Should you trust companies that advertise hair loss solutions and supplements?
You have likely seen many ads for companies offering hair loss medicine and other solutions. What are these products and how do they compare to an in-office visit with a physician?
The patents on commonly used prescription medications for hair loss have expired within the last few years, opening the door for companies to distribute their own generic versions. There is a growing trend of wellness companies selling hair loss solutions, many with famous faces as their spokespeople. Some of these companies sell the same hair loss products that you can receive from a doctor or over-the-counter at the pharmacy, such as minoxidil, finasteride, biotin, salicylic acid shampoos and other topical and oral medications. Although this might be convenient, receiving an in-person evaluation from an experienced physician is important to ensure that you receive the proper care. A board-certified dermatologist will be able to both properly diagnose and determine the exact cause of your hair loss and prescribe the appropriate medication. He/she will also provide proper informed consent regarding the medication so that you may understand the benefits and risks of each treatment. In addition, should one experience side effects or other setbacks during treatment, then your doctor will be available to help. This is not the case with most online prescribing. Medical treatments for hair loss are most effective when started early. Therefore, making sure the diagnosis is correct and that the medications are optimized, will give you the best chance of re-growing your hair and preventing future loss.
Do any supplements actually work for hair loss?
Some of these companies will offer standard hair loss medications but for their own profit “cross-sell” supplements, promising to promote hair growth or promote their own more expensive brand that offers no additional benefit. “There is little scientific support behind the ability of vitamins and supplements to promote hair growth unless the patient has a nutritional deficiency that needs to be corrected,” says Dr. Christine Shaver. “One of the more common nutritional deficiencies seen in the U.S. is anemia (low iron). In this situation, it would be important to first be tested to see if you are indeed deficient and then to receive iron supplementation. Furthermore, excess vitamin supplementation can lead to hair loss. This is particularly a concern with excessive vitamin A intake which can result in hair shedding in a process called telogen effluvium. Finally, biotin is commonly marketed as a hair loss supplement, but is more helpful at improving the quality of nails rather than hair.” Otherwise, most healthy people who follow regular diets do not need supplementation and will not find improvements in their hair loss with taking vitamins or other nutritional hair supplements.
What about doctor’s prescribing prescription medications online?
There are a number of companies that now offer prescription hair loss medication online. In these cases, a physician in a distant location will simply rubber stamp hundreds of prescriptions without even a semblance of a proper medical evaluation. Although it is very convenient, there is no guarantee that you will be getting the right medication for the right diagnosis or even that the medications prescribed will be of good quality.
An in-person examination is essential to confirm the cause for hair thinning in most patients. Pictures or an online video are often not sufficient and cannot adequately diagnose many causes of hair loss which need in-person evaluation with trichoscopy (inspection of the hair and scalp done with magnification). The assumed diagnosis is then treated with medications without providing appropriate informed consent. An in-person consultation allows patients the opportunity to ask questions and express concerns about side effects or risks and receive appropriate counseling. Medications that are then ordered online through these prescription service providers also have questionable quality. There is evidence of a significantly higher rate of counterfeit medications with online suppliers. Finally, should a patient experience a side effect or need an alteration in their regimen, an online doctor portal will often not be able to manage problems. These reasons reinforce the importance that patients see a doctor in-person to have the best chance of receiving appropriate treatment.
Updated: 2023-08-15 | Published: 2021-08-09