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Q: Can Rogaine Cause Miniaturization?

When I am on Rogaine it seems – to my untrained eye – that I am having hair miniaturization and when I stopped briefly, I had shedding. Does this seem accurate based on what you have seen? Can Rogaine cause miniaturization? Is there a point you would recommend I stop Rogaine or is it something that likely can’t cause a negative impact on hair? — B.T., Brooklyn, NY

A: Minoxidil reverses miniaturization. It does not cause it. Shedding can occur after starting use of Rogaine but this means the medication is working should resolve with continued use. New miniaturized hairs are either from the progression of your genetic male pattern hair loss or newly forming hair that was stimulated by the minoxidil which can mimic miniaturized hair.

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Q: My hair is starting to thin in the front, but it is not yet bald. I have been going back and forth about whether to get a hair transplant or use Propecia. I’m not sure what my first step should be. What do you think? — N.K. ~ Pleasantville, N.Y.

A: In general, patients who are thinning, but not actually bald, should begin with combined medical therapy (finasteride and minoxidil) for at least a year prior to considering surgery. In many cases, with this regiment, surgery can be postponed or even avoided completely. Unfortunately, some patients cannot tolerate finasteride or choose not to take it due to concern about potential side effects. Minoxidil, although useful, does not significantly alter the long-term course of hair loss when used alone.

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Dr. Bernstein Interviewed in NY Japion Pt 1

Dr. Bernstein Interviewed in NY Japion Pt 2

Dr. Bernstein was featured in a wide-ranging interview published in the New York City-based, Japanese language magazine NY Japion. Among the topics discussed were the differences between FUT and FUE hair transplants, updates on robotic hair transplant technology, the type of procedure most beneficial for Asian patients, criteria that determine candidacy for a hair transplant, and more. Below are some selections from the interview.

On FUT vs FUE:

FUT is more economical than FUE and also more beneficial for patients who wear their hair longer. However, if your plan is to have the option of wearing your hair short, FUT is not for you. That is because with FUT you will have a fine linear scar after the donor area (the area where strip is removed) is sutured, and this may be seen visible with short hair.

On robotic FUE hair transplantation and the ARTAS Robot:

In the case of ARTAS, an advanced camera system and a computer analyzes images of the scalp and calculates angle and direction of individual hairs, hair density and number of hairs in each follicular unit instantly. Then, based on that calculation, the computer controls the punch so that it goes into the skin at the right angle and depth so that it will not damage hair root and/or surrounding tissues. So far, 135 systems of ARTAS have been installed worldwide. About half of them are in the United States and 11 are in Japan. Currently, 5% of hair transplant treatments are performed with ARTAS worldwide.

On which type of hair transplant is more beneficial for Asian people:

FUE is especially good for Asians, including Japanese. With Asians, scars tend to widen. In addition, Asians usually have coarse hair that grows more perpendicular to the skin than in Caucasian scalps, so a linear scar in the donor area (using FUT) may be more visible — especially if the hair is worn short.

On who is a good candidate for a hair transplant:

Some people are candidates for hair transplantation, but some are not. Since a hair transplant uses a patients’ own hairs and relocates them from the permanent zone in the back of the scalp to areas that are thinning or bald, it is necessary that patients have good and sufficient hairs for that.

On the appropriate age to consider hair transplant surgery:

Hair transplants are not for young people since their future balding is so difficult to predict. Young patients should not consider hair transplant as a technique to prevent hair loss. Prevention is best accomplished by medications. The most effective are Propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine (minoxidil). These medications do have some side effects that need to be considered before starting. In general, hair transplant surgery should not be performed for people under 25. There are exceptions, but I prefer for patients to wait until 30 and over.

Dr. Bernstein’s wife Shizuka Bernstein was born in Tokyo, and the two travel to Japan frequently. Shizuka is a master-aesthetician and owns an award-winning day spa by Rockefeller Center in New York City called Shizuka NY. Shizuka developed her own line of skin-care products based on powerful natural anti-aging ingredients and pure Mt. Fuji spring water. She has been seen on CNN, CNBC, Fox News, The Today Show, The Early Show, CBS’s The Doctors, and E!’s red carpet special leading up to the Primetime Emmy Awards.

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Q: Does minoxidil play any role in the survival of the grafts after a Neograft/FUE procedure? — J.W., Philadelphia, PA

A: When a doctor performs a hair transplant, the hair should be taken from the permanent zone so, by definition, that hair is not affected by medication (i.e. does not need to be maintained by either minoxidil or finasteride). If the doctors using Neograft are suggesting that minoxidil increases survival, then they are probably harvesting hair outside the permanent zone. To clarify, I use the ARTAS robotic system for our FUE procedures, not Neograft, as the former is a far more accurate device for harvesting.

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NYCityWoman.com

Dr. Bernstein was interviewed for an article in NYCityWoman.com that ran the gamut of available treatments for hair loss in women. Read below for some select quotes on a wide range of topics related to hair loss in women and treatments for female patients with androgenetic alopecia (common genetic hair loss).

On the fading stigma of hair loss in women:

“Women today are more comfortable talking about their hair loss.”

On indicators of hormone-driven female hair loss:

“It is typical to have a positive family history of hair loss and the presence of miniaturization (short, fine hairs) in the thinning areas.”

On minoxidil for regrowth of thinning hair:

Rogaine (minoxidil) can increase the quality (length and diameter) of hair that is just starting to thin.”

On the different strengths of Rogaine (minoxidil):

I generally recommend the 5 percent for women and men. Although it’s sold in separate packages for men and women, the basic ingredients are essentially the same.”

On Rogaine Foam:

“It is an elegant mixture, made for compliance,” says Dr. Bernstein. “It is an aerosolized foam, so it is less irritating than liquid Rogaine, but can be more difficult to get directly on the scalp.”

On LaserComb vs. cap-based Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) devices:

“The cap is both easier to use and more effective for very thin hair, due to the greater number of lasers. But for higher-density hair, a laser comb or the LaserBand82 may be more effective, as it’s probably better at getting the laser therapy beam to the scalp.”

On Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) surgery:

FUT hair transplants allow many women to have a completely natural hair restoration, producing a dramatic change in their appearance.”

On Robotic FUE hair transplants:

Robotic FUE allows for unparalleled precision, without any line scars in the donor area and no post-operative limitations on physical activity.”

See before and after photos of some of our female hair transplant patients
Read about the causes, classification, diagnosis and treatment of hair loss in women

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Cosmetic Town

Dr. Bernstein contributed to an article published on the cosmetic surgery portal “Cosmetic Town” about the benefits and usage of Rogaine® (minoxidil) hair loss medication.

The article, “Rogaine for Male Pattern Baldness,” highlights the history of minoxidil as a critical component in managing and reversing hair loss in men and women. Approval of Rogaine for topical treatment of hair loss came in 1987, followed by approval for use by women in 1992.

Rogaine works by lengthening the growth or “anagen” phase of a hair follicle. By doing so, the drug effectively halts and reverses the miniaturization of follicles, a process that, if untreated, ultimately leads to hair loss.

The article also discusses the recommended dosage of Rogaine, a comparison of Rogaine and Propecia, when a patient can expect to see results of medical treatment of hair loss, and other related topics.

Cosmetic Town provides consumers with a knowledgebase of expert doctors in the field of cosmetic surgery. It also features a “before and after” section detailing cosmetic operations by top experts and the testimonials from patients who have been under their care.

You can read the article by clicking here.

Read more about Rogaine (minoxidil)

Read Tips on Using Minoxidil

Watch videos on the medical treatment of hair loss

View Before & After Photos of patients who used Rogaine and/or Propecia to treat their hair loss

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Currently, only two FDA approved medical treatments exist for androgenic alopeciaminoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia) — but these drugs are not effective in all individuals, and to remain effective, both require consistent, daily, life-long use. Additionally, finasteride is not FDA approved for use in women.

Because of the need for additional hair loss treatment options, researchers have begun to look at low-level light laser therapy (LLLT), specifically red and near-infrared LLLT, due to its ability to promote hair growth by stimulating hair follicle cells ((Mester E, Szende B, Tota JG. Effect of laser on hair growth in mice. Kiserl Orvostud 1967;19:628–631.)) — a process called cellular photo-biostimulatiostimulation.

While many studies have investigated the effects of red and near-infrared LLLT on hair loss, specifically in the ranges of 635 to 780nm, there’s been no comprehensive survey of these studies to see if this treatment option has a consistent, positive effect on androgenic alopecia (genetic balding) for men and women.

To answer this question, researchers from the Harvard Medical School surveyed ((Avci P, Gupta GK, Clark J, Wikonkal N, Hamblin MR. Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) for treatment of hair loss. Lasers Surg Med. 2014 Feb; 46(2):144-51.)) five clinical studies designed to measure the effects of LLLT on androgenic alopecia in both men and women. In each case, they found that red and near-infrared LLLT was a safe and effective treatment option for both men and women with genetic balding.

The authors propose that LLLT may work by supporting the anagen (growth) phase of the hair follicles affected by androgenic alopecia while also protecting them from alopecia’s inflammatory effects.

While the results in the studies were positive overall, the authors did note that the most therapeutic light wavelength and dosing remain to be determined.

Read more about Laser Therapy for Hair Loss

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Q: I’ve heard that using Propecia and/or Rogaine is a good idea after having a hair transplant, but are they mandatory? — B.M., Short Hill, N.J.

A: Neither finasteride (brand name: Propecia) nor minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine) will have any effect on transplanted hair. That said, while you don’t need them to protect your transplanted hair, you will likely have original hair interspersed among your transplanted hair that will continue to thin and fall out over time. This vulnerable hair can be protected by finasteride which has been shown to reduce future hair loss significantly; additionally, you can add Rogaine for extra benefit.

However, with Propecia, you should only use it if you can commit to it long-term because it takes up to a full year to see any effect. With Rogaine, you should only use it if you can commit to using it continually and regularly – you should not stop and start it.

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Q: I have done a lot of research over the past year including seeing a dermatologist and receiving consultation from a surgeon. Both recommended Propecia and Rogaine. After my consults I researched these products online and read that they do not work on the front of the scalp to improve my receding hairline, only to regrow hair in the crown area. Can you settle the issue once and for all? Do Propecia and Rogaine work on the front of the scalp? Can they improve my receding hairline? — J.S., Great Falls, Virginia

A: Both Propecia and Minoxidil definitely can work in the front of the scalp as long as there is some hair in the area. Although their mechanisms of action are different, both Propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine (minoxidil) act to thicken miniaturized hair regardless of where it is on the scalp. In fact, there are published data ((Leyden, James et al. “Finasteride in the treatment of men with frontal male pattern hair loss.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 1999 Jun;40(6 Pt 1):930-7.)) demonstrating this improvement with finasteride in a controlled clinical trial of men with frontal hair loss.

The source of the confusion is that the FDA limited the application of the drugs to the crown on the package inserts for both Propecia and Rogaine. The FDA did this because Upjohn (the company that introduced Rogaine) and Merck (Propecia) only tested the medications on the crown in the clinical trials. Logically, the fact that DHT causes frontal hair loss and Propecia works by blocking DHT gives a reasonable explanation for the efficacy of the drug on the front of the scalp. Also, a side effect of the use of minoxidil is facial hair, so how could it not also work on the front of the scalp? It is regrettable that some doctors and many patients think that these medications won’t work on the front of the scalp. Unfortunately, many hair restoration surgeons have done little to educate the public and dispel this myth.

To reiterate, yes, both of these medications can work on the front of the scalp to prevent hair loss and thicken a thinning hairline. However, it is important to note that neither of these medications can grow hair on a totally bald scalp or lower an existing hairline. Hair follicles must exist for the medications to work. It is also important to stress that the best results come from using both finasteride and minoxidil together.

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Since 1993, minoxidil has been the most successful topical treatment for hair loss in both men and women, yet its exact mechanism of action remains unknown.

A 2004 review of minoxidil’s possible mechanisms of action ((Messenger AG, Rundegren J. Minoxidil: mechanisms of action on hair growth. Br J Dermatol. 2004;150(2):186-94.)) suggests that the best evidence supports the idea that minoxidil causes hair follicles in the later phases of their resting phase (telogen) to shift prematurely into an active growth phase (anagen) sooner than they otherwise would; this causes a rapid increase in hair growth. They also found good evidence that minoxidil works to thicken the hair by increasing hair diameter.

While minoxidil’s effects on other critical factors known to affect hair growth — such as cell proliferation, collagen synthesis, vascular endothelial growth factor and prostaglandin synthesis — remain uncertain, more recent research has found evidence that it may also suppress the androgen-androgen receptor responsible for androgenetic alopecia. ((Hsu CL, Liu JS, Lin AC, Yang CH, Chung WH, Wu WG. Minoxidil may suppress androgen receptor-related functions. Oncotarget. 2014;5(8):2187-97.))

Understanding minoxidil’s exact mechanism of action remains today an important line of research both for the development of better hair loss treatments and for a better understanding of the biology of hair growth.

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Q: I have been using an increased dosage of Propecia now for around 8 months and Rogaine for about 6 months. I know that shedding can be expected for the first 3-6 months, but I believe I am now beyond that timeframe. Have you seen cases in which these products merely exacerbate hair loss without the expected regrowth? — N.E., Travilah, Maryland

A: It is a bit long to still see shedding, but from my experience, either the medications are working (and you are still in the shedding phase) or you are not responding to them. I have not seen minoxidil or finasteride worsen hair loss. My advice would be to continue the same course for at least a year before re-evaluating their use.

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Crown Balding and Heart Disease Linked in British Medical Journal Study

A new meta-analysis of six studies, published in the British medical journal BMJ Open, has found a linkage between balding at the crown and coronary heart disease. While the top-line result of the study may be alarming, let us look first at some of the key facts.

  • While the study showed a modest link between crown balding and heart disease, the link was not as strong as for other heart disease indicators such as smoking, obesity, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
  • There was no link established for men with a receding hair line.
  • Key indicators of heart disease — high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking — are present in about half of Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control in America. So this is a health issue faced by many Americans, hair loss or not.
  • Importantly, the most appropriate response if you have balding at the crown (and particularly crown balding at an early age), is not to worry first and foremost about your hair, but to concentrate on basic heart health and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Discuss these issues and any concerns with your primary care physician.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan compiled information from six different studies with a combined total of almost 37,000 male participants. The studies were published between 1993 and 2008. Although one of the six studies did not find a link between baldness and coronary heart disease, the other five studies did find a link with the strength of the association differing in each study. In general, the more severe the balding at the crown, the more likely there was an association with heart disease. In addition, early onset of vertex balding — i.e. early balding at the crown — was found to be associated with the early development of more significant heart disease.

More research needs to be done to investigate the actual medical causes of the linkages shown.

An article on the BBC News website quotes a cardiac nurse from the British Heart Foundation discussing the findings:

“Although these findings are interesting, men who’ve lost their hair should not be alarmed by this analysis. Much more research is needed to confirm any link between male pattern baldness and an increased risk of coronary heart disease. In the meantime, it’s more important to pay attention to your waistline than your hairline.”

Image c/o BBC online

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Q: The last few months my friend and I experimented with andro gel thinking it would make our T levels go up and make our work outs better. We got the andro gel online with no prescription (which I know is really stupid on our behalf). The past couple of months I have been experienced a lot of acne and hair loss. I went to the doctor and confessed and said what I did, and he was very disappointed and lectured me on how dangerous it was and stupid on my behalf – which I totally agree. He told me the rise in testosterone from andro gel contributed to the acceleration of hair thinning and acne. I had mild hair loss prior but the andro gel seem to have accelerated it. The doctor put me on Propecia and gave me some acne cream for the acne. He said the Propecia will undo some of the damage it did for the hair. In your experience, can Propecia reverse some of the damage? I am 28 years old.

A: Your doctor is giving you the right course of action. Testosterone supplements can accelerate hair loss, particularly in those with underlying genetic hair loss. Finasteride 1mg (Propecia) should help you to grow your hair back. You may also want to consider using minoxidil (Rogaine) in addition.

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Q: Have you any experience with Azelaic Acid as a hair loss treatment — is this something you would recommend using with Rogaine (minoxidil) 2% or 5% solutions? — S.V., Short Hills, N.J.

A: Azeleic acid has no direct benefit in promoting hair growth. Azelaic acid (like retinoic acid) increases the absorption of minoxidil, but also the side effects, so I would especially not recommend it in your case.

Read more about Rogaine (minoxidil)

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Hair Restoration in Women, Dr. Bernstein Featured in 'New You' Magazine

Dr. Bernstein and Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration were featured in New You magazine’s article “My Hair Lady.” The main topic of the article is hair transplantation in women, however it also touches on hair loss in women, Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT), medication and other products.

On Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration:

The Manhattan office of Bob Bernstein, just steps from Park Avenue, is the kind of space that makes successful men feel at home — a good thing for one of the country’s foremost specialists in hair restoration (and the co-author of Hair Loss for Dummies). The layout is part design statement, part science lab, slick with granite, slate, and glass and full of microscopes and high tech gizmos. Among the space’s most noteworthy gadgets is one of only twelve robots in the world programmed to help perform hair transplants, which has a home in Dr. Bernstein’s office.

A female patient of ours discussing the “taboo” of hair transplantation in women:

Sara Lyles, 62, whose hair loss was caused by a styling technique, said that when Dr. Bernstein performed her hair transplant 12 years ago, the subject was taboo. “Women never talked about it, and I was so embarrassed that I avoided all social functions,” she recalls. “I’m African American and I slept in large tight rollers to keep frizzing under control. The traction destroyed my frontal hairline.”

At the time, she would have been mortified if someone found out she had undergone a transplant. “Even my hairdresser had no clue,” she says. “Dr. Bernstein not only gave me my hair back, he gave me my life back.”

Dr. Bernstein on the amazing progress of the hair restoration industry:

As Dr. Bernstein emerges from his operating room, sporting green scrubs and green Nikes that match the room’s tiles, he shakes his head and sighs. “When I went into practice back in the eighties, transplantation was almost barbaric and Rogaine was the only alternative,” he remembers. He marvels at the advances and choices he and others now have to over. “I never would have thought I would be working with robots, lasers, and cloning.”

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Q: Doctor Bernstein, I was looking at your website and saw the photos of medical hair loss treatments only, with Rogaine and Propecia. Doctor, are all those pictures just with medical treatments or is there concealers as well? I don’t mean to sound rude or disrespectful, but are the pics all real and genuine? Those are some impressive responses to medical treatment. — A.D., Scarsdale, NY

A: The photos are un-retouched and without concealers. These are responses to medical treatment alone. Yes, medications (finasteride and minoxidil) can work really well in select patients. Patients with early stages of thinning usually respond the best. Contrary to popular belief, the medications can work in the front part of the scalp, as long as the area is not shiny bald.

Perhaps about 1/3 of patients respond well enough to be put on the site. Most others have a good response, but not necessarily improvement significant enough to be easily noticeable in photos.

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Q: Are the “result” photos from taking Propecia and using Rogaine legitimate? Some of the after photos look too good to be real and a few patients looked like they combed their hair to look like they had more coverage. — T.Y., Darien, Connecticut

A: The before and after photos of patients using Propecia and Rogaine are my patients. All photos on our website are un-retouched. When patients have a good response to medical therapy, they often have more flexibility in how they can groom and style their hair. This is reflected in the photos.

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Q: I am taking finasteride as you prescribed. You also suggested using minoxidil liberally over the entire front and top of my scalp once a day. During our meeting I think that you said that once I start using this I would not be able to stop it, and, if I did, it might lead to further hair loss. Hence, I decided to use the laser comb three times a week in addition to the finasteride. Having said that, if you still feel I should start using minoxidil daily, I will start doing so. — H.K., Brooklyn, NY

A: Stopping therapy doesn’t lead to further hair loss in that it doesn’t accelerate it; you just continue on the path that you would have been without the treatment. When you stop, there may be an initial shedding as you quickly lose any benefits that you had from the treatment.

The following applies to all three treatments: finasteride, minoxidil, and laser therapy:

  1. Only work when you use it
  2. Reversion to where you would have been when you stop (but not worse)

However, the important issue is efficacy:

Finasteride >> minoxidil > laser therapy

This is the reason I recommended finasteride and minoxidil.

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Q: Scalp Med is supposed to unclog pores. How does this prevent hair loss? — O.P., Trenton, NJ

A: The active ingredient of Scalp Med is Minoxidil, which will help reverse miniaturization, the process that causes androgenetic hair loss. Hair loss is not caused by clogged pores, so unclogging them will not prevent going bald. Minoxidil, which is also the active ingredient in Rogaine, is over-the-counter so it is a less expensive way to use the active ingredient.

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Q: I saw your post on the clinical trials of Latisse (bimatoprost) for hair loss on the scalp. What is the status of the study? — B.V., New Providence, NJ

A: Allergan, the company that makes Latisse, conducted safety and efficacy testing of three formulations of the drug for men with androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness). Latisse is a drug that is approved by the FDA to help eyelash growth at a concentration of 0.03 %. The drug is applied daily to the upper eyelid.

Allergan studied the results of three formulations of Latisse (Bimatoprost .03% Opthalmic Solution) comparing them to results of a control option and also an over-the-counter minoxidil 5% solution. The drugs were applied directly to the scalp, and the progression of hair loss was measured.

This study began in June 2011 and the results were published in April 2014. The results of the study did not indicate that Latisse would be a viable alternative to use on the scalp to prevent hair loss.

It should also be noted that the cost of bimatoprost, the active ingredient in Latisse is significantly more expensive than minoxidil, the active ingredient in Rogaine. This means that even if the two treatments were equally effective, it would be cost-prohibitive to treat baldness with Latisse.

Latisee (Bimatoprost .03% Opthalmic Solution) has not been FDA approved for the treatment of scalp hair loss.

For more information, view the results and details of the study on ClinicalTrials.gov .

Read more about Latisse/Bimatoprost.

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Sometimes an “accident” in the laboratory can lead to a remarkable breakthrough. Penicillin, Botox, Viagra, and Minoxidil — the active ingredient in Rogaine — were all unintended discoveries that led to treatments for a variety of conditions.

A similar twist of fate, this time by researchers at UCLA, could lead scientists to a new hair loss treatment.

Mice had been bred to overproduce a stress hormone that causes them to lose their hair. The scientists’ intention was to study the effects of a chemical compound, called astressin-B, on blocking the effects of stress on the mouse colon.

What they saw, however, surprised them. The mice that were treated with the chemical had fully regrown their hair. After repeating the results, the researchers injected the chemical into young mice, which were similarly genetically altered but had yet to lose their hair. Those mice never lost their hair despite the fact that they, too, were bred to overproduce the stress hormone.

Whether this discovery will lead to a drug that cures common baldness in human beings, or whether such a cure will only affect hair loss due to stress, is unknown at this early stage.

For further reading on this discovery, see articles in Dermatology Times and the New York Times, as well as the primary scientific publication in the journal PLoS ONE.

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Q: I am about 3 months post-op after my hair restoration procedure. I have noticed some hair shedding in the frontal part of my scalp. I have continued both Propecia and Minoxidil. Is there anything I can do and should I be concerned? — M.B., Chicago, IL

A: Shedding of some of the patient’s existing hair in, and around, the area of a hair transplant is a relatively common occurrence after a hair transplant and should not be a cause of concern. The mechanism appears to be a normal response of the body to the stress of the hair restoration surgery -– i.e., site creation, adrenaline in the anesthetic etc. Some doctors claim that their hair transplant techniques are so “impeccable” that their patients do not experience shedding. This is a false claim. Although using very small recipient sites and limiting the use of epinephrine may mitigate shedding somewhat, shedding is a normal part of the hair transplant process and the risk is unavoidable.

It appears that a person’s normal, non-miniaturized hair, as well as transplanted hair, is somewhat less subject to shedding than hair that is actively miniaturizing (thinning from the effects of DHT). In addition, if transplanted hair or non-miniaturized hair is shed, it will grow back. If miniaturized hair is lost, however, it may or may not return.

Since both finasteride and minoxidil reverse the miniaturization process, they should decrease the amount of hair at risk from shedding after hair transplant surgery. This has been our clinical experience, but it is important to note that as yet there have been no scientific studies to support this view.

At this time there is not much you can do except to be patient and wait for the newly transplanted hair to grow in and for the shed hair to return. Of course, make sure you continue to take finasteride and/or minoxidil if the doctor has prescribed it for you.

Read more on the topic of Shedding After a Hair Transplant.

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Q: I started using both Propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine for roughly the past 15 weeks. In the last month I’ve been experiencing pain in my left testicle area. At first I thought this may be due to Varicocele; however, after some quick internet searches I thought it may also be the Propecia. The pain doesn’t seem to be in the testicle itself as much as the surrounding veins on the left side. What should I do? — B.L., Houston, TX

A: Your symptoms are the classic ones of a varicocele, namely pain on the left side that is adjacent to the testicle. Symptoms of finasteride would more likely be bilateral, although the discomfort does not need to be in the testicle itself. If your symptoms are worse at the end of the day when you have been standing, and less in the AM when you first arise, these suggest a varicocele.

In your pain is consistently worse towards the end of the day, I would see a urologist, as surgical intervention might be warranted, particularly if it is affecting sperm counts – which should be checked as part of the evaluation.

If this is not the case, then stop finasteride for a least a month and see if the symptoms subside. If they do go away off finasteride, I would not take the medication again. If the symptoms persist off finasteride, I would still see a urologist.

Read more about Propecia in our section on hair loss medications.

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Men's Health - Hair HealthMen’s Health has published a new spotlight, called “Hair Health.” The multi-article spotlight is featured on the magazine’s website homepage and covers a wide variety of topics related to men’s hair loss and hair transplant surgery. Dr. Bernstein was asked to contribute to the series of articles, including an “expert advice” feature which answers five commonly-asked questions about hair loss myths.

The centerpiece articles in the spotlight include the article, “Scalped,” which details the best treatments for hair loss in men, and, “Keep Plugging Away,” about best-practices on finding a great doctor who can treat your hair loss.

In “Scalped,” Dr. Bernstein speaks to the urgency of halting your hair loss using Propecia and Rogaine, while he cautions younger patients on the side effects of the drug Dutasteride:

“Start [Propecia and Rogaine] as soon as your hair begins to thin for the best results.”

[…]

“The reproductive side effects [of Dutasteride] — decreased libido and ejaculation disorders — may be persistent, so I don’t usually recommend this medication for younger patients.”

On hair transplantation, Dr. Bernstein says:

“Hair transplants are most appropriate for people who have not responded to medical treatments.”

“Keep Plugging Away,” centers on hair transplant surgery and the repair of hair transplants that used out-dated, large, “pluggy” hair grafts. Dr. Bernstein – the hair transplant physician most responsible for the new pioneering techniques of follicular unit transplantation and follicular unit extraction – had this to say about hair transplant repair:

“Reversing the unnatural appearance of older plugs is more involved than using the right technique in the first place,” he says. “But in most cases, it can be accomplished with excellent results.”

Visit the “Hair Health” feature online at MensHealth.com.

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Q: I am a 34 year old male and my dermatologist prescribed Propecia for me today. Most of my hair loss is at the hairline, but there is some loss on top as well. It’s not bad, I just want to stay ahead of it. If I get a transplant I want to get it at your clinic, but I will give the Propecia a try first. I am going to be overseas for a couple of months starting this Sunday and I was wondering about the necessity or desirability of having someone measure my hair density prior to starting the Propecia. Would you advise waiting to start the Propecia until I come back in two months and having my density examined at your clinic? — M.R., Great Falls, Virginia

A: I would start Propecia as soon as possible. What is important for a hair transplant is the density in the donor area and this is not affected by Propecia (or minoxidil). Your donor density can be measured anytime at an evaluation prior to surgery. If you want to wait to see the effects of Propecia prior to the hair transplant, you really should wait a year; since growth, if any, can take this long. If you just want to have Propecia on board for the hair restoration procedure, or to make sure you don’t have side effects, then generally a month will do. If you would like to do a photo consult through our website to get some preliminary information about how many grafts you might need, you can do that at your leisure, but start Propecia now since the longer you wait the less effective it will be at regrowing hair.

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Q: You mentioned that the hair at my crown and other areas where I now have baldness hasn’t really fallen off but has thinned to a great extent and that taking Rogaine and Propecia might help increase their thickness. If the medications do restore the hair thickness, I’m curious why you said that I could look like how I was 1 to 2 years ago. Technically, shouldn’t I be able to regain much more of my hair (and look like how I was longer than before that) since the follicles are all still there? — H.D., Park Slope, NY

A: Although Propecia is much more effective than Rogaine, even when used together, the medications are just not that effective in reversing the miniaturization process. They may bring you back to the way you were a few years ago, but will not restore your adolescent density.

Read more about hair density and miniaturization, Propecia, Rogaine, and other hair loss medication.

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Q: You said I was not a good candidate for a hair transplant because my donor area was too thin. Since finasteride and minoxidil can increase the thickness of the hair, could it make a hair transplant possible?

A: Unfortunately, the medication will not affect the donor area and, therefore, not make a person with low donor density a candidate for a hair transplant.

Read more about the role of the donor area in a hair transplant and the effects of finasteride and minoxidil.

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WABC-TV Eyewitness News; channel 7 in New York, NY; featured Dr. Bernstein in a special report on hair loss and hair loss medications. In particular, the report, by ABC correspondent Kemberly Richardson, asked Dr. Bernstein about the effectiveness of Propecia/Finasteride and Rogaine/Minoxidil in the treatment of male pattern hair loss.

The report also featured the new Consumer Reports consumer survey on the same hair loss treatments. Consumer Reports Health & Family Senior Project Editor Tod Marks details how the more than 8,000 consumers who took part in the survey rated the performance of the medications.

Watch the report:

For more on the news report, visit Coping With Hair Loss at ABC News.

For more on the Consumer Reports survey, visit Baldness remedies at Consumer Reports Health. Note: a subscription to ConsumerReportsHealth.org is necessary to view the complete findings of the survey.

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Q: At what level of thinning should the hair transplant be done? — V.K., London, UK

A: A hair transplant should be considered in an area of thinning when:

  • The area has not responded to medical therapy (finasteride 1mg a day orally and minoxidil 5% topically for one year).
  • The thinning is significant enough that it can’t be disguised with simple grooming (i.e. is a cosmetic problem even when the hair is combed well).

Other factors that are important include:

  • the age of the patient
  • the donor supply
  • whether the thinning is in the front of the scalp or in the crown
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Q: I have been using Rogaine and Propecia, but recently purchased a bottle of Nioxin Cleanser/Shampoo. However, I am reluctant to apply it because I have noticed that the Nioxin website recommends against mixing Nioxin products with Rogaine products. The website does not give a chemical/medical explanation, and I have read that the admonishment may be a function of the fact that the two brands have competing products. Do you think that it is safe or advisable to use the Nixon shampoo? Is there any indication that this product is even effective? Also, I have biotin supplements but I’m also reluctant to take them because I’m beginning to feel like a human pharmacy laboratory. Any advice?

A: Nioxin has no active ingredients that can grow hair. There is an increased incidence of scalp irritation when used with Rogaine – i.e., the likely reason for their warning. I would stick with the medications that are proven to work, i.e. finasteride and minoxidil.

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Bizymoms.com, the premier work-at-home community on the Internet with more than 5 million visitors per year, has interviewed Dr. Robert M. Bernstein in order to answer readers’ common questions about hair restoration and hair loss.

Below is a sample of the interview:

Q: Who would be a good candidate for hair transplant surgery?

In general, men and women age 30 and older can be candidates, but there are a host of factors that determine if a person is a good candidate…

Q: How does hair transplantation work?

Hair removed from the permanent zone in the back and sides of the scalp continues to grow when transplanted to the balding area in the front or top of one’s head…

Q: What can be done for people dissatisfied with previous mini/micrograft procedures?

If the grafts are too large they can be removed, divided into smaller units under a microscope, and re-implanted back into the scalp (the same day)…

Q: What are the possible harmful effects of Propecia and Rogaine?

The main side effect of Propecia (finasteride 1%) is sexual dysfunction, which occurs in about 2-4% of men taking the drug. Fortunately, these side effects are completely reversible when the medication is stopped. […] The main side effect of Rogaine (minoxidil) is scalp irritation. […] Both Propecia and Minoxidil can produce some hair shedding at the beginning of treatment, but this means that the medications are working…

Q: How many grafts/hairs are needed for hair transplant surgery?

An eyebrow restoration can require as few as 200 grafts, a hairline 800 and a scalp, with significant hair loss, 2,500 or more grafts. An equally important consideration is the donor supply…

Q: What are the advanced hair transplant techniques?

Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT), where hair is transplanted exclusively in naturally occurring follicular units, is the state-of-the art. […] A more recent means of obtaining the donor hair, the follicular units are extracted individually from the back of the scalp. This procedure, called Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) eliminates the need for a line-scar, but is a less efficient procedure for obtaining grafts…

Q: What are the new hair restoration treatments available for men and women?

Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) utilizes cool lasers to stimulate hair growth and reduce shedding of hair. […] Latisse (Bimatoprost) is an FDA approved topical medication for eyelash growth.

Go to Bizymoms.com to read the full interview.

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Q: Is using Minoxidil combined with Retin-A better than regular Minoxidil for Hair Loss? — L.W., Gowanus, New York

A: Minoxidil has been prescribed (off-label) in combination with other medications, such as topical retinoic acid (Retin-A), to enhance its penetration into the skin and thus increase its effectiveness. This combination of medications can increase the absorption of minoxidil into the bloodstream and may increase the risk of potential side effects, including changes in blood pressure and scalp irritation. It is important to use combination therapy under the supervision of a physician.

If person wants to add Retin-A to the minoxidil regime, the Retin-A should be applied only once a day, since the Retin-A will bind to the skin and will last for at least 24 hours.

Applying Retin-A more frequently will not increase its effectiveness (in facilitating the absorption of minoxidil); it will only increase the incidence of side effects. Retin-A can be applied to the scalp at the same time as Minoxidil, or by itself.

Explore the pro’s and con’s of Minoxidil — also known by its over-the-counter product Rogaine — at the Rogaine/Minoxidil page or by viewing posts tagged with Rogaine (minoxidil).

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New York Times - Hair TransplantThe New York Times interviewed Dr. Bernstein for a full-length article on hair loss and hair transplant options for women interested in hair restoration. The article – titled, “Tricks and Transplants for Women’s Hair Loss” – covered modern hair transplantation techniques, hair transplant costs, camouflage techniques, and more.

Read below for some excerpts of the article:

Exploring Your Options:

Hairstylists, impressed with how realistic the “new” transplanted hair looks, recommend doctors to clients who are tired of hiding their hair loss with layers or high- and lowlights. “I’ve seen bad jobs,” said Seiji Kitazato, the creative director at Frédéric Fekkai on Fifth Avenue, who refers clients to a few surgeons. “But now you can’t even tell.”

Still, not every woman of the millions who suffer from hair loss is a candidate. Underlying conditions, including anemia and thyroid problems, that are temporary, treatable or affect the scalp rather than the hair, must be dealt with before a transplant can be considered. If a transplant is ruled out, sufferers must rely on wigs, hairpieces or styling tricks.

What’s more, “most medications can cause hair loss, some more frequently than others,” said Dr. Robert M. Bernstein, a clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University who has a restoration center in Manhattan.

A transplant is an option only for a woman who has a thick enough area of hair from the back and sides to “donate” to a more paltry part of her scalp. But many women don’t experience this kind of localized balding; instead their entire head of hair thins out during menopause or as they age.

Buyer Beware:

So the incentive to treat any and all comers is high. “It’s a big problem,” Dr. Bernstein said. “You shouldn’t go to someone who will give a transplant to anyone who walks in the door.” If your condition is not properly assessed, you could permanently shed more hair after surgery than you gained, he warned, or if the hair transplanted wasn’t stable, “it would disappear.”

Before Hair Transplant Surgery:

If you’re suffering hair loss, see a dermatologist first, not hair transplant surgeons, said Dr. Robert M. Bernstein, a dermatologist in Manhattan who specializes in hair restoration. After determining a cause, dermatologists can offer advice about options from the medical to the surgical. Many women with hair loss try Women’s Rogaine, a solution with 2 percent minoxidil that is applied to the scalp, twice daily. Others prefer Rogaine’s foam for men, because it has 5 percent minodixil, dries quickly and feels less greasy. (But even the women’s formulation warns to discontinue use if facial-hair growth occurs.)

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Q: I started thinning and saw more hair in the tub. I began Rogaine and stopped shampooing every night and is seems that there is now more coming out every time I shower. What is going on? — E.U., Short Hills, NJ

A: Rogaine can cause shedding at the beginning of treatment (i.e. in the first 3 months) but this is expected as it causes some hair to begin a new cycle of shedding and re-growth. This means the medication is working.

Another reason for your apparent shedding is that the less you wash your hair, the more will be lost each time. Go back to shampooing every day and see what happens.

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Q: Do you think there is a difference in the efficacy between the 5% Rogaine foam or liquid formula? — N.N., Dallas, TX

A: In theory, the foam should be as effective as the original solution (liquid). However, an important part of the efficacy is getting the medication directly onto the scalp – rather than just on the hair.

For patients who are applying the medication to areas with a significant amount of hair, using the solution with a dropper applicator enables the medication to best reach the scalp. Because of this, I prefer that patients use the solution with a dropper applicator if they are using the medications in areas with a significant amount of hair. If patients find the solution irritating to the scalp (or too messy) and the foam less so, then using the foam is better than nothing.

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Q: I am interested in a hair transplant, but am turned off by the apparent side effects of follow up Propecia. Could herbs serve the purpose of Propecia? Regarding laser treatments, do they work on their own, or do you need drugs to supplement? Can laser damage in some cases, rather than benefit? It seems odd that laser therapy has been undertaken in Europe for 10 years, yet there are no published studies on the results. Might this be because it doesn’t work in the longer term? — D.D., Richmond, U.K.

A: Finasteride is the best medication. Herbs are not particularly effective for hair loss. You should consider trying finasteride.

If you are in the 2% group that has side effects with Propecia, just stop taking the medication. If you do not experience side effects, then there is no problem taking the medication long-term. Hair transplant surgery doesn’t prevent the progression of hair loss. That is why it is used in conjunction with medication.

Laser therapy can cause shedding initially (as can Propecia and Rogaine), but this means it is working. It does not cause actual hair loss. Your skepticism of the value of Laser therapy long term is one we have as well. Keep in mind, however, that while long-term studies are extremely important, they are very hard and costly to run and there is little incentive for companies to do this.

It is interesting that the FDA does not require longer term data on medications or devices that need to be used on a continued basis.

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Q: Medical information suggests that Rogaine works for about 50% of the men who try it. Does Rogaine actually worsen hair loss in some men? The Rogaine website states that during the first three weeks of use Rogaine causes increased shedding. If true, would intermittent use of Rogaine make hair loss worse even in men for whom Rogaine would work if applied daily as directed? — V.C. Greenpoint, Brooklyn

A: Rogaine, the brand name for the drug Minoxidil, does not worsen hair loss, but can cause initial shedding (which actually shows that the drug is working).

The medication should be used on a continuous basis for the long-haul. Intermittent use of the drug, or pulsing, makes no medical sense.

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Q: I recently had a hair transplant about a month ago. Currently I’m on Propecia and I am a stickler to taking it at the same time every day. I don’t, however, use Rogaine namely because I fear the irritation it can possibly cause will halt graft growth and because I’ve heard that the grafts and post-surgical shock loss hair will return without its use. Is it ok to use only Propecia post-surgically? Or would adding Rogaine be of any significant benefit? — L.B., Rye, NY

A: I would definitely stay on Propecia (finasteride) and, if you like, you can add Rogaine (minoxidil) – it may have a little additional benefit. The 5% foam formulation is less irritating and can be started a week after the hair transplant.

The only problem with Rogaine is compliance. If you think that you will use it long-term, it is worth using. If, however, you think that you will get tired of it and stop, then it is not worth starting.

Any shedding with either medication is temporary and usually indicates that the drug is working.

Read about Rogaine (minoxidil)
Read about Propecia (finasteride)

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Q: I am 25 year old who just started going bald. My doctor confirmed that I have pattern baldness and put me on Propecia and Rogaine. I don’t want to go bald at any age. So, instead of prolonging the process for 5-10 years and then having a hair transplant, isn’t it easier to just let the hair loss continue and then have a HT, so that I can save the money on drugs for years. — Z.B., Greenwich, C.T.

A: It is far better to keep your own hair using medical therapy. The medications (i.e. finasteride and minoxidil) are relatively inexpensive if use the generic forms and will be far less expensive than surgery – even on the long-term. Keeping your own hair will look fuller than a hair transplant, since a hair transplant just re-distributes a diminishing amount existing hair. When the ability to multiply hair (cloning) is available this, of course will change, but this technology is still years away.

Read about the Candidacy for a Hair Transplant

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Q: Our dermatologist originally suggested our son use the 5% Rogaine and he developed an allergic reaction to it. Allergy tests confirmed it was the propylene glycol causing the reaction. I understand that Rogaine foam has 5% minoxidil in it but no propylene glycol. Is that correct? — B.M., Lower East Side, N.Y.

A: In addition to minoxidil 5%, Rogaine Foam contains: butane, butylated hydroxytoluene, cetyl alcohol, citric acid, fragrance, glycerin, isobutane, lactic acid, polysorbate 60, propane, purified water, SD alcohol 40-B, stearyl alcohol — but no propylene glycol.

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Q: I am a 33 year old women and am just starting to thin on the top of my scalp behind my frontal hairline. What should I do? Should I have a hair transplant?

A: There are a number of things that you should consider that can be effective in early hair loss. These include minoxidil (Rogaine), laser therapy, and using cosmetics specifically made to make the hair appear fuller. Lightening or streaking the hair, as well as parting the hair off to the side, will also make the hair appear fuller.

If a surgical hair restoration is performed too early and there is still a lot of existing hair in the area, the hair transplant may actually accelerate hair loss. Surgery should not be performed prematurely.

Also, it is important that the doctor check the stability of the donor area, using densitometry, to make sure that the procedure is even possible. For those women who are good candidates, and if it is done at the appropriate time, a follicular unit hair transplant is a great procedure that can produce really natural results.

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Q: I heard that Rogaine only works on the crown and not on the front or top of the scalp. Is this true? — D.D., New Haven, Connecticut

A: Rogaine (Minoxidil) has the potential to work where ever there is miniaturized hair, either the front, top or crown (however, it will not work in areas that are completely devoid of hair).

The reason for the misconception that it will not work in the front is because the clinical trial performed by Merck in the 1980’s, that led to FDA approval, only studied the vertex (crown) and thus the company was limited to this labeling. Several years later, Merck realized that this was a misjudgment in the design protocol and ran a new study (approximately one fifth the size of their Phase III vertex trial) to document effectiveness of the drug in the front of the scalp. This allowed them to avoid the vertex restriction in their label.

Another reason for the confusion is that since the hair in the crown seems to have a longer miniaturization phase than hair in the temples, there is a greater window of time in which the medication can act on these hairs. This goes for both minoxidil and finasteride (Propecia).

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Q: Are there any side effects to the laser comb?

A: There can be an early temporary hair shedding in some patients. This is felt to be due to an acceleration of the hair cycle and is probably a mechanism similar to the one that causes early shedding when using Rogaine (Minoxidil) or Propecia (Finasteride).

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Q: The makers of the HairMax LaserComb have claimed that it will “revolutionize the hair growth industry.” What do you think?

A: This claim is obviously overstated.

Since the Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) doesn’t affect the action of DHT on hair follicles, it doesn’t affect the underlying cause of genetic hair loss, and thus would be expected only to have limited effectiveness. The company’s own studies show that this is, indeed, the case.

It was also predicted that Rogaine would revolutionize the field of hair restoration and it had little impact.

In my opinion, only finasteride has made a significant impact on the long-term course of hair loss, particularly in its ability to postpone the need for surgical intervention such as hair transplants.

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