Male Pattern Baldness Treatment: 6 Options

Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
20th November 2020

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These days, hair loss is reversible. Thanks to the wide variety of treatments for male pattern baldness available, you don’t need to tolerate that receding hairline any longer.

However, with more and more treatment options out there for thinning hair, if you’re serious about tackling hair loss, you need to know the solutions you can really rely on. The most effective of these are Finasteride and Minoxidil – the only two male pattern baldness treatments licensed for medical use.

Hair transplants, meanwhile, are an expensive and radical option, and they are becoming increasingly popular. And if medical or surgical solutions aren’t your thing, an array of natural remedies are available too – although some are more effective than others.

Treating Male Pattern Hair Loss

It’s the twenty-first century, and no-one needs to tolerate a receding hairline any longer. Over the last few decades, the market for treatments for male pattern baldness (MPB) has boomed. 

For the first time in history, hair loss is now reversible.

This does not mean that every treatment for progressive balding will do what it claims to, however. Nor does it mean that they are safe. Rather, with more and more options out there, spending the time to know what you are buying is more important than ever.

That’s why, in this article, we’re running through some of the different options for treating male pattern baldness. And while some really work, others are just wishful thinking.

What is Male Pattern Baldness?

Male pattern baldness, male pattern hair loss, androgenetic alopecia, androgenic alopecia. This most common type of hair loss goes by many names. However, the condition – affecting the majority of men throughout their life – is caused by one thing alone.

That thing is dihydrotestosterone (DHT). 

When we are younger, this hormone serves important functions, in the development of our genitalia and body hair, for example. However, in the majority of us, our hair follicles are genetically sensitive to it. And if there is too much DHT in our scalp, these follicles can shrink and weaken – and our hair growth suffers. 

The most sensitive follicles are those at the hairline and at the crown, which is where hair coverage tends to recede first. It’s the regularity of this hair thinning that gives you the “pattern” of MPB.

The thing about male pattern baldness, however, is that it isn’t just your hair that you can lose. While some men rock the Jason Statham look, for others, hair can be an important part of their identity. In these cases, hair loss can be quite a traumatic experience.

It is worth noting that the treatments for MPB only work for this particular pattern of hair loss and shouldn’t be used for different types of alopecia. If your hair, for example, has fallen out in clumps, it may be alopecia areata. Or, if it is accompanied by rashes or bleeding, you may be experiencing cicatricial hair loss. In both cases, you should seek medical advice, and avoid using the treatments listed here.

6 Treatments for Male Pattern Baldness

So, what are some of the best male pattern baldness treatments available? Here, we’re reviewing six of the best options, including pharmaceuticals, surgery, and natural remedies. Let’s take a look.

The Medically Approved Options for Hair Regrowth

Of all the different options for treating hair loss, there are only two drugs that have been approved by governmental bodies – such as the US Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) – as safe to use. These are known as Finasteride and Minoxidil and, while they are the most effective options, they work in slightly different ways.

Finasteride

Finasteride (commonly known as Propecia) has been shown in clinical trials to be the most effective treatment for MPB. That’s because it targets the root cause of the condition; namely, that hormone DHT.

DHT is produced by a specific enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase, and this is what Finasteride has in its sights. By inhibiting that enzyme, the drug reduces the amount of DHT in your system by as much as 60%.

This gives you the best chance of stopping further hair loss. Meanwhile, other studies have shown that new healthy hair actually regrows in over 80% of users. It’s easy too; just take a pill daily.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil (a.k.a., Rogaine) is the medicinal alternative to Finasteride. Rather than a pill, it’s a topical treatment. You’ll need to apply this twice a day, so it’s not quite as convenient.

With studies showing that results are seen in two-thirds of men who try it, it might not seem quite as effective as Finasteride either. However, over 90% of users in another study said that they were satisfied with the results.

Rather than tackling the production of DHT, Minoxidil focuses on improving the health of your hair follicles. It works by increasing the blood flow to your scalp, meaning that more nutrients and oxygen can reach the area, helping new hair to grow healthily.

Can You Use Minoxidil and Finasteride Together?

No-one is forcing you to make a choice between Finasteride and Minoxidil. They are perfectly safe to use in combination – and they may well be more effective. According to one study, 94% of men using the two drugs together saw improvement in hair coverage, compared to 80% and 59% respectively with Finasteride and Minoxidil alone.

Hair Surgery

An increasingly popular option for the treatment of male pattern baldness is surgery. Without a doubt, it does have great results. However, its cost – along with the fact that you do need to go under the knife – means that it’s probably not for everyone.

There are two main options available here: hair transplantation, in which healthy follicles are moved to areas of balding, and low-level laser therapy.

Hair Transplants

According to one statistic, there was a bump in hair transplants of 60% between 2014 and 2017, while a growing number of celebrities are showing off their new heads of hair post-op too.

Hair transplants usually work by extracting patches of skin from one area of the head in which your hair is growing healthily and inserting it into an area where it is receding. An alternative – and more expensive – option extracts and transplants individual follicles.

When done well, the results are uncanny. But don’t forget that MPB is a progressive condition and your hair coverage will decline even after the operation. In truth, most surgeries offering the treatment will prescribe you Finasteride or Minoxidil to limit further hair loss.

Laser Surgery

While it is not yet an established option for treating MPB, laser treatment, or low-level laser therapy (LLLT) as it is technically known, could be the future of hair loss treatment. It works by firing light particles known as photons into the tissue on your scalp. Cells absorb this energy and are activated to grow more hair as a result.

While it sounds pretty sci-fi, studies have found no side effects – and it appears to be effective too. Unfortunately, however, you can expect it to be a costly procedure.

Promising Natural Remedies

If you’d like to avoid medicinal or surgical treatment options, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are a number of natural remedies available that show promise for the treatment of hair loss. However, while naturally occurring, they are not as effective as their pharmaceutical alternatives.

Biotin and Zinc

Vitamins and minerals such as biotin and zinc have been found to be effective in the treatment of hair loss. Biotin is one of the “B” group of vitamins, playing an important role in the health of your skin and nails, as well as your hair.

Similarly, while taking zinc supplements won’t necessarily reverse hair loss, it will help the rest of your hair keep growing strong.

Saw Palmetto

One of the more promising herbal remedies out there for the treatment of MPB is saw palmetto, an extract from a Floridian palm tree that has been thought to boost testosterone. While it may not be all that effective to that end, studies have found that it may reduce DHT levels – and therefore increase hair coverage.

While further research is needed, this may be something useful to keep an eye on.

‘Natural’ DHT Blockers

As we mentioned above, not all vendors of ‘medicinal’ products are as reliable as you would like them to be. That’s why we say you should keep your wits about you when browsing different hair loss treatment options.

Something to look out for are products branded as ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’ DHT blockers. If you come across these, make sure you check the ingredients – and that you know exactly what you are buying. Herbal remedies are often not strictly regulated in the same way as medicines and you may find that they include all sorts of different things. That’s not necessarily good news for your hair.

The Complete Hair Loss Plan

Finasteride & Minoxidil

This powerful combo promotes hair growth by blocking DHT – a hormone linked to hair loss – and by increasing blood flow around your follicles.


Best for
Overall thinning hair
Effectiveness
Over 9/10 Men
Contains
One-a-day tablets (Finasteride) / Daily Spray (Minoxidil)

Key Takeaways

There are many different treatments for male pattern baldness out there. From natural remedies to hair transplants, there are enough to suit any taste and preference.

However, you need to make sure that you know what you are spending your money on before you commit to any treatment. And remember that there are only two affordable options that are proven to be effective. These are Finasteride and Minoxidil, and, combined, they are effective in nearly 95% of cases. 

References

  1. L DrakeM HordinskyV FiedlerJ SwinehartW P UngerP C CotterillD M ThiboutotN LoweC JacobsonD WhitingS StieglitzS J KrausE I GriffinD WeissP CarringtonC GencheffG W ColeD M PariserE S EpsteinW TanakaA DallobK VandormaelL GeisslerJ Waldstreicher (1999). The effects of finasteride on scalp skin and serum androgen levels in men with androgenetic alopecia: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10495374/

  2. Akio SatoAkira Takeda (2012). Evaluation of efficacy and safety of finasteride 1 mg in 3177 Japanese men with androgenetic alopecia: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21980923/

  3. www.medicines.org.uk -Regaine for Men Extra Strength Scalp Solution 5% w/v Cutaneous Solution: https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/5765/smpc#INDICATIONS

  4. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology -Rapid onset of action of minoxidil 5% topical solution in a 4-month German observational study on both patients and physicians: https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(03)03693-4/fulltext

  5. Ruiming Hu, Feng Xu, Youyu Sheng, Sisi Qi, Yumei Han, Ying Miao, Wenlong Rui, Qinping Yang (2015). Combined treatment with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized and comparative study in Chinese patients: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/dth.12246

  6. International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery -Worldwide International Hair Restoration Surgery Experts Discuss Latest Medical Advances and Trends: https://ishrs.org/2018/11/12/worldwide-international-hair-restoration-surgery-experts-discuss-latest-medical-advances-and-trends/

  7. Mina ZareiTongyu C WikramanayakeLeyre Falto-AizpuruaLawrence A SchachnerJoaquin J Jimenez (2016). Low level laser therapy and hair regrowth: an evidence-based review: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26690359/

  8. Ablon Glynis (2012). A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/

  9. A. Rossi, E. Mari, M. Scarnò, V. GarelliC. MaxiaE. ScaliA. IorioM. Carlesimo (2012). Comparitive Effectiveness and Finasteride Vs Serenoa Repens in Male Androgenetic Alopecia: A Two-Year Study: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/039463201202500435

  10. NHS -Herbal medicines: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/herbal-medicines/

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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