Treating hair loss

Hair loss affects more than half of all men and some women. We separate the successful treatments from the snake oils.
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02.The bald facts

About hair loss

Androgenetic alopecia, also called male-pattern hair loss, is a hereditary pattern of hair loss affecting about 30% of men in their 30s to about 50% of men in their 50s. In men who have inherited the condition, testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in large amounts, actively targeting the hair follicles from temples to crown. Over time, the hair follicles shrink and the hair shaft is reduced until it is short, fine and downy.

Many women can also experience androgenetic alopecia, which causes general thinning on the crown. However, it appears there are a number of different hormones involved, rather than just the one, so diagnosis and treatment is less straightforward.

Other less common kinds of hair loss include alopecia areata, where hair is lost in spots or patches, and hair loss due to illness, stress or dietary issues. In this article, however, we focus on androgenetic alopecia.


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Losing hair? Now what

  • See your doctor early in the hair loss process. There are many more options available when hair loss first starts, and medication can be quite successful in the early stages. Your doctor can also rule out illness and other causes of hair loss. Too many people wait too long before doing anything, or go down the snake oil route for several years before realising their hair loss is getting worse, not better.
  • Don’t expect miracles. One of the main reasons people are dissatisfied with finasteride and minoxidil is that they are hoping for significant or at least some hair regrowth. However, preventing or slowing the hair loss process is the more likely outcome, with any regrowth a bonus. 
  • There is no certifying body for medical professionals specialising in hair transplants, though the major players in Australia are highly skilled. So if you’re looking for a hair transplant surgeon, do your own research – there are plenty of online forums on the topic.
  • If you choose to go to a private clinic, don’t sign any contract until you are very clear on what you are getting. You may simply be paying a lot of money upfront for products you could get for a lot less via your doctor and pharmacist. Definitely don’t be pressured into signing a contract with the enticement of discounts if you ‘sign today’. Take it away and think about, and thoroughly research the company.
  • If you’re offered unusual medications or herbal treatments, ask for the evidence from clinical trials. Verify these findings with your own research. Client testimonials are worthless.

A lot of consumers lose a lot of money – and a lot of hair – dealing with charlatans offering balding treatments that don’t work. If you feel you’ve been misled or ripped off, complain to your state fair trading department and file a claim with the small claims tribunal in your state. Unfortunately these companies keep getting away with it because people feel embarrassed about being scammed, reluctant to draw attention to their thinning hair and/or unwilling to invest the time in taking action.

Advanced Hair Studio warning

Consumer Affairs Victoria has received a number of complaints about Advanced Hair Studio over the years. In its annual report of 2007-8, it provides some examples of the kinds of issues faced by consumers.

“Advanced Hair Studio offers two types of procedures: a ‘strand-by-strand hair replacement program’, which involves gluing a hair piece to the customer’s head, and a laser therapy program, which involves laser treatment and the application of medication onto the scalp in the hope that hair will regrow.

“The complaints included a man who was refused a refund for the strand-by-strand treatment after he was forced to remove the hair piece on medical advice as it was causing him pain and nausea. His case was taken to [the small claims tribunal] which ordered a full refund.

“Another case involved a customer who was denied a refund after unsuccessfully undergoing the laser therapy program at a cost of $5,500, despite the advertised guarantee. Instead, he was offered a discount on the strand-by-strand treatment, which he did not want to undergo.

“We advise consumers that if they intend to deal with Advanced Hair Studio, they need to be fully aware there is no guarantee the laser therapy treatment will be successful.”

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