FDA Cleared Hair Preservation Therapies
Finasteride is the generic form of the brand-name drug Propecia, used to prevent hair loss and promote the growth of new hair in men with thinning hair.
The drug works by preventing the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is linked to both BPH and male pattern baldness.
In 1997, Merck & Co. obtained Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for 1-mg finasteride tablets, marketed as Propecia for hair loss.
According to FDA trials, “83 percent” of men who used finasteride for two years either saw a complete stop of hair loss, an increase in hair growth, or both. It’s unknown if this medication works for a receding hairline.
Rogaine, the brand name for minoxidil, was the first FDA-approved medication for the treatment of hair loss. Rogaine is a topical solution that is applied directly to the scalp. It can now be purchased without a prescription and in generic formulations in concentrations of 5% (for men) and 2% (for women).
Minoxidil increases the duration of the hair follicle growth cycle. This improves the quality of the hair by increasing the diameter and length of fine (miniaturized) hair. The simultaneous use of minoxidil and finasteride (which directly inhibits the formation of DHT) may have some synergistic benefit in the treatment of hair loss, although finasteride is significantly more effective.
Minoxidil should be applied to the scalp once or twice a day. The medication only works if it is in direct contact with the scalp (not the hair) and only works in areas where it is applied. Therefore, it is important to use the medication in the front part of the scalp if this is an area of thinning.
Rogaine Foam is a form of 5% Minoxidil in a glycerin and alcohol base. The foam technology is a convenient way of delivering minoxidil to the scalp without the sticky and often irritating effects of propylene glycol, the delivery compound used in the original 5% solution. When released from the canister, the new product seems like a shaving foam, but it rapidly “melts” when it reaches skin temperature. Applying Rogaine as a foam allows a convenient application to the scalp without dripping or running down the forehead or neck, and without leaving a sticky residue in the hair. However, many patients find this formulation more difficult to apply directly to the scalp – where the medication actually works.
Once-a-day topical use of Rogaine (topical minoxidil 2% and 5%) seems to be almost as effective as using it twice a day. The reason is, that although minoxidil has a relatively short half-life of several hours when given orally when topically applied, it has a half-life of 22 hours in the skin. This suggests that once a day dosing is a reasonable option. It is important to realize that Pfizer, the company that now makes Rogaine, specifically states that it will be less effective if used only once a day.
If minoxidil is discontinued, the effects of the drug wear off within three months and the previous pattern of hair loss resumes. When minoxidil is restarted, one generally does not regain the hair that was lost, so it is best not to stop and start the mediation, but to use it regularly.
iGrow Hair Growth System
iGrow® a low-level light laser hair growth system, previously cleared for men, has now been cleared for women.
The iGrow® Hair Growth System is a helmet-like, at-home, low-level light laser therapy (LLLT) device that helps treat men and women with androgenetic alopecia (pattern hair loss).
Apira Science, which manufactures the device, states that the iGrow® System “energizes cellular activity within the hair follicle,” increasing its metabolic activity and leading to new hair growth.
Two studies using the device, published in the journal Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, found that the iGrow increased hair growth in men and women with androgenic alopecia by an average of 35% and 37% respectively.
Apira recommends using the iGrow Hair Growth System for 25 minutes every other day for 4 to 6 months before expecting to see results.
The iGrow incorporates a proprietary dual light Laser and LED design and comes equipped with headphones and an iPod/MP3 interface that connects to most audio devices.