Newsday Discusses Hair Loss and Hair Restoration Treatment with Dr. Bernstein

September 1st, 1999

Dr. Bernstein was interviewed by New York Newsday in their article, “It’s a Hairy Decision Picking a Treatment for Baldness.” The complete article is below:

HEALTH MATTERS COLUMN

Even IF they don’t talk much about it, just about all the guys he knows are taking medication for their thinning hair, said Steve, a retail manager in his early 30s from Suffolk County, NY. He would be too, but he had side effects right away. He’s had consultations for hair transplants, but that won’t work either because of the pattern of his balding.

So he’s using a protein product that makes his hair look fuller, changed his diet to include leafy green vegetables, gone to two psychics for help. And, he said, he’s biding his time, waiting for new hair restoration medications or for hair cloning to hit the marketplace.

“In the ’90s, everything’s about looks,” said Steve, who asked that his last name be kept confidential. “No one wants to give up their youth.” All the effort to find a hair restoration solution is worth it, he said, “because losing my hair bothers me a lot.”

Sure, hair loss isn’t crippling or life-threatening. But to hear people’s tales, it’s traumatic, depressing and embarrassing.

Yet, you’re more likely to get a snicker than a hug for your pains, said Spencer Kobren, 34, a Manhattan consumer activist and author of “The Bald Truth,” (Pocket Books, 1998, $6.99.) There may be few open arms to comfort you, he said, but there are plenty of extended hands to take your trust and your money.

Kobren should know. He has spent several years testing out hair loss products and talking to the experts about his own hair loss, which began at 22. Now he serves as a sounding board and clearinghouse for the good news and the bad about hair loss and its treatments on a syndicated radio show, aired locally on WEVD /1050 AM on Sunday nights.

“You feel like you’re losing a part of yourself. You see your appearance deteriorate, often rapidly and drastically,” he said. You become vulnerable to promises and pitches, but don’t be swayed by them, said Kobren, who now has a full head of hair. Instead, do a lot of research. The wrong hair restoration products or treatments may not only fail to grow hair, they can make matters a lot worse. For example, he said he gets thousands of letters and e-mails about botched hair transplants that leave men scarred, poorer and balder.

According to Kobren, about $7 billion is spent by consumers annually on finding solutions to hair loss. There are about 50 million men who are balding, with at least 20 percent starting in their 20s. Most have male-pattern baldness, genetically linked and triggered by the action of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Hair loss is not just a guy thing, though. Plenty of women — about 20 million — have varying degrees of it too. Hair loss is finally getting recognition as a women’s health problem, said Maggie Greenwood- Robinson, whose book, “Hair Savers for Women” (Three Rivers), is due next spring. Kobren’s “The Truth About Women’s Hair Loss,” (Contemporary) will be out in January. “There are more options than ever before for women with hair loss,” said Greenwood-Robinson, and they shouldn’t give up.

But they do have to be cautious. The diagnosis and treatment for men and women is very different, said Dr. Robert M. Bernstein, assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia College of Physicians arid Surgeons and medical director of the New Hair Institute in Manhattan and Fort Lee, N.J.

“Women usually have a diffuse type of hair loss with thinning all over,” he said, “while men generally lose hair on the front and top and keep a permanent zone on the back and sides.” Female baldness can also be due to DHT, but many women lose hair because of anemia, gynecological issues, thyroid disorders or stress, among other reasons. You don’t want to waste your efforts on hair restoration products when what you need is more iron or different birth control pills. “A medical evaluation is extremely important to rule out underlying medical conditions,” said Bernstein.

The treatment of hair loss is an increasingly complicated decision for both men arid women, but at least there is more information than ever to help you ask the right questions. Web sites include www. thebaldtruth.org and www.regrowth.com. Bernstein’s practice has a Web site at www. newhair.com and a detailed book called “The Patient’s Guide to Hair Restoration.”

Your hair restoration options include:

Medication: Finasteride (brand name Propecia), taken orally by prescription. Available for under two years, Propecia is for men only and causes side effects in about 2 percent of them. It has been shown to stop hair loss in about 87 percent of users and new growth in about half. It’s not for women, because it can cause birth defects if a woman is pregnant, and if she’s past child-bearing age, it doesn’t seem to work.

Minoxidil: (brand name Rogaine), used topically. It can be used by both men and women and appears to slow down the rate of hair loss, but not to prevent balding in the long haul. Any effect from either of these hair restoration medications stops when you no longer use them.

Hair transplant surgery: for men and women. Bernstein has pioneered a state-of-the-art technique called follicular unit transplantation, a precise method using hair-follicle groupings that result in a more natural growth of hair and doesn’t leave scars.

Removing grafts of skin from your head and placing them in balding spots is clearly an art as well as a science. Besides being a good candidate for surgical hair restoration, you need to find a dermatologist with a lot of experience performing hair transplant surgery. Expect to ask many questions, learn the risks, see pictures of other patients and meet them in person.

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Posted by Robert M. Bernstein M.D. on September 1st, 1999 at 3:14 pm

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