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If you’re balding, it’s a lot harder to grow all your hair back than it is to stop your follicles from disappearing in the first place. Slow the erosion of your hairline with these five dermatologist-approved strategies.
1. Meditation and Exercise
In balding men, periods of rapid shedding are often brought on by stress. The reason? Stress floods your body with the hormone cortisol, and then other hormone levels fluctuate in response, says Melissa Piliang, M.D., a hair-loss expert at Cleveland Clinic
If you’re predisposed to balding, this can speed the process. To better control your stress, you might want to try traditional meditation or, if that’s not your thing, an active meditation regimen such as yoga or tai chi.
Or just commit to getting in better shape.
A 2015 study in PLOS One found that older men with a high level of cardio respiratory fitness release 42 percent less cortisol throughout the day than unfit men do. The stress hormone has been linked to all sorts of diseases.
Minoxidil (Rogaine) probably won’t restore what’s lost, but it can help you hold on to what’s left and even help you regrow a bit. The topical med increases bloodflow as well as oxygen and nutrient delivery to the follicle.
Liquid Rogaine can cause irritation and leave a greasy coating on your hair, so opt for the 5 percent foam, says Dr. Piliang.
.Rub it into your scalp in the morning and again at night for the most benefit. Bonus: Unlike the oral medication finasteride (the other FDA-approved drug, sold as Propecia), minoxidil isn’t linked with erectile dysfunction or decreased libido.
3. Laser Devices
Besides minoxidil and finasteride, laser devices are the only other hair-loss treatment cleared by the FDA in recent years. The devices are sold as wands or Star Wars-worthy helmets for $200 to nearly $900.
In the largest study, published in 2014 in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, men who zapped their scalp three times a week saw a significant increase in hair density after 26 weeks.
One theory is that lasers have an antioxidant effect on hair follicles. But before you rush out to buy a six-pack of combs, understand that “hair growth” doesn’t necessarily mean “hair other people can see.”
You will likely feel it, though, which may have a placebo effect on your confidence.
4. Ketoconazole Shampoo
Swap your standard shampoo for a brand with 1 percent ketoconazole, such as Nizoral ($13 for 7 ounces, drugstore.com). Or ask your doctor to prescribe the 2 percent version.
“It’s marketed as an antidandruff ingredient, but there’s solid research ketoconazole is an anti-androgen,” says Dr. Piliang.
Anti-androgens block the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, the hormone that shrinks hair follicles.
That’s how finasteride works too, but because ketoconazole is confined to the scalp, it doesn’t have the risk of negative sexual side effects, she says.
5. Vitamin D
A British Journal of Dermatology study reported that people with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss, were three times as likely to be D deficient as those with healthy hair. “Vitamin D helps hair reset its growth phase,” explains Dr. Piliang.
To jumpstart your follicles, she recommends taking 2,000 IU a day of vitamin D3, especially in winter when you’re exposed to less sunlight.
But don’t try baking your bald spot in the sun to ramp up your vitamin D production. That might result in an even bigger problem.
“Men should be careful about sun exposure on a balding scalp, since it’s a common location for skin cancers,” Dr. Piliang warns.