IN THE GAY COMMUNITY, THE HAIR LOSS TREATMENTS MEN CHOOSE ARE NO DIFFERENT THAN THE ONES STRAIGHT MEN CHOOSE, MORE DISPOSABLE INCOME NOTWITHSTANDING.
Okay, so what do other guys do to fight hair loss?
It’s a natural question: What are the other guys doing about their hair loss? In the best of circumstances, you will never know. The success in fighting hair loss is when it simply is not an issue and discussed (perhaps) only with the most closest of friends.
For the most part, you don’t know if an individual has effectively stemmed loss or even regained hair growth from Propecia, Rogaine or a combination of the two. You will not be able to figure out if a guy uses a hair replacement system (a good stylist would be able to guide him to the most convincing system for his head, his existing hair and his age). With newer transplant techniques, you will have a hard time spotting the person who went that route. You may not even know if a guy has hair loss when he shaves his head — for some it’s a purely voluntary style choice.
But by the numbers, we know that about 35 percent of people with thinning hair elect to do something (from the 2009 survey of about 1,000 Americans, Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: The Myths & Truths Behind Thinning Hair and Hair Loss, conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Rogaine). And beyond that segment we can safely guess that another 35 percent at least gave it some thought.
In all likelihood, gay men skew a little higher in their interest and follow-through on hair maintenance and restoration. That’s just a guess, and we welcome anyone to challenge us on it.
Here’s what we do know about hair loss treatments:
Hair transplants: According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, about 20,000 hair transplantation procedures are carried out in the United States each year. Most of those operations are performed on men and women in the 35-50 age group. While fees differ by geographical region, in the first decade of the 21st century the cost for surgeons performing this procedure was between $3,500 and $4,000.
Topical medication: Rogaine (minoxidil) sales are at about $42 million per year, a jump since 2007, when the foam version of the product was introduced. This suggests approximately 420,000 men and women use the product each year. Rogaine is most effective in the early stages of hair loss, when thinning or baldness on the crown of the head is smaller than the base of a cola can, according to manufacturer McNeil-PPC, a division of Johnson & Johnson. Applied later in the balding phase, it is less effective; Rogaine also is ineffective for receding hairlines. Rogaine in 2 percent and 5 percent solutions is available over the counter, without a prescription.
Oral medication: Propecia (finasteride) sales are hard to dissect from manufacturer Merck & Co.’s financial statements, but it appears to generate about $429 million per year. Assuming that all patients were compliant with directions on dosage and frequency, which would cost each patient about $800 per year for use, that works out to roughly 536,250 men on the treatment (women cannot take finasteride, owing to ineffectiveness and danger of damage to unborn fetuses).
Hair replacement systems: More than 5,000 hair replacement professionals — all licensed cosmetologists, most of whom take advanced courses in hair replacement systems — are practicing in the United States. Many of those operate stand-alone centers; however, many others provide hair replacement systems services to clients in designated areas within some of the 300,000 hair salons in the country. Roughly a half dozen training facilities provide courses to these specialists, the largest of which had 3,500 graduates who studied the craft over the past decade.
Laser hair treatments: Laser light taketh away (e.g., back hair) and giveth. Two products that use light therapy to halt hair loss and stimulate regrowth are manufactured, sold and approved as safe by the FDA, according to Chris Webb, publisher of the National Hair Journal, a trade industry magazine. “It stimulations microcirculation,” he says, emphasizing that laser hair treatment is in wider use in European countries, particularly Scandinavia. One such product is the HairMax LaserComb, sold over the counter (without a prescription) for at-home use. A professional version of the same technology (the MEP-90, a larger instrument with about 10 times as many light-emitting diodes) is sold only to doctors. Hair salons are legally discouraged from using laser therapy, owing to FDA rules, says Webb. A segment of the market uses laser hair therapy in conjunction with hair transplant surgery, while others use it as a hair loss preventative.
The fact that millions of men and women are addressing hair loss with one strategy or another bears testimony to the efficacy of some of these methods. For the most part, topical or oral drug therapies are recommended for younger people whose hair loss is minimal, while individuals pursue surgery or hair replacement systems in instances when their hair loss has progressed.