Hair loss treatments
Hair loss can be a natural part of ageing, but some people may seek treatment for cosmetic reasons. Treatments can be expensive, unlikely to be available on the NHS, and success is not always guaranteed.
Non-prescription treatment for hair loss
Minoxidil is a lotion or foam to be rubbed on the scalp daily and is available over-the-counter from pharmacies without a prescription. The NHS says there is some evidence it can lead to hair growing back in some men with male pattern baldness. The treatment seems to be more effective for female pattern baldness.
The treatment may take some months to be effective and any regrown hair is likely to fall out again after around two months if treatment is discontinued.
The treatment comes in two strengths containing 5% or 2% minoxidil. Evidence is mixed as to whether the higher strength is more effective, however side effects, including dryness or itchiness on the scalp are more likely with the higher strength.
Prescription treatments for hair loss
Finasteride is a daily tablet treatment available on private prescription from a doctor. There is evidence it may help with male pattern baldness, but not hair loss in women.
Finasteride prevents testosterone being converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is responsible for causing hair follicles to shrink, so this treatment lets hair follicles go back to their normal size.
It can take up to six months before any effect is seen from finasteride treatment and hair loss will begin again within a year of treatment being stopped.
Side effects are not common, but include a loss of libido (sex drive) or erectile problems.
Medical procedures for hair loss
If prescription or over-the-counter treatments are not effective, some people consider hair transplants.
Hair loss through the medical condition alopecia areata is treated differently to natural balding.