Introduction

This is the hair loss treatment FAQ. It is an attempt to ask many of the questions commonly asked on the newsgroup alt.baldspot. Before asking questions in alt.baldspot, please read the FAQ to make sure the question is not answered herein. This FAQ is by no means complete, and if you see something missing, be sure to let me know so I can include it. I am not a doctor, and I don’t even play one on TV. While I try to make sure all information is accurate, complete, and safe, these ARE medications and often have side effects and must be used properly. ALWAYS consult your doctor before beginning any treatment program. I recommend a board certified dermatologist who lists hair loss treatment as one of his specialties. It’s hard for doctors to be experts in everything and a general practitioner probably doesn’t constantly search for new hair loss treatments and read every study that comes out. It is a dermatologists business and specialty to know what’s going on in the skin and hair care world.

One other note is that not all of this FAQ is fact, but some is my own personal opinion, especially the section on how to read advertising. The most up to date version of this FAQ can always be found at Regrowth! (formerly the Baldspot page) at http://www.regrowth.com/.

Terms

Just so you don’t get confused, these terms are frequently used when discussing hair loss and are necessary to fully understand some of the more technical information:

 

Medical Terms Related to Hair Loss
Term Definition
5-Alpha Reductase The medical term for the enzyme in the body which converts testosterone to DHT.
5-Alpha Reductase Inhibitors 5-alpha reductase inhibitors prevent the body from converting testosterone to DHT by blocking the action of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase.
Alopecia The medical term describing any hair loss.
Alopecia Areata An autoimmune form of hair loss not related to male pattern loss. Sometimes people confuse this for male pattern loss, but alopecia areata occurs in patches anywhere on the head and sometimes results in total loss of hair on the head and body.
Anagen Phase This is the phase in which hair is growing.
Androgens The medical term for male hormones.
Androgenetic Alopecia The medical term for male pattern loss. It is also experienced by some women, mostly after menopause.
Antiandrogen The medical term for a substance that counteracts male hormones (androgens). Sometimes they only work against specific androgens, sometimes against multiple androgens. There are two main types of antiandrogens, androgen blockers and androgen inhibitors. Blockers prevent male hormones from binding to receptors by using those receptors themselves. In this way the male hormone still exists, but is unable to do what it was going to do. Inhibitors prevent one hormone (such as Testerone) from being converted to another male hormone, such as DHT. Since these other male hormones do a lot of the real work (damage), preventing them from being produced often prevents them from doing damage.
Aromatization The process of converting one enzyme to another, such as Testosterone to Dihydrotestosterone.
Catagen Phase The transition phase in hair growth where a hair is not growing but has not fallen out.
Di-Hydro-Testosterone (DHT) The male hormone (androgen) believed to be most responsible for male pattern baldness. DHT is produced when the enzyme 5-alpha reductase converts testosterone into DHT. The current theory is that at the onset of puberty, DHT in the hair follicles causes some kind of damage. The actual method by which the DHT causes the damage to the follicle is still unknown.
Male Pattern Baldness The common term for androgenetic alopecia (male hair loss) in men.
Minoxidil The only FDA approved drug in the US for treatment of hair loss. It is not the only substance proven to grow hair, but the only one allowed to be sold and advertised for hair loss in the US.
Nitric Oxide One of the natural substances in the body which is believed to play a role in signaling hair to grow. Low levels of NO are associated with slow growth or loss, while increased levels are associated with growth. NO levels are inhibited by Superoxide Radicals. Chemically it is similar to Minoxidil.
Sebaceous Glands The “oil” glands in your skin. The oil they produce is called sebum and contains excess DHT. Excess sebum is associated with acne and hair loss. Sebaceous glands seem to be enlarged by androgens which is why many balding men seem to producess excess oil on the scalp.
Superoxide Dismutase A substance which destroys superoxide radical and may stimulates hair growth.
Superoxide Radical This natural substance signals hair to enter its resting phase and decreases NO levels.
Telogen Phase The resting phase in hair growth.
Terminal Hair This is the term for normal, pigmented hair.
Testosterone The primary male hormone (androgen). DHT is converted directly from testosterone. Contary to “popular” belief, Testosterone does not cause MPB. Testosterone is often referred to as “T” in medical studies.
Vellus Hair Vellus hairs are small fine hairs without pigmentation. These occur naturally on much of the body and are what most hairs affected by male pattern loss change into as the follicle grows smaller.