You Can Battle Hair Loss, But It’s Not Cheap


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Getting a little thin up top? There are effective ways to turn that around, depending on what you are willing to pay.

A lot comes with age: experience, wisdom, better jobs, a bigger savings account (hopefully) and, for some people, unwanted changes to their hair. Whether it’s thinning, receding or just plain falling out, you might seek a cure when you notice more hair in the sink or on the brush.

But is there one? Well, perhaps not one, but several imperfect solutions. Read on.

Hair transplant surgery

Hair transplant surgery involves removing a strip of scalp from the back of the head where hair growth is still thick. WebMD explains:

Next, the surgeon divides the strip of removed scalp into approximately 500 to 2,000 tiny grafts containing an individual hair or just a few hairs each. The number and type of graft used depends on the hair type, quality and color as well as the size of the area where it will be transplanted.

The transplanted hair eventually falls out but is replaced as the follicles grow new hair. Hair transplant surgery is considered the most effective way to permanently restore hair.

The cost ranges from $4,000 to $20,000 depending on many factors. One way you can compare prices in your area is by asking for the “cost per graft,” which runs $5-$10 per graft.

These surgeries are usually considered cosmetic and generally are not covered by health insurance.

Oral medications

Men in the early stages of male pattern baldness have benefited from prescription drug finasteride, sold as Propecia and in generic forms. “Many men taking finasteride experience a slowing of hair loss, and some may show some new hair growth,” the Mayo Clinic says. The drug must be taken daily to obtain and retain results.

Some women with hair loss apparently have benefited from the drug, too, according to Consumer Reports, but CR advises that women see a specialist and try to pinpoint the cause of hair loss. Studies of finasteride’s effectiveness for women have produced inconclusive results. CR says:

Because finasteride has been effective in controlling male pattern hair loss, it has been used to treat female pattern hair loss, although it has not gained FDA approval for that purpose. Medication prescribed to treat a condition that does not have FDA approval for that use is known as off-label. Doctors can legally prescribe any medication they deem appropriate for treatment.

Of course, we’ve all heard the warning about Propecia on TV. The Propecia website says:

Women who are or may become pregnant must not use Propecia and should not handle crushed or broken Propecia tablets because the active ingredient may cause abnormalities of a male baby’s sex organs. If a woman who is pregnant comes into contact with the active ingredient in Propecia, a doctor should be consulted. Propecia tablets are coated and will prevent contact with the active ingredient during normal handling provided that the tablets are not broken or crushed.

The price of Propecia varies — it can be as low as $24 a month and upward of $75 a month — so you should shop around at Costco, Wal-Mart, Target and elsewhere. Also, as GoodRx advises, there are similar drugs. “Finasteride, Propecia and Proscar are all the same medication at much different prices – ask your doctor about it,” they say.

Topical medications

Minoxidil, sold over the counter under the brand name Rogaine and in generic forms, is a popular topical treatment for hair loss in both men and women. And it has some efficacy.

“Some people experience some hair regrowth or a slower rate of hair loss or both,” the Mayo Clinic says.

Rogaine is sold as both a gel and a foam. Both types must be applied twice a day, every day, and worked into the scalp. WebMD says most people need to use the medication for four months before seeing a result. Just remember: Oral and topical hair loss treatments are like a diet. Stop using them, and you’ll be back where you started.

A month’s supply costs $29.99, or you can buy a four-month supply for $59.99.

Artificial hair

As an alternative to medications or surgery, you could just cover up the bald spot. Women and men have been doing it for centuries. Here are your options:

  • Toupee: A toupee is a small wig designed to cover part of your scalp, like a bald spot on the top of your head. You can find one that matches your hair’s color and texture, but you’ll still have to deal with taping the hair piece on and keeping it straight throughout the day. Costs vary widely. For example, at Superhairpieces.com, prices range from $60 to $279.
  • Wig: A wig covers your entire scalp and can be made from both synthetics and actual human hair. They can look very natural. At Wigs.com, men’s wigs ranged from just more than $100 to nearly $600. Women’s wigs on the site cost $28.95 to $1,972.
  • Weave. With this enhancement, extensions are woven into your existing hair. You can save money buying the hair yourself; packages of hair cost anywhere from $18 to $70. But you’ll still have to pay a professional stylist to weave the hair for you. Total cost can run up to $1,000.

Have you used one of these products or procedures? Let us know how it worked out on our Facebook page.

Kari Huus contributed to this report.

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