The Best Hair Loss Treatments

There’s no cure for baldness, but there are ways to hold on to what you've got. The clinical studies and six dermatologists we consulted point to three methods: minoxidil, laser treatments, and prescription finasteride. The key is finding the hair loss regimen that works for you. A doctor is your best bet for that kind of guidance — but we found a few trustworthy products that will work for most people.

The 3 Best Hair Loss Treatments

Best Foam Treatment

Men's Rogaine Unscented Foam
Men's Rogaine
Clinically proven to slow hair loss and regrow hair for both men and women.
Pros
Effective 5% minoxidil
Good results on hairline and beard
Women can use it, too
Cons
Takes time to work

Why we chose it

Effective 5% minoxidil

Men’s Rogaine Unscented Foam contains 5% minoxidil, which has been clinically proven to slow hair loss and even regrow some hair. It’s also FDA-approved and non-prescription, which means that in addition to being effective and safe it’s also widely available.

GIF of Rogaine Unscented Foam

Once applied, Rogaine’s foam formula quickly transforms into a liquid.

Good results for hairline and beard

Although Rogaine is only FDA-certified for use on the crown of the head, some suggest decent results are possible when using it for a patchy beard, receding hairline or along the front or sides of the scalp. The key is to make sure the product reaches the skin itself, rather than just sitting on the hairline—something that is easier to do with this foam than with the liquid version of the product, which tends to drip and be messy.

Women can use it, too

The research is abundantly clear: plenty of women suffer from hair loss, too. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that as many as 30 million women in the U.S. suffer from hereditary hair loss. While Rogaine has a different product specific for women, it’s actually exactly the same - it just costs more.

According to Rogaine customer service, FDA approval required gender-specific products to cater instructions to male hair loss (typically a bald spot on the crown) and female hair loss (generally thinning throughout). Basically, men are instructed to use Rogaine twice daily and women only once. Why? The theory is that a higher concentration of minoxidil would result in more unwanted hair (sideburns, for example). However, a study in Skin Therapy Letter reports that unwanted hair was actually more common in 2% minoxidil solutions (which, confusingly, Rogaine instructs women to use twice daily). None of this explains why the women’s product is more expensive, though. Since the active ingredients are the same, don’t spend more on the women’s packaging - men and women can both use this product.

Points to consider

Takes time to work

No hair loss treatment—including Rogaine—can restore a full head of hair overnight. Among the cautions on the Rogaine package is the reminder that some may have to wait four months to see any results, and even then, “this product will not work for all men.” So be aware going into this treatment that there can be multiple factors impacting your hair loss, and not all of them will respond to Rogaine. But for many men and women it can be a game-changer, and is worth the time and effort.

Best Budget Foam Treatment

Kirkland Signature Regrowth Treatment Minoxidil Foam for Men
Kirkland Signature
Same active ingredient, cheaper product - for men and women
Pros
Same active ingredient as Rogaine
Easy application
Cons
Less established than Rogaine
Defective canisters

Why we chose it

Same active ingredient as Rogaine

Like Rogaine, Kirkland Signature Regrowth Treatment Minoxidil Foam for Men is an easy-to-use foam in a 2.11 ounce canister. It also contains 5% minoxidil, and thus should give you the same results as Rogaine for about $10 cheaper. Each container gives you one month’s worth of treatments, and it’s conveniently sold as a pack of three containers.

Easy application

Kirkland Signature’s light, non-greasy foam squirts out just like hair mousse and you simply apply it with “cool, dry hands.” Applying means working the foam down to the scalp where you want to see thicker growth. Once massaged in, the foam dissolves into a watery liquid that leaves a tingly sensation - “but no burning!” one of our balding testers was happy to discover.

Points to consider

Less established than Rogaine

As the very first product on the market with minoxidil, Rogaine has a lot of street cred, with more than thirty years of satisfied customers to spread the word and more than enough testing done to establish that the product is effective. Kirkland Signature markets everything from garbage bags to button down shirts and doesn’t have the same focus on health care as Johnson & Johnson, which distributes Rogaine. But with the same active ingredient, and subject to the same regulations, it’s a safe budget alternative.

Defective canisters

When we scanned reviews on several sites, including Amazon, we came up with a higher-than-you’d-expect number of reported issues with getting the product out of the cans. Reviewers commented that the cans work fine at first, but once they’re about half empty they jam up and stop working. Many customers had no problem with canisters, but we saw the same complaint often enough that it stood out. That said, if you buy directly from Costco, they have a great return policy.

Best Laser Treatment

HairMax Ultima 12 LaserComb
HairMax LaserComb
Non-invasive, chemical-free, and as simple as brushing your hair.
Pros
Stimulates hair follicle cells
Easy to use
Cons
Expensive
Mixed reviews

Why we chose it

Stimulates hair follicle cells

The general medical consensus around laser treatments like HairMax Ultima 12 LaserComb is that low-level laser light therapy stimulates the cells within the hair follicle. These devices may also increase cell metabolism to promote thicker and more durable hair shafts, something that neither minoxidil or finasteride can do. Dr. Wolfeld notes that it’s a popular option in his practice. “Some people like the action of combing something through their hair,” he says. Dr. Khadavi also recommends using a laser treatment of some kind in conjunction with other treatments. “Lasers do help in stimulating the hair into the growth phase. We don’t know the exact mechanism of how it works, but it definitely helps.”

Easy to use

To use the HairMax Ultima 12 LaserComb, all you have to do is glide it slowly over your scalp. Treatments take about eight minutes, and should be done three days per week for the best results. According to HairMax, this helps stimulate hair growth, reverse the thinning process, and increase density and fullness.

GIF of laser comb in use

Can be combined with foam treatment

Many dermatologists recommend using laser treatment in conjunction with minoxidil. If hair loss is leaving you embarrassed and self-conscious, the one-two punch of these treatments used together may be more than worth it.

Points to consider

Expensive

At $395, the HairMax LaserComb isn’t the cheapest option out there for hair regrowth. But you’re investing in a tool that may last for many years. A year of Rogaine, meanwhile, will set you back roughly $180, and even the cheaper Kirkland Signature product would be $140 a year.

Mixed reviews

Like all hair loss treatments, this laser comb is neither a sure thing nor a miracle product. Your results may vary depending on the cause and extent of your hair loss, and how you use this and other products.

Hair Loss Treatments FAQ

Why is FDA approval important?

FDA approval means a product has been deemed safe, effective, and substantially equivalent to another previously approved or cleared device on the market.

There are products that don’t have FDA approval or clearance, but may help prevent hair loss. For example, shampoos with ketoconazole, a chemical with anti-DHT properties, is widely used to treat fungal infections but has become popular among consumers as a hair loss treatment. It makes sense — research shows that ketoconazole actually has beneficial effects on hair growth (especially for those with seborrheic dermatitis).

However, ketoconazole is still not FDA approved for hair loss treatment, which means it cannot be endorsed or marketed as such. Ketoconazole likely curbs hair loss, but additional research is needed for the FDA to give it approval.

Can wearing a hat or using too much hairspray make you go bald?

Neither of these will cause hair loss. Hair follicles get their oxygen from the bloodstream as opposed to the air, so go ahead and rock your favorite team’s cap every day. And the balding effect of hair products is just one of several myths debunked in an entertaining 2011 report by US News.

Do bald guys have more testosterone?

No, but they do have a higher percentage of hair follicles genetically susceptible to DHT. It sounds a lot less sexy when you put it that way. BBC Future did a whole investigation into this myth, proving once and for all that Bruce Willis is no more virile than Fabio.

What about Propecia?

We haven’t focused on Propecia (active ingredient finasteride) because it requires a prescription, but we recommend you talk to your doctor about it. “In men, the most effective treatment for thinning hair is finasteride,” says Dr. Wolfeld, who routinely prescribes the pill to his patients. Finasteride works by lowering the body’s levels of the hormone DHT, which binds to receptors in hair follicles at the top of the scalp, causing them to gradually shrink and lose the ability to grow thick hair.

“Finasteride is a great medication that goes to the root cause of hair loss. You always have to address the root cause of the hair loss or you’re going to continue to lose more hair,” says Dr. Khadavi.

“With women, finasteride is not an option,” says Dr. Wolfeld. “It’s not FDA approved for women to take, so we don’t prescribe it.” In fact, due to the drug’s effect on hormone levels, pregnant women are advised to not even touch broken or crushed tablets.

Do I need a hair transplant?

A hair transplant is currently the best long-term solution for hair loss, but it’s an investment. It’s a procedure where hairs are removed from another part of your body and then transplanted to the thinning or balding areas. Does it work? Yes. Research suggests that most hair transplant recipients report they are “very satisfied” with their results. While successful, transplants are also far more expensive than medications, foams, or lasers with costs averaging anywhere from $4,000 or $15,000.

Hair transplants will likely lead to better results in the long run, but you’ll still need to use minoxidil or finasteride after surgery to maintain the results. Like all hair loss treatments, hair transplants are best when combined with other methods, and you’ll want to speak with your doctor to see what combination is best for you.

The Best Hair Loss Treatments: Summed Up

Men’s Rogaine Unscented Foam
Kirkland Signature Regrowth Treatment Minoxidil Foam for Men
HairMax Ultima 12 LaserComb
Best Foam Treatment
Best Budget Foam Treatment
Best Laser Treatment
Application
Men: twice daily
Women: once daily
Men: twice daily
Women: once daily
Once a day (for 8 minutes)
Active ingredient
5% minoxidil
5% minoxidil
FDA approved

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