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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: A Study In Baldness
by Marjorie Dorfman

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The only substances ever proven to regrow hair that are approved by the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) are Minoxydil, marketed as Rogaine and Finasteride, marketed as Propecia. Rogaine is available over the counter, and must be applied twice daily directly on the balding area. It has not been proven to grow hair in the receding temple area, which is usually the biggest concern of hair loss sufferers. The biggest problem is that once the treatment is stopped, any hair grown from the treatment will fall out. Those poor follicles have to keep dancing as fast as they can (even after the music has stopped).

There are many other topical treatments that are cosmetic, meaning that they temporarily improve the appearance of the hair. Gels and sprays are thickening agents which bond to the hair and make it appear thicker. Cover-up sprays color the scalp, giving the illusion of hair (kind of like the mirage of water in a hairless desert). None of these options are permanent. They can also be very messy to apply and don’t often accommodate an active life style. They seem to work best for those hair loss sufferers out there who live in a comatose state.

baldness prescriptionsSome turn to drugs for the answers. (What else is new?) The thought of just being able to swallow a pill and solve hair loss problems sounds like something too good to be true, doesn’t it? The drug, Finasteride, marketed as Propecia, does seem to hold such promise. It is available only through a doctor’s prescription. Propecia is mainly effective on the back of the head, or bald spot. Its best use, as ascertained in a recent study, seems to be in slowing down hair loss. Eighty-three percent of the men involved in the study maintained their hair count or grew more hair. Women cannot take this drug or even touch a broken tablet because of the danger of birth defects.

Hair systems or pieces, wigs and weaves are a temporary answer to a permanent problem. They are attached either to the scalp or existing hair by a variety of methods, including glue, tape, clips implanted in the scalp or "woven" into the hair. They can be useful for certain types of hair loss, but they are very limited. Many wearers of such cover-ups opt instead for more permanent and worry free answers to hair loss.

Hair transplantation is a surgical procedure that removes hair from the back and sides of the head and transplants it to balding or thinning areas. Because the transplanted follicles keep their original genetic instructions (from that summer camp I told you about earlier), they keep growing hair for a lifetime. Transplants are simple yet sophisticated, and a good result can only be achieved by the training and experience of the surgery team that performs the procedure. So choose carefully, should this be your decision.

The last option is to do nothing at all and accept your baldness as a part of the unique genetic structure that made the rest of you. This is easier said than done because hair loss is often the first sign of aging and has such a dramatic impact on one’s appearance. It is a very brave choice to make and a heavy testament to self-esteem, confidence and inner peace. Consider how many young men one sees who shave their heads to achieve a virile look. (Yul Brynner did it among others.) It has a sex appeal all its own that seems to seep from a powerful sense of self acceptance. For women this is a harder alternative because our looks are so integrated with our hair. I know that I, for one, would feel a great deal of anxiety about not covering it up. The answer to how to deal with the loss of hair must lie within each one of us. I may have my hair and you may have yours, but that’s today. What about tomorrow and how about the day after that?

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