THE STATS ON hair loss aren’t great.
Even though some men may experience hair loss as early as their late teens or early 20s, many won’t see the first signs of male-pattern baldness until their 30s. But by age 50, as many as half of all men report significantly thinning hair.
Thankfully, science has been developing new treatments—and refining old ones—to prevent you from becoming another statistic. The key is to figure out what type of hair loss you have and then target the condition with smart tools.
Hair Loss Type 1: Telogen Effluvium
This condition, triggered by illness, drugs, hormonal changes, or physical, physiological, or psychological stress, increases the “shedding” phase of the hair-growth cycle and can result in thinning all over the scalp. Surgery and serious illnesses can kick-start it. (There was an uptick during the pandemic, unsurprisingly.)
Hair Loss Type 2: Androgenetic Alopecia
Also known as male-pattern hair loss, the condition involves a receding hairline and thinning on the crown. It’s the most common form of hair loss, and it’s genetically inherited.
Hair Loss Type 3: Alopecia Areata
This issue, marked by circular hair loss on your head, happens when your immune system attacks hair follicles. Any hair-bearing area on your body can be affected, but the most common additional affected areas are beards and eyebrows.
Hair Loss Type 4: Anagen Effluvium
This is a rapid form of hair loss. This type can be caused by medications and chemotherapy, as well as other bodily stressors.
Hair Loss Solution #1: Turn on the Lights
Targets: Alopecia Areata
One of the trendiest hair-loss treatments is bright. “Certain wavelengths of red light have been well studied in clinical trials,” says dermatologist Robert Finney, M.D., “and have been proven to help reverse signs of genetic hair loss.” The light targets bulge cells at the base of the hair to increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, and promote healthy follicles.
“The best devices for hair loss should have red light with a peak wavelength between 620 and 678 nanometers,” he says. If you have thick hair and are using red light preventively, opt for a tool that lets you part your hair rather than using a helmet. Note: These devices must be used consistently for best results. Dr. Finney recommends using them with other treatments for optimal efficacy.
Try These Tools:
Hair Loss Solution #2: Double Up
Targets: Androgenetic Alopecia
Combining minoxidil and finasteride is a clinically proven way to treat male-pattern hair loss—and has been for years. “The key to this combination is targeting hair from two different angles,” says dermatologist Evan Rieder, M.D. “Minoxidil is a vasodilator, which increases blood flow to the hair follicles, allowing them to grow longer. Finasteride is a hormone regulator and prevents the conversion of testosterone into DHT, which is responsible for hair-follicle miniaturization.” These two medications work synergistically, he says.
Typically, you apply minoxidil to the scalp and take finasteride orally. A newer combo—oral finasteride and oral minoxidil—has been shown to be effective. Also, there’s recently been an influx of sprays and serums combining the ingredients. The good: “There is less risk of side effects in topical preparations of finasteride,” like depression and erectile dysfunction, says Dr. Rieder. The iffy: Topical finasteride is promising, but it’s not yet FDA approved. Mitigating the risk of side effects could make trying it out worth it, but if you’re already taking oral finasteride with no side effects, there’s no reason to switch.
Try These Combos:
Hair Loss Solution #3: The New Transplant
Targets: Androgenetic Alopecia, Alopecia Areata, Anagen Effluvium
Follicular unit extraction (FUE) has fast become the new standard in hair transplants.
Dermatologist Morgan Rabach, M.D., says that during the procedure individual hair follicles are removed from the back or sides of the head and replanted into places where hair loss is visible, like the hairline and crown.
This is different than with a traditional hair transplant, where a strip of hair is removed from the posterior scalp, which is then closed with stitches or staples. A visible linear scar can be seen when a patient cuts his hair short. Because FUE grafts are taken out with tiny punches, patients can wear their hair short or even shave their head with no visible scars.
The procedure typically takes between six and eight hours, and you can expect one to two weeks of recovery. Once the bandage comes off after 24 hours, patients take care of the donor site with antibiotic ointment and can’t get their hair wet for three days. It’s good to rest during that period, too. FUE is less painful than traditional hair–transplant surgery, but it is possible for swelling to last for up to a week.
Anyone with thick hair on the posterior scalp or hair loss that is not rapidly progressive can qualify for the procedure. On the flip side, unstable hair loss, a poor donor site, unrealistic expectations, and complicated medical problems can make someone a less-than-ideal candidate. The cost: Between $12,000 to $30,000, depending on the number and quality of the grafts.
Hair Loss Solution #4: Reduce Stress
Targets: Telogen Effluvium
The treatment for this one is simple: Manage stress and understand that the condition is almost always time limited and should subside without permanent consequences within a few weeks to months. If it doesn’t, see a doc.
A version of this article originally appeared in the October/November 2023 issue of Men’s Health.
Garrett Munce writes about men’s style and grooming. He’s written for Esquire, New York Magazine, Spotlyte, and Very Good Light and held staff positions at GQ and W. Follow his skincare obsession on Instagram at @garrettmunce.