Is There a Cure for Baldness for Men?
Reviewed by Jill Johnson, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Dealing with hair loss can be a stressful, challenging experience. It’s also a very common one, especially for men in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
Unfortunately, although some interesting developments appear to be on the horizon, there’s no cure for male pattern baldness at the moment.
This means that if you’re prone to hair loss, you can’t take a magic pill to stop it forever (at least, not yet).
With this said, there are several effective treatments available today that can help you stop hair loss, maintain the hair you have, and in some cases, even grow back some or all of the hair you have lost so far. From science-backed medications and topical sprays to scalp reduction surgery, the options are vast.
These treatments aren’t miracles, and there are limits on what they can do. However, scientific studies show that they do work and that they may be a solution if you’re losing your hair.
Currently, some of the most popularly used hair loss treatments are the oral hair loss medication finasteride, the topical medication minoxidil and products such as ketoconazole shampoo, all of which target hair loss from a different angle.
We’ve explained how these treatments work below, as well as how you can use them to prevent hair loss and reverse hair thinning for good.
Is There a Cure for Baldness?
Although there isn’t currently a cure for hair loss, it’s possible that scientific research could lead to a cure one day.
Currently, researchers are investigating the potential use of stem cells to stimulate the growth of hair in men affected by male pattern baldness.
Researchers from Yokohama National University in Japan, for example, have developed a new method for generating new hair cells from stem cells in animals.
Other technologies, such as gene editing, may eventually play a major role in curing hair loss in humans.
In a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers manipulated the genes of mice responsible for mitochondrial function, allowing them to worsen and then reverse hair loss caused by the aging process.
While these studies are interesting, it’s unlikely that we’ll see any major developments towards a hair loss cure in the next few years.
Most potential cures are still in the early stages of clinical testing, with a variety of steps required before carrying out a clinical trial on humans is even possible.
Even after initial trials, any potential cure will need to pass through the extensive FDA approval process of research and review before it’s available to the public. In total, this development and approval process can often take as long as 10 years to complete.
Still, it’s an interesting field of science, as well as an important series of steps towards creating a real, permanent cure for male pattern baldness.
Why Does Hair Loss Happen?
Before we can get into the finer details of treating hair loss, it’s important to cover the basics of how and why male hair loss happens in the first place.
Luckily, the biological mechanism behind male pattern baldness isn’t too complex. In fact, it all comes down to two factors: your genetics and the effects of an androgen hormone referred to as dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
DHT is a hormone that’s produced by your body as a byproduct of testosterone. Before you’re born, DHT plays a vital role in forming the male genitals. During puberty, it’s one of several key hormones responsible for the development of male secondary sexual characteristics.
In short, you can thank DHT for a variety of things that make you, well, a man -- from your voice to things like body hair and your Adam’s apple.
Unfortunately, DHT can also affect your hair. If you’re genetically sensitive to the effects of DHT, it can bind to androgen receptors throughout your scalp and affect the hair follicles around your hairline, as well as the crown of your head.
When DHT targets your hair follicles, it can start a process called miniaturization, in which your hair follicles gradually stop producing new, healthy hairs.
Miniaturization usually affects the hair follicles near your hairline first, resulting in the receding hairline that many guys develop in their 20s, 30s or 40s.
Not everyone is equally sensitive to DHT. People whose hair is resistant to DHT can maintain a full or nearly-full head of hair well into old age. On the other hand, men who are highly sensitive to DHT may go completely bald during their 20s or 30s.
Our guide to DHT and male hair loss goes into more detail about the full effects of DHT on your hair, as well as how DHT is produced in your body.
Although DHT is responsible for male pattern baldness, it isn’t the only thing that can cause you to lose hair. Other causes of hair loss include stress, which may trigger a form of temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium, alopecia areata and fungal infections that affect your scalp.
These conditions may lead to patchy hair loss, or temporary hair loss that develops across your entire scalp. They typically aren’t permanent, but it’s still important to respond to them quickly if you’re affected.
The Latest Hair Loss Treatments
With tens of millions of men affected in the United States alone, hair loss is both a big problem for men and a potentially lucrative industry for medical companies.
As such, research is constantly underway into new treatment options for stimulating hair growth, preventing hair loss and generally improving the appearance of both men’s and women’s hair.
Over the last decade, several new technologies have hit the mainstream, including platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and laser treatments for stimulating hair regrowth, widely referred to as low-level light therapy (LLLT).
The first of these treatments, platelet rich plasma, involves the use of platelet-rich blood to boost growth factor levels in the scalp.
As part of a PRP treatment, a healthcare provider will draw blood from your arm, then separate the platelet-rich plasma in a centrifuge. The platelet-rich plasma is then injected directly into the target site -- in this case, your scalp.
As we’ve covered in our guide to PRP treatments for hair loss, research into the potential effects of PRP treatments is currently underway, with a few small-scale studies suggesting real benefits to this type of treatment.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the potential benefits of PRP treatments aren’t fully known, and it shouldn’t be viewed as a proven treatment option for hair loss just yet.
When it comes to low-level laser therapy, experts think that it may help to stimulate hair growth by moving dormant hairs into the anagen, or growth, phase of the hair growth cycle, as well as by controlling inflammation in the scalp.
As we’ve explained in our guide to laser hair growth treatments, research into the effectiveness of laser therapy is still in its early stages, at least for hair growth. Research findings have mostly been mixed, with a few promising studies and several other inconsistent results.
The Most Effective Treatments for Hair Loss in Men
Male pattern baldness is caused by the effects of DHT, with its severity varying based primarily on your genes. As such, there are two theoretical ways to treat this type of hair loss:
Change your DNA so that you’re no longer sensitive to DHT.
Reduce the amount of DHT in your body to prevent hair loss.
Although technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 have attracted lots of headlines recently, we’re still a long, long way away from gene editing technology.
As such, editing your DNA so that your hair follicles are resistant to male pattern baldness isn’t yet an option, and likely won’t be for quite some time.
Luckily, the second option for treating hair loss -- reducing the amount of DHT in your body -- is possible, and has been for some time.
Through medications like finasteride (the active ingredient in Propecia®), it’s possible to reduce the amount of DHT in your body by a significant amount, allowing you to slow down, prevent or even reverse hair loss from male pattern baldness.
It’s also possible to stimulate hair growth using medications like minoxidil, which increase blood flow to your scalp and move your hair follicles into an active growth state.
We’ve provided more information about these treatments and others below, including the latest research on their effectiveness.
Hims has helped thousands of men regrow their hair
Finasteride is a prescription hair loss medication that works by reducing your body’s production of DHT.
More specifically, it works by inhibiting the effects of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase, which is responsible for producing DHT from a small amount of your circulating testosterone.
By inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, finasteride lowers DHT levels and blocks your hair follicles from DHT-related damage. Research shows that a normal dose of finasteride can reduce serum DHT levels by as much as 70 percent.
Finasteride is currently the most effective medication on the market for treating male pattern hair loss, as well as one of only two hair loss medications approved by the FDA.
A similar medication called dutasteride (sold as Avodart®) -- which has yet to be approved by the FDA as a treatment for hair loss -- reduces DHT levels by up to 99 percent and could be a future hair loss treatment option.
Since it was first introduced in the 1990s, numerous hair loss studies have found that finasteride works well to prevent hair loss and, in some cases, stimulate the growth of new hair.
For example, a review published in 1999 found that 83 percent of men affected by pattern hair loss who used finasteride for two years showed no signs of further hair loss, compared to only 27 percent of men who used a non-therapeutic placebo.
A more recent study conducted in Japan and published in 2019 in the journal Clinical Research and Trials found that 99.1 percent of men who took finasteride over 10 years showed no further hair loss, with 91.5 percent showing improvements in hair growth.
In short, finasteride works. It’s also easy to use. Because it comes in tablet form, all you need to do to reduce DHT production and prevent your hair loss from worsening is take a single tablet of finasteride on a daily basis.
Finasteride is a prescription medication, meaning you’ll need to talk to a healthcare provider and receive a valid prescription before you can purchase and use it.
We offer finasteride online, following an online assessment with a physician who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
As with other prescription medications, finasteride can cause side effects. However, clinical trials of men who use finasteride show that only a tiny percentage of men have issues that are severe or persistent.
Curious about using finasteride to treat male pattern hair loss? You can find out more about how finasteride works, its benefits, side effects and more in our detailed guide to using finasteride for hair loss.
Minoxidil is a topical, over-the-counter hair loss medication. Unlike finasteride, it doesn’t work by reducing DHT levels -- instead, it moves hair follicles into a state of active growth and stimulates blood flow to your scalp.
Available as a generic medication or under the brand name Rogaine®, minoxidil is the other hair loss medication that’s approved by the FDA.
Like finasteride, minoxidil is backed up by numerous studies showing that it reduces the severity of hair shedding and treats hair loss, including the bald spots that many men develop as a result of male pattern baldness.
For example, a study published in the journal Dermatology in 2004 found that 52 percent of men with visible hair loss showed improvements in hair growth after using minoxidil 5% over a period of 12 months.
Minoxidil is easy to use. It comes in liquid form and is formulated to be applied to the scalp twice per day. Unlike finasteride, minoxidil has no significant effects on your DHT levels or the amount of other hormones related to hair loss in your body.
While finasteride works primarily by shielding your scalp from the hormones responsible for hair loss, minoxidil works by promoting the growth of new hair.
Interestingly, there’s some evidence that minoxidil and finasteride are most effective at stopping hair loss and promoting hair growth when they’re used together.
In a study published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy in 2015, 94.1 percent of men with hair loss who used both minoxidil and finasteride for 12 months demonstrated improvements in their male pattern baldness symptoms.
In comparison, only 80.5 percent of the men treated using finasteride on its own and 59 percent of the men who used minoxidil alone showed improvements.
Minoxidil is not a prescription medication, meaning you can purchase it over the counter without having to talk to a healthcare professional first.
DHT Blocking Shampoos
Although they’re less effective than finasteride and minoxidil, certain shampoos can reduce the level of DHT that’s present in your scalp, potentially reducing the severity of hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.
Currently, the most popular ingredients in DHT blocking shampoos are ketoconazole, a topical antifungal medication, and saw palmetto, a naturally-occurring herbal ingredient that’s linked to reduced levels of DHT.
Although neither of these ingredients are as effective at lowering levels of DHT as finasteride, they’re both supported by some scientific evidence:
Ketoconazole is linked to local disruption of the DHT pathway in the scalp, making it a potentially useful adjunct to treatment with finasteride.
In a 2001 study, researchers found that a saw palmetto herbal blend reduced levels of DHT by 32 percent.
Some hair loss prevention shampoos also contain biotin, a B vitamin that, in some cases, may help to improve hair growth and prevent hair shedding.
Although many DHT blocking shampoos are backed up by real scientific research, they aren't subject to the same level of rigorous testing as FDa-approved medications like finasteride and minoxidil.
As such, it’s best to think of them as an extra layer of defense that you can use with finasteride and minoxidil to prevent hair loss, not as your primary hair loss prevention tools.
Surgical Procedures for Treating Hair Loss
Medications like finasteride and minoxidil can be highly effective at treating hair loss, provided you still have a reasonable amount of hair left.
If you’ve already lost a large amount of hair, using medication might help to stop your hair loss from getting worse, but it’s unlikely that you’ll experience a large amount of hair regrowth.
In short, while you might not get more bald, you generally won’t go from a Norwood Type V to a Norwood Type I.
Enter hair transplantation. This surgical procedure involves removing hair follicles from the sides and back of the head (areas that are less sensitive to DHT and often unaffected by male pattern baldness), then transplanting them to areas with extensive hair loss.
The end result is the appearance of a fuller, thicker head of hair using your existing hair follicles, all without hairpieces, concealer sprays or other products used to cover up thin spots.
Unlike the hair plugs of the 80s and 90s, which were well known for creating clumps of hair that didn’t look at all natural, modern hair transplant techniques allow surgeons to carefully relocate single hair follicles, creating a more natural-looking result.
If you have extensive hair loss and want to treat it for good, a hair transplant might be an option worth considering.
Like with all cosmetic surgeries, the results can vary. Some hair transplants look fantastic, while others look artificial. There’s also a chance that you’ll need to keep using finasteride or minoxidil after the procedure to maintain your hair, depending on the extent of your hair loss.
However, the technology itself has come a long way over the last few decades, making this one option worth considering if you have extensive hair loss that you want to treat.
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No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere. Early action is the best hair loss prevention.
Finding a Cure for Hair Loss
Currently, we don’t have a cure for male pattern baldness. However, medications like finasteride and minoxidil can help you keep the hair you have, and in some cases, potentially regrow some of the hair you’ve lost due to male pattern baldness.
If you’re beginning to lose your hair and want to stop it from getting worse, it’s important to start treatment as early as you can.
By acting quickly, you’ll be able to control the amount of DHT in your body and limit any further damage to your hair follicles.
You can also learn more about your options for treating and preventing hair loss in our detailed guide to the best treatments for thinning hair.