Hair supplements—with ingredients like saw palmetto, pumpkin seed oil, and ashwagandha—can certainly move the needle (especially the top-shelf ones like Nutrafol). But consider them as an extra line of defense to the regimen I’ll lay out below.
4 “Gold Standard” Solutions for Hair Retention
Right now, these are considered the four best options for hair retention. Speak with your board-certified dermatologist to discuss the best option for you, as well as the costs, risks, and expectations associated with each.
1. Topical Solutions
Topical medicines can target the scalp and follicles with their ingredients without absorbing into the entire body. The most common topical treatment is minoxidil (the generic for Rogaine), which has been available over the counter for a while. Men will use a 5% solution. Minoxidil significantly boosts circulation and nutrient delivery to the follicles and is used to target crown thinning.
Topical finasteride is becoming increasingly popular, too. It inhibits DHT’s impact on the follicles to prevent recession and general thinning; however, it is fairly expensive since it is newly available. Often, it is sold by prescription as a compound solution (often with minoxidil).
2. Oral Medicines
There is an increasingly popular oral minoxidil option (the generic for Loniten), which is only prescribed off-label by doctors. Loniten is a blood pressure medicine that decreases and relaxes the muscles of blood vessels, but when used cosmetically in small doses, it is among the most effective options for hair retention because it helps with blood flow. However, know that it might cause hair growth all around the body since its vasodilating effects will reach every follicle on your body.
Then there’s the oral version of finasteride (the generic of Propecia). It was originally a medicine for enlarged prostates, but when taken in smaller cosmetic doses, it effectively inhibits DHT’s conversion inside the body and is more or less one of the best ways to counter thinning and recession simultaneously. However, its use must be carefully monitored by a doctor due to the potential sexual side effects that include potential erectile dysfunction or lowered libido. Usually, these side effects can be reversed once the medicine is stopped, but at that point, DHT proliferation will resume.
3. Plasma Injections
There are growth factors in your blood’s plasma, and you can isolate the plasma at a dermatology clinic and then inject that plasma into your scalp. Once there, the growth factors soak into the follicles and give everything a swift kick, stimulating all kinds of rejuvenated growth. This is called PRP (from Platelet-Rich Plasma). It can be expensive to maintain, especially in big cities, where sessions can cost $1K or more and usually begin with three sessions in the first few months. Still, it’s a terrific way to boost other efforts, should you ever want to treat yourself.
4. Low-Level Laser Therapy or “LLLT”
Here’s another option that adds up if you get fully invested. LLLT sends lasers into your scalp and follicles, stimulating their growth and overall strength/vitality. It is available in most dermatology clinics, but we’d also advise investing in an at-home helmet, as silly as most look. You can get the same benefits as in the clinic on a much more regular basis; even if they’re less intense than a clinical session, the repeated use will make up the difference. Plus, the savings start practically as soon as you use it.
Hair Transplants Look Great Now—But As a Last Resort
It’s true: Hair transplants look great now (even when you save thousands of bucks for a little cosmetic tourism). But don’t resort to a hair transplant unless you are already using some of the above methods as a pre-existing means of retention. Because even after you get a transplant, you’re going to need to keep up those hair-retention measures in order to prevent further thinning.