Here’s a statistic that’s rather confronting but perhaps isn’t that surprising: hair loss is something that affects up to 42% of men.
You’d think that because it’s so common, men shouldn’t feel so insecure about it – but the reality is that many men dread going bald, and are willing to spend big on hair loss treatments in order to keep or grow back their luscious locks. Indeed, the value of the global hair restoration market is expected to reach over 13 billion USD by 2028, according to Grand View Research. That’s a lot of money.
Naturally, there’s a myriad of products on the market that profit from men’s insecurities about hair loss, from caffeinated shampoos to multivitamins. Of course, hair loss clinics like Ashley and Martin are well-known, thanks to years of concerted advertising (and celebrity clients like Shane Warne). Subscription-based home hair loss treatments – such as Pilot and Keeps – are becoming increasingly popular too.
None of these options are particularly cheap. A clinical hair loss program can set you back four or five figures, while home hair loss treatments also cost several hundred dollars a year… And you’re not always guaranteed the results you desire.
But there’s another alternative that Australian men are taking advantage of that’s less hassle, just as effective, and most pertinently, far less expensive than virtually any other option on the market.
First, let’s have a little background. DMARGE spoke with Dr Joseph Santos, registered GP and medical director at Rosemary Health, who explains that hair loss in men is commonly caused by male pattern baldness, otherwise known as androgenic alopecia.
“It can start to affect men as early as their 20s, and by age 50 more than 50% of men are affected. This happens because of a combination of your genetics and hormones. In particular, a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) impacts the hair follicles on your head. It causes them to shrink and eventually stop producing new hairs.”
“Other common causes of hair loss include stress, certain medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorders and lupus, some medications like oral retinoids, beta blockers and chemotherapy drugs, and the hair care products you’re using.”
Dr Santos goes on to explain that two of the most commonly prescribed hair loss treatments are finasteride (sold under brand names like Proscar and Propecia) and minoxidil (better known as Regaine or Rogaine), with finasteride working by slowing down the hair loss process while minoxidil assisting with the hair regrowth process. They’re the two most common active ingredients in most home hair loss treatments and any clinical hair loss program will undoubtedly hinge around one or both of these drugs, too.
But here’s the kicker: there’s nothing stopping you from just talking to your GP and getting a prescription for finasteride and minoxidil.
Indeed, many Australian men are doing this – ‘cutting out the middleman’ and saving themselves a boatload of money in the process. As one anonymous DMARGE correspondent puts it:
“I just had a conversation with my GP, he gave me the prescription, and now I just go to the pharmacy and buy the generic. It’s a fraction of the cost of going to a clinic or something, who just do the same thing: write you a prescription for finasteride.”
Hell, if your GP bulk bills, your only outlay might be the cost of the tablets… On top of this, speaking with your GP is likely a much less stressful experience than many other hair loss treatment alternatives, and they’re also more likely to better understand your medical background. Less awkward, less hip pocket pain? Sounds good to us.
Dr Santos’ take?
“When it comes to conditions like hair loss, GPs are a great starting point but now digital health services offer an alternative way for patients to seek treatment. Because treatments like finasteride and minoxidil have been clinically proven to help treat hair loss in men, digital health services can be an option for patients to connect with licensed doctors online to access treatment from the comfort of their homes.” (That at least covers the awkwardness factor.)
“All forms of health services are relevant in their own right, and having the flexibility of choice is a positive benefit for patients in this day and age. The patient’s health and safety should always be the top priority regardless of what service they choose, and it’s important to build a relationship of trust between the healthcare provider and the patient.”
“[But] hair loss treatment isn’t just about prescribing finasteride or recommending minoxidil – it’s about understanding each individual patient’s medical history, symptoms and needs before providing a personalised treatment plan.”
“If there’s an underlying condition causing the hair loss, it should be addressed first. Whether the patient chooses a digital health service over a specialist or GP, it’s important that they choose a doctor they can trust to manage their treatment through thorough medical checks and follow-ups throughout the course of treatment.”
Of course, the cheapest and easiest way to combat hair loss is just to accept it as a fact of life. Maybe the answer is that we as men need to be less hung up about hair loss.
“There’s a lot of stigma surrounding men’s health issues like hair loss, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. But the reality is, they are all far more common than you might think,” Dr Santos relates.
“It would be good to think that men can embrace baldness as a part of life but unfortunately people sometimes associate self-esteem with appearance. Making men’s health a socially acceptable topic of conversation will help break the stigma surrounding sensitive topics such as hair loss, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.”
That’s why opportunities like Men’s Health Week are so important – because we’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to normalising discussions about men’s physical (as well as mental) health in Australian society.