pure almond oil, both applied directly to the scalp. Dietary supplements include brewers' yeast tablets, kelp tablets, vitamin C, pollen and lettuce juice.

Transplants

These work by transferring follicles from a hair-growing part of the scalp, usually the back of the head and above the ears, to the bald patch. These tiny "plugs" of hair may contain as little as one strand. When the hair is transplanted, it should grow as normal as long as the instrument used for the transplant precisely scoops out the hair follicle. No new hair is created - it is simply relocated.

Scalp reduction

The size of the bald area is reduced by removing patches from the scalp and stitching the two sides together. The scalp is left to heal and then a hair transplant (see above) can take place. The obvious side-effect is that you get a face-lift at the same time.

Hair weaving

A fine net of false hair is placed against the scalp and woven together with the natural hair.

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