The basis of hair growth and loss is based upon the 3 stages of hair follicle development, each hair going through an individual growing, resting and sometimes a dying stage.
It is the individual follicles that die, this is self-evident by the fact that surgeons during hair-transplant operations are able to extract a "living" follicle from the side of the head and place it into the typical male pattern baldness "U" shaped area on top. An area where perhaps much of the hair has already fallen out, and yet when the new follicles are inserted they continue to "live" and grow.
It's still unclear why individual follicles decide to die and "fall out" but one reason is very likely because of the hereditary relationship of alopecia (hair loss) i.e. "my Dad was bald and so shall I be!" This is therefore clearly gene-related.
Hair loss is also a problem that mainly afflicts men; this is probably due to the relationship of testosterone to its sister convertion- dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is the cause of the development and growth of body hair and yet may be responsible for the loss of hair from the scalp, a true aging bio-marker perhaps?
Another theory of alopecia is a relationship between cytokine and superoxide. This relation involves inflammation and for example, superoxide is a known cause of oxidative inflammation in autoimmune diseases such as arthritis.
It's possible that the process of hair loss is perceived by the immune system as "an invasion of foreign bodies" and as such its demise is sped up.
Maybe in the future alopecia will be diagnosed as another autoimmune disease!
Other known causes of hair-loss include stress, certain drug therapies, toxins and radiation.
Most hair regrowth treatments either stimulate (or even shock) the blood supply to the hair follicle in order to prevent it from resting or dying by continuing the supply of nutrients.
The most famous topical stimulant is of course Minoxidil, a product originally developed to lower blood pressure but was discovered to help reduce hair loss and even regrow hair for many individuals. As such, the pharmaceutical giant UpJohn put Minoxidil into a topical solution and over the last 20 plus years (or at least until their patent expired!) it was one of their best selling drugs.
Some British clinics in the early eighties conducted clinical experiments to see what was the best dosage for Minoxidil; their conclusion was that a 3% solution of Minoxidil was the most effective and the most economical.
It has also been known for at least 10-years that the addition of retinolic acid (the active ingredient in the famous anti-wrinkle skin cream - Retin-A ®), helps to further stimulate the blood supply on the scalp surface and therefore to the hair follicle.
Some hair-loss clinics have stated that when they add tiny amounts of retinolic acid to minoxidil that the effects are doubled or even quadrupled over the use of Minoxidil alone!
Much of the latest focus has been on preventing the convertion of testosterone to DHT. In particular the prostate drug- finasteride has shown considerable promise in reducing hair loss and promoting hair regrowth. This drug (not unlike the discovery of Minoxidil) was designed for patients with serious prostate conditions and is now marketed (albeit in a much smaller doses) as an alopecia treatment.
However European drug inserts make it clear that it is essential that women should not come into contact with finasteride, either by ingestion, physical contact or from the blood or sperm of their partners.
There is a link between finasteride and the deformation of male babies in the womb. This is too serious in my view to constitute it as a legitimate hair-loss treatment. Yet, there is a similar "natural" drug that is also used to help prevent testosterone-DHT convertion that is virtually side effect free, it is Saw Palmetto.
Thus we have one of the most unique anti-hair-loss products available on the world market today. A special topical combination of 3% minoxidil, 3% saw palmetto and 0.025% retinolic acid called MinSaw-A ®.
Applied regularly to the balding scalp (mornings and evenings are recommended) vis-a-vis Minoxidil, MinSaw-A ® can in long-term use help encourage new hair growth and prevent further hair loss.
As I've stated before I believe that MinSaw-A ® is one of the safest- clinically proven, alopecia products available.
But there are also two other unique and interesting combination products that are likely to enhance and support MinSaw-A ® use. They are known to act in different manners and thus may provide a further multi-approach to MinSaw-A ® treatment.
Nizoral ® is an anti-fungal shampoo that kills the fungi that cause seborrhea and dandruff.
Groups of individuals have discovered that Nizoral ® (when used regularly) is a very useful alopecia treatment, once again it would appear that the role of a substance for the treatment of hair-loss is stumbled upon accidentally!
Nizoral ® contains a chemical called ketoconazole, it is known that when ketoconazole is ingested orally that it inhibits the binding of androgens to receptors in the body and this would include the binding of DHT to hair-follicle receptors.
However the use of oral ketoconazole is NOT recommended for many reasons, mainly because this method would present itself as a toxin and ultimately damage the liver. But topical ketoconazole (as contained in Nizoral ® shampoo) shows itself to have a "weak" anti-DHT binding affect in the scalp.
Furthermore positive results with Nizoral ® shampoo are often noted within a few weeks, whereas a pure anti-DHT affect may take a few months. It is therefore likely that Nizoral ® exhibits another method to its anti-hair-loss effect.
One such theory of Nizoral ®'s anti-alopecia effects may be on its activity upon sebum.
Sebum is a fatty substance that accumulates in the scalp around the hair follicles. It's possible that the removal of sebum may help "unclog" the hair follicle and expose it to more nutrition from an improved blood supply, rather like unclogging a drain!
It is known that Nizoral ® can remove and reduce sebum deposits.
A recent development from the famous L'Oreal laboratories in France is Dercos ®, a trade name for a product that is available as a shampoo and in topical ampoules.
Dercos ® contains a drug called Aminexil, which L'Oreal claim can reverse baldness.
Their researchers discovered that whether stress, genetics or hormonal changes are responsible for alopecia, the hair-loss is always accompanied by perifollicular fibrosis.
Perifollicular fibrosis is a condition that causes the collagen around the hair root to become rigid. Afterward, the collagen tightens and then pushes the root to the surface of the scalp causing premature hair-loss.
It is also possible that this same condition may also affect the appearance (and rapid disappearance) of new hair follicles as they can not be formed deep in the scalp (i.e. they have a shallow root).
L'Oreal's development of Dercos ® (Aminexil) has been clinically shown to stop perifollicular fibrosis.
In a major yearlong study of 350 men and women, those who applied Dercos ® to their scalps for eight weeks had significantly more hair regrowth than those using a placebo did.
As a result, and perhaps not surprisingly, since being made available recently as "over-the-counter status" in France and Germany, Dercos ® is set to become a best seller for L'Oreal.
There are very few precautions for any of the above products when used in their correct doses and procedures, but of course there are always some!
Those persons suffering from abnormally low blood pressure (due to the presence of Minoxidil) should not use MinSaw-A ®. MinSaw-A ® also contains alcohol and thus should be avoided by those with an allergy to the same.
Any persons using corticosteroids (such as hydrocortisone) should avoid Nizoral ® shampoo, this is because some patients have noticed irritation when Nizoral ® shampoo has been started immediately after corticosteroids, therefore allow a period of at least 2-weeks to pass.
Over use of Nizoral ® can also dry the scalp; it is therefore recommended that a quality conditioner be applied after rinsing out the Nizoral ®.
In some cases scalp itchiness has been noted with persons using Dercos ® shampoo (however it is possible that Nizoral ® will counteract this!).
In the case of both the shampoos, one should use them as any "normal" shampoo but allow some extra time before rinsing out.
Contact with the eyes should be avoided, but if any of the products should get into the eyes, they should be bathed in cold water immediately.
The basis of good hair health lies in a foundation of good nutrition, cleanliness and regular maintenance.
However, at present, and in order to help prevent age-related alopecia it may be necessary to take some regular preventative measures. With regard to the above, the combination of these three products makes sense, if only for their multi-faceted approach and proven clinical results. Listed below is a typical example of their combined use.
1. Topical applications of MinSaw-A ® should take place to the scalp in the morning and evening.
2. Nizoral ® shampoo can be used to clean the hair two or three times a week (depends how often you wash your hair, personally I do it nearly every day).
3. On the remaining 4-5 days in the week (when you don't use the Nizoral ® shampoo), wash your hair with Dercos ® shampoo instead.
Eventually, within 8 to 12 weeks you should see a significant improvement in your hair condition.
Regular continued use should enable you to embark on a program that will maintain your hair in a thicker, fuller condition for many more years to come.