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CR: Best ways to fight hair loss

April 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
There are prescription drugs, herbal remedies and even cortisone shots to help stave off hair loss. Short of a hair transplant, what works best in the battle against baldness? We teamed up with Consumer Reports to find out. Losing hair doesn't seem to have hurt movie star Bruce Willis's career.

But hair loss is traumatic for many people, according to a Consumer Reports survey of more than 8,000 subscribers.

"We asked people a broad spectrum of questions as to what worked and what didn't when it came to treating pattern baldness," said Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports.

A prescription drug was by far the most effective treatment for men -- though not available for women. It's Finasteride, also sold under the brand name Propecia.

"When it came to Finasteride, 27 percent of those men we surveyed said it was very effective, and another 41 percent said it was somewhat effective. So there's more hope with Finasteride than there is with almost anything else," Marks said.

The only other FDA-approved treatment for hair loss is Minoxidil, also sold as Rogaine. It's approved for men and for women in lower doses.

"Only four percent of those surveyed said it was very effective at treating hair loss," Marks said.

Dr. Robert Bernstein, a hair restoration specialist, says he treats many patients for baldness.

"Of the two, Propecia is a lot more effective. But we use both in many patients," said Dr. Bernstein.

And for hiding hair loss, wearing a wig or toupee won the most praise. You could also shave your head like Bruce Willis.

Losing your hair affects women, too. But Propecia isn't approved for women - and in fact, it can pose a serious danger to women of childbearing age. Experts found that women who attribute their hair loss to stress found changing their diet and exercise was relatively effective.


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