Do you want to have a full, thick head of hair, but consider a hair transplant too expensive, too dangerous or too extreme? Luckily there are 7 effective non-surgical methods that can be used to restore hair.
In this post, I’ll introduce you to the dangers of surgical hair restoration. I’ll then outline the numerous non-invasive methods – some natural and some not – and how you can make the choice between the options available to you.
The results will give you an idea of the cause of your hair loss, as well as the methods you can use to combat it.
The Dangers of Surgical Hair Restoration
As with any procedure which requires you go under the knife, there’s always risk of complications and side effects.
Surgical hair restoration (the most common of which is hair transplant) is no exception, meaning it’s important to understand all that can go wrong before proceeding.
Some of the most common side effects of hair transplantation, the most common surgical treatment method for hair loss, include:
- Sterile folliculitis
- Hair thinning
- Lichen Planopilaris (LPP)
Of course, another major concern is scarring. Learn more about hair transplant scarring here.
Aside from side effects, though, there are also misunderstandings surrounding the outcome of such a procedure.
- Hair transplants are not a cure for baldness.
- You will not see instant results.
- Ongoing medical care may be required.
- You may require more than one session (which means more out-of-pocket costs).
As you can see, there are many side effects and unknowns associated with surgical methods of hair restoration. So, what’s the other option?
Non-Surgical Vs Surgical Hair Replacement
Aside from the obvious difference between these two restoration methods, it’s also important to look at the outcomes they provide (and the manner in which they provide it).
Learn more about hairline restoration here.
The main difference is that non-surgical methods typically aim to solve the issue at the source, while surgical methods aim to cover the issue.
As a matter of fact, when you go the surgical route, you’ll very likely be back within the next 10 – 15 years because thinning and hairline recession reoccurred.
With non-surgical methods, however, you can treat the issue at the source and prevent further issues from occurring. Sometimes, you can even reverse the loss that occurred.
Non-Surgical Hair Loss Treatment Options
For those who are less than thrilled with the side effects associated with surgical hair replacement options, there are non-invasive options at your disposal. I don’t recommend all of them, of course. However, let’s take a look at some of the most common.
The two most common treatments available over the counter are minoxidil and finasteride. They are the only two FDA-approved hair loss medications currently on the market.
Minoxidil was first created as a treatment for ulcers in the 1950s, and it was later further developed as a medication in the treatment of enlarged prostate.
However, an unlikely side effect was in its treatment of hair loss. As a result, it was soon released under the brand name of Rogaine.
The mechanism through which Rogaine works is still a bit of a mystery. Though, it’s main mechanism is believed to be dilation of the blood vessels.
What does vasodilation have to do with hair loss?
In sufferers of male-pattern baldness, thinning and alopecia are caused by DHT. As the hormone attaches to the hair follicles, it triggers an inflammatory response that eventually leads to hair miniaturization.
As the follicle miniaturizes, it becomes more difficult for the blood vessels to deliver blood to the follicles. Eventually, this leads to the follicles’ death.
When the blood vessels dilate, however, they can then deliver oxygen and vital nutrients to the follicles. In simplest terms, Rogaine doesn’t stop the cause of hair fall; instead, it works by enabling hair follicles to survive in a hospitable environment.
The second FDA-approved medication for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia is finasteride, first approved in 1992 under the brand name Propecia.
Unlike minoxidil, finasteride actually targets the issue – DHT. However this can have some unpleasant effects.
While DHT is the culprit for hair loss, it’s still an important hormone that plays a major role in the body (mainly, the sexual organs). As such, blocking DHT altogether (as finasteride does) can mean sexual side effects.
For example, users of finasteride may experience a decreased sex drive, inability to have and/or maintain an erection, and low-volume emissions. In addition, these side effects have been shown to continue even after use has ceased.
Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
A newer treatment option for hair loss sufferers, Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) has been proven to be effective for both men and women. It works by:
- Stimulating anagen phase re-entry in telogen phase hairs
- Prolonging the duration of anagen phase
- Increasing hair growth rates in anagen phase follicles
- Preventing premature catagen phase development
While what it does is known, how it does it is still a bit of a mystery.
Some researchers speculate that the therapy may act on the mitochondria directly and alter cell metabolism.
Other researchers believe it may be responsible for the opening of K+ channels.
Combs and helmets
While LLLT is regularly performed in the offices of hair loss specialists, you can also use this therapy at home with the help of combs and helmets.
Both methods of use have had positive results, and both have been shown to have very little, if any, side effects when used regularly.
In 2007, the laser comb was first approved by the FDA for use in men. In 2011, the same was achieved for women.
Helmets have shown similarly positive results, however they have not yet been FDA approved.
As a natural and highly-effective treatment for thinning and balding, microneedling is a therapy that has been practiced for years in the treatment of scarring and wrinkles.
In recent years, however, microneedling has also been applied to the scalp and its positive effects have had life changing results for hair loss sufferers.
But what exactly is microneedling?
Microneedling is a therapy that involves the intentional infliction of wounds. These wounds are very small (hence the ‘micro’), but it’s what happens during their repair cycle that makes this such a popular dermatological treatment.
When skin is damaged, it undergoes a cycle consisting of three stages. They are:
- Maturation (Remodeling)
Essentially, the inflammation that occurs during recovery triggers the proliferation (production) of new cells. These new cells contain healthy hair follicles, enabling the growth of healthy, strong hair.
You think this all sounds too good to be true? Take a look at this study which tested the effects of minoxidil vs minoxidil + microneedling:
As is clearly seen, the group which underwent both methods outperformed the group which only used minoxidil.
Does this mean you have to use minoxidil alongside microneedling for positive results? Absolutely not! However, you can combine it with more natural methods, including my own minoxidil alternatives.
Oils and Extracts
While I recommend you incorporate numerous natural methods into your hair loss treatment regime, natural oils and extracts are a great place to start.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
As its name implies, pumpkin seed oil is an oil which is extracted from the seeds of the pumpkin. The oil contains valuable minerals and nutrients, and it offers excellent support when applied topically or consumed.
In addition to its mineral support, however, pumpkin seed oil has also been shown to promote hair growth and treat male-pattern hair loss.
In 2014, a study was performed which studied the effects of oral PSO supplementation. 76 men participated within the study, and all of them suffered from mild to moderate AGA.
One-half of the 76 men received a 400mg capsule of PSO each day, while the other half received a placebo.
To track changes in the scalp of each participant, photos were taken and a process known as phototrichography was performed.
Over the course of the 24-week study, results were tracked.
These results showed that PSO outperformed the placebo, and this means it’s an effective treatment in androgenetic alopecia. Its mechanism? That’s believed to be its inhibitory effects on 5-alpha-reductase.
Perhaps a more unlikely candidate for hair loss treatment than pumpkin seed oil, reishi mushroom (G. lucidum) is an herb that has been used in Asia for over 2000 years.
This unique herb – while commonly used as an antioxidant and immune booster – is also quite helpful in the fight against balding. How helpful?
We know that sensitivity to DHT is the main culprit of AGA. As such, blocking 5-alpha-reductase (the enzyme responsible for testosterone’s conversion to DHT) can put a stop to hair loss without causing issues related to DHT blocking.
In 2005, reishi was tested against 18 other species of mushrooms. Not only did reishi prove to be an effective blocker of 5AR (blocking about 70%), it was the most effective of the studied mushrooms by far.
So, what does this mean for sufferers of male-pattern baldness? It means that reishi can effectively inhibit the production of DHT and this leads to less hair fall and even possible regrowth!
The Hair Loss Diet
While a proper diet can’t cure all, it can help to get your body into a healthier, more natural state of being. As a result, you may experience positive changes, including hair regrowth.
Essentially, our bodies function best on the more basic side of the pH scale. However, the foods we eat can tip the scale either way, and much of the modern diet actually brings us over onto the acidic side.
This is because foods within the typical diet are highly acidic themselves, including alcohol, carbonated beverages, red meat, dairy, and sugary grains.
You can bring your body’s pH back to basic, but it will take some diet changes. What kinds of changes, you ask?
The main change I recommend is the introduction of alkaline foods. Foods such as broccoli, pumpkin, coconut, almonds, tofu, and chia can all be easily added into your diet.
The best way to go about this introduction, especially in the beginning, is with a morning smoothie. In fact, my favorite smoothie contains many alkaline foods that offer nutritional support. And, it’s delicious!
Which Method Is Right for You?
The reality is, not everyone will have the same experience with different treatment methods. Some hair loss sufferers may go the surgical route and be overjoyed by the outcome, while others may regret their decision.
So what can you do to make the right decision?
First, you need to understand what’s causing your hair loss. Was it a one-time event that triggered telogen effluvium, or is a chronic issue?
Second, you need to decide whether you want to cover the issue or treat it at the source. It may seem obvious to choose to treat it, but many choose the former option for convenience’s sake.
Third, you need to decide how committed you are to long-term results. There’s no doubt that positive hair growth results takes time.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, then certain methods may not be right for you. However, if you value long-term health and real results over quick fixes, then I recommend you stay away from surgical and medicinal methods, and instead follow a much more natural path.
While surgical hair treatment methods – such as hair transplants and and scalp reductions – are popular among the hair loss community, they aren’t the only methods out there. In fact, there are numerous non-surgical methods you can use with the same (or even better) results.
Of course, I recommend you go the natural route. This would mean forgoing hair transplants and medications in favor of oils, herbs, manual stimulation, and diet changes. Is it the easiest or quickest route? No. But, it’s the one with the best long-term results.