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Is there any way to avoid hair loss?

Hair loss is a common condition for men and women. But contrary to the promises in advertisements, there's typically no cure for hair loss.

The best first step may be to talk with your doctor to determine what's causing the hair loss. If you have a common type of hair loss called androgenetic alopecia, medication and surgery options may help.

Two FDA-approved medications are available for hair loss. Their effectiveness varies with the extent of hair loss and individual response to the medication.

Minoxidil (Rogaine, others)

These liquid products are available in nonprescription formulas and are applied directly to the scalp in areas of hair loss. Although only 7 percent of the men and women experience some hair regrowth, about 75 percent report significant slowing of hair loss.

Finasteride (Propecia)

Approved for use by men only, this oral prescription hair loss medication acts by interfering with the hormone that normally shrinks hair follicles. Clinical trials show that about 75 percent of men using finasteride alone experience a slowdown in hair loss. Nearly half experienced some new hair growth.

If you have extensive hair loss, or medications prove unsuccessful, ask your doctor about surgical procedures.

Hair transplant

This involves multiple surgeries where tiny micrografts of skin with one or two hairs are removed from the back of the scalp and implanted into bald areas or areas of thinning hair. 

Scalp reduction

The surgeon removes hairless scalp sections. In their place, areas of scalp with hair are pulled more closely together, reducing the bald surface. 

Flap surgery

This procedure involves folding and securing a section of the scalp with hair over an area of bald skin. 

Hair transplants may be combined with other surgical approaches to hair loss. Some who benefit from hair loss medications opt to have surgery done as well.

Surgical procedures to address hair loss are generally costly and not covered by insurance.