A Man's Guide to Cutting His Hair Loss

by Lee Frank
I heard about minoxidil, the only stuff approved by the Food and Drug Administration to fight hair loss, way back when it was just a blood pressure medication. Once a month I would turn my kitchen into a clandestine laboratory. Using a mortar and pestle, I crushed the tablets and added propylene glycol, distilled water and isopropyl alcohol. I shook it and filtered it through a huge funnel. Then I applied it to my hair and scalp two times a day, hoping to be rewarded with a beautiful head of hair. It didn't work. After months of treatment, my hair was as thin as ever. As you've probably figured out, I don't want to lose my hair. No guy does.

Well, that's not entirely true; completely shaved is in right now and that's always an option, particularly if you play for the NBA. But you may want to explore some other choices before you start lathering up your scalp. But even the alternatives can be overwhelming. The race is on like never before to sell you sprays, lotions, creams, injections, diets, drugs, weaves, hairpieces, transplants and surgeries that promise everything from halting hair loss to regrowing a full mane. Well, listen up: Most of it's snake oil, but there are some legitimate ways to help save your hair.

You've got two types of hair loss to worry about - genetically programmed

male pattern baldness, and sudden loss caused by non-genetic forces. The horseshoe shaped crown that characterizes male pattern baldness is the type that makes 35 million American men shudder most. "Genes for hair color, texture and loss are inherited," says David Orentreich, MD, a dermatologist at the Orentreich Medical Group in New York City. When the right genes are present, he says,

Derailing one of Mother Nature's plans takes a lot more than a can of powdery spray paint.

dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male hormone converted from testosterone, can trigger a shutdown of the hair manufacturing process. The follicles will remain, but they won't produce hair. Derailing one of Mother Nature's plans takes a lot more than a can of powdery spray paint.

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Grow No Hair Fast!
Except for castration (at least as this goes to press), I've tried almost everything else. Here's what happened: Hair In A Can: Before a date, I spray some on my thinning hair. Then I foolishly choose a restaurant where the lights are so bright you could land a 747. I feel like a total fraud. I'm afraid if things really go well, my date will end up kissing me and stroking my hair - and asking me why her hands look as if she's been gardening. Fortunately, things don't go that well. Polysorbate: I rub this oily gunk in my hair. It's an ingredient in some salad dressings, and my hair does develop the texture of a Caesar salad. Months go by with no new hair. I may as well be rubbing pepper onto my head. Cayenne Pepper: So I do, as recommended in the book Life Extension (Warner Books). I grab some from my seldom used spice rack. The pepper is old and clumped, but I figure it can't be that bad for my hair. So I pour it on and rub it in. Standing there with pepper on my head, I wonder why the pepper would get chunky. I check the container again and realize the clumps are mealworms. I then do the best immitation of Carl Lewis sprinting to the shower. There's no scientific evidence that cayenne pepper nourishes hair, but I can vouch that it nourishes mealworms. .

Option One: Medicines and Miracle Cures: According to Duke University researchers, castration is one thing that's 100 percent effective in stopping male pattern baldness. We'll assume that isn't an option for you. Otherwise, there's minoxidil. Upjohn's Rogaine, with a 2 percent monixidil solution, is the only product on the market that contains the drug. According to Arnold Klein, an associate professor of dermatology at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and a member of the Men's Fitness Advisory Board, Rogaine does work, but it's difficult to tell exactly how well. "Less than one-third of men who use Rogaine have significant hair growth, but the exact figures really depend on who did the study and how they define significant hair growth," he says. "It does grow hair, there is no question... but it may be less than 10 percent who see meaningful results. If it worked great for everybody, the whole world would be using it." Klein adds that the success rate of minoxidil rises when it's used with Retin-A. This is not yet an approved combination, however.

Since there's a huge demand for hair-restoring soluitions, other big drug companies are doing extensive research,too. Some possible cures have turned up, but they have some brutal side effects, including breast growth and impotence.

The following treatments offer the most hope, even if they're years away from FDA approval:

Cyoctol: Pharmaceutical company Squibb is still in the preliminary research stages of this compound. The drug binds to the hair follicle and

protects it from the effects of DHT.

Diazoxide: A drug used to treat hyperglycemia (abnormally high blood sugar); when taken orally, it causes hair to grow all over the body. Full FDA trials are currently underway.

Tricomin: A possible cure being tested in France by ProCyte, a biopharmaceutical company. It triggers the body's tissue repair mechanism, and ProCyte researchers hope to transfer the benefits to hair.

Werewolves: Researchers at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine report that they are close to isolating the gene responsible for hypertrichosis, a rare disease (only about 50 cases have been reported since the Middle Ages) that causes excessive hair growth. Some believe that this is where werewolf stories originated. The researchers hope discovery of the gene will lead to a better understanding of what causes baldness, as well as new treatments.

Regarding the rest, don't be hypnotized by advertising hype, and don't consider buying that secret formula with the money back guarantee. These companies know that a very small percentage of customers ever bother to request a refund. And even if you do, who knows if they'll still be around? Here are some of the latest crazes and why they don't work.

Nutritional Supplements: Biotin, vitamin C, inositol, PABA and L-cysteine are rumored to reverse male pattern baldness. However, Orentreich says, a poor diet has nothing to do with it. In fact, baldness rates are nearly the same in affluent countries as they are in poor ones.

Polysorbate: A big selling over-the-counter hair restorer that doesn't work. The two cancer researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, who developed it insist they never claimed it was a baldness cure.

Circulation Enhancers: Ecrinal, Folicure, Foltene, Kevis, Nutriol, Vivagen and Viprostol are designed to increase blood flow to the scalp, promoting hair growth. They're not harmful, but increasing blood flow hasn't been proven to stop what's biologically programmed to happen.

Option Two: Covering Up

Hair weaving, one of the few options that doesn't involve drugs or surgery, has been around for a long time. Black sub-cultures have done it for hundreds of years, says Sy Spalding, president and client of the Hair Club for Men, one of the first to specialize in men's hair weaving. Now the technique is one of the most popular options for balding men. A nylon mesh is attached to the scalp, and the hair that remains on the sides of the head is woven into it. New hair is added by weaving it into the mesh, giving the illusion that the hair is growing from your scalp. Because the hair on the sides continues to grow, monthly adjustment is necessary. The average weave lasts a year and a half. The cost is around $2,000, and adjustments cost $65 per visit.

Bonding: A polymer glue is used to attach artificial hair to your remaining strands (you must have some left), and monthly adjustment is necessary as it grows. Average cost: $600 to $1,000 a year.

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Hair Additions: These used to be called toupees, and a good one can actually look natural. The attach to the scalp with double-sided tape or surgical adhesive. More permanent attachment solutions include stainless steel sutures, or removing skin from behind your ears and grafting it onto your scalp to form small loops onto which you hook the addition. Off-the shelf models cost up to $700, while custom additions can run $2,000. Another solution, the wig, is essential if you want to pursue a career in English common law, but not very practical if you have an active lifestyle.

Hair-In-A-Can: Called GLH (Great Looking Hair), it's a powdery spray that you can use to cover up a bald spot. However, it looks and feels more like powdery buildup than hair. Price: $4.

Option three: Surgery

Hair transplantation is the simplest and most popular surgical method of hair restoration. A small circle of hair-bearing skin, about one sixteenth of an inch in diameter, is taken from the patient's hair-growing scalp and then grafted onto a similar-size bald area. Minigrafts of three to six hairs and micrografts of one to two hairs are also available to make the hairline look more natural. It takes a few months to complete the procedure. Average cost: $15 to $150 per graft, $250 to $2,500. The follwing are some other surgical options.

Scalp reduction: A surgeon removes a portion of the bald area of the scalp, then stretches the hair-bearing scalp so that it can be sutured closed. Not everyone has an elastic scalp, though, so this procedure doesn't work for some men. The downside is that hair on each side of the incision tends to grow in a different direction, which exposes the central scar. Extra styling is needed to make the hair look natural. Average cost: $1,800 to $2,800.

Flaps: The most extensive - and expensive - surgical procedure. Bananna-shaped flaps are incised along the sides of the scalp but left attached just in front of the ears. The flaps are rotated to cover the area on top of the head where balding skin has been removed, then grafted into place. The hair from the flaps will grow in a different direction from your original hairline. Again, your new hair will require a lot of styling. Average cost: $10,000 to $18,000.

If you're interested in any of these remedies, choose carefully, The American Medical Association can provide a list of board-certified dermatologists, as well as general and plastic surgeons who specialize in hair restoration. When narrowing your choice of doctors, look at before-and-after photographs of previous patients and, if possible, talk to them about their experiences.

Preventing fallout: Hair loss not caused by male pattern baldness is often temporary and preventable. Certain antibiotics and anticonvulsants, beta-blockers, cocaine, anabolic steroids, prolonged high fever, tranquilizers, stress, surgery and

constant hair pulling (traction alopecia) can all cause short-term hair loss. But once you recover, finish your prescription or stop using steroids or cocaine, your hair will grow back.

A man with a normal, healthy head of hair will lose from 75 to 100 hairs daily. That number can rise if you're not careful. Think about it: Losing a dozen extra hairs a day over the course of a lifetime can uncover a lot of scalp. Here are a few precautions:

  • If your hair is brittle and breaks easily, use a shampoo without alcohol, which dries and damages hair.
  • Use a conditioner after shampooing. It makes your hair easier to comb through and, therefore, less likely to be ripped out.
  • Use wide-tooth combs. Stiff nylon brushes and fine tooth combs can rips out hair, especially if it's curly or wet.
  • Hold your hair dryer more than six inches from your head and keep it moving to avoid heat damage.

    A New York City resident, author and comedian Lee Frank has written for MTV, Playboy and Men's Fitness Magazine and will be sharing his informative humor with ViewZone.

Thinning writer Lee Frank has found that the best way to save his hair is in a shoe box!
Kevis, Ecrinal, Folicure, Foltene, Nutriol, Vivagen: all these products are based on two principles, increasing blood circulation with niacin, in the form of nicotinate, an irritant. The products contain mucopolysaccarides which, according to the scuttlebutt, is the next big thing in hair nutrition. Additionally, kevis contains H.U.C.P., a compound cloned from actual human umbilical cords.

"Twenty five years ago, I used to go to a Park Avenue doctor and get female hormones shot in my head," says Brian Reichenberg, general manager of Kevis of Beverly Hills. "I quit when I found out I might grow breasts." According to Reichenberg, his product has received a US patent for blocking the male hormone responsible for balkding. Reichenberg points out that in Italy, Kevis is already sold in pharmacies as a baldness cure.

I try Kevis and have tremendous results. I can't tell if I am growing new hair, but the hair I already have appears thicker, fuller, and healthier. I'm not the only one who thinks this: A New York hair specialist who prescribed a Rogaine and Retin-A mixture I tried, sees my photo in a magazine and accuses me of wearing a hairpiece!

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