Breaking down the myths – hair loss treatments that definitely don’t work

In China, people pay thousands for powdered rhino horn, a trend that is leading to the extinction of the rhinoceros. Buyers believe, despite a complete lack of scientific evidence, that rhinoceros horn can cure ailments such as erectile dysfunction.

Just like the treatment of erectile dysfunction, the hair loss remedy industry is very much full of dangerous scams. In this article, we will discuss the treatments that definitely do not work.

Guava leaves:

Guava leaves are currently a trending treatment for hair loss. Guava leaves for hair loss are promoted in home remedies, hair loss solutions and shampoos. While they are certainly an exotic ingredient, and they do have antioxidant properties, there has never been a properly conducted study in support of its use as a hair loss ingredient. The reality is that while anti-oxidants do have their role in skincare, hair loss in most people is due to androgenic alopecia, which has nothing to do with oxidative stress. Instead, androgenic alopecia is due to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which in prone individuals causes the release of signals that tell your hair follicles to stop growing, or go into permanent senescence.

Keratin supplements and keratin shampoos:

While it is true that human hair is mainly composed of keratin, namely alpha-keratin, there is no evidence that keratin supplements and shampoos can cure hair loss. The reality is that keratin is a fibrous structural protein, and when it gets digested into the body, it gets broken down, like all other proteins into amino acids to be absorbed by the body. Just because keratin may be present in hair there is no reason to believe that the keratin we swallow will make it the hair on our head. Similarly, hair loss involves a disease in the skin and there is no guarantee that keratin that we wash our hair with will make it down to the hair follicle deep within the skin. Any keratin is most likely going to get stopped by the epidermis, the outer barrier layer of skin. Incidentally, our skin is packed with keratin, and are found in abundance in specialised cells called keratinocytes. We don’t need more keratin to reach the hair follicle because that is not what causes any common hair loss disease.

In-clinic laser treatments:

Low level laser therapy is a popular treatment for hair loss. It involves the release of red laser light in low intensities to promote tissue regeneration. Laser devices are available as wearable caps or combs. Caps typically feature many more light emitting diodes and are much higher powered. The idea behind low level laser therapy is that it is meant to stimulate hair follicles into growth or anagen phase instead of staying in their rest phase. In androgenic alopecia, a huge proportion of hairs are in their resting or telogen phase at any one time so baldness can theoretically be improved by stimulating them out of this phase. However, studies showing the effects of low-level laser therapy involve daily use over many months. There is no evidence that weekly or monthly treatments done in a clinic are going to be of any benefit. While they may be more powerful than at home treatments, this may not necessarily a good thing either and may increase the likelihood of damage to hair follicles.

For androgenic alopecia, treatments such as finasteride or minoxidil are far more likely to be of use. Expensive in-clinic laser treatments are often sold with these medications, confusing patients to believe it is actually the laser providing the benefit when in reality it is the medications making the difference.

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