What Do Dermatologists Prescribe for Hair Loss?
Dermatologists are unsung heroes of the medical world, pioneering countless life-changing–and life-saving–treatments related to skin health and care.
But because the dermatology field is so broad, we often forget that hair health and restoration tend to fall under its umbrella. As it turns out, most hair loss patients visit dermatologists as their first course of action, demonstrating trust and faith in these professionals more broadly.
Today’s hair loss patients want to know what makes a dermatologist qualified to provide hair loss advice and action plans, including prescriptions and alternative treatments.
Does dermatology have the right perspective and approach when saving and restoring hair for men and women, and what other options might you have in the modern medicine landscape?
Let’s examine the connection between dermatology and hair restoration, what these doctors commonly prescribe for hair loss, and why you might consider teaming up with a dedicated hair loss professional in 2022 and beyond.
How Dermatologists See Hair Loss
From a dermatologist’s perspective, hair loss is not on the same level as dangerous skin conditions or severe diseases. However, the psychological effects of hair loss for both men and women should not be discounted, and the dermatology field takes alopecia seriously in all its forms.
To understand why dermatologists prescribe certain medications, let’s first look at hair loss from their point of view and get a glimpse into their diagnostic process from the start.
As all systems of the body are interconnected, it makes sense that dermatologists start hair loss examinations by looking at skin health on the scalp. The skin always tells a story and can provide useful hints as to the underlying cause of hair loss.
From hormone imbalances to liver function and autoimmune issues, these doctors have years of training and experience identifying issues and how they show up in the skin.
For instance, dermatologists will look for signs such as redness, flaking, excessive dandruff, and discoloration that may lead them to additional clues.
At the center of any hair-loss conversation is the quantity and quality of the hair itself. Dermatologists will make assessments based on the Norwood-Hamilton scale for men and the Savin scale for women, determining the severity of hair loss and the likelihood of future trends.
The look and feel of scalp hair in its current state also come into play in a complete examination. Miniaturizing hair has distinctive physical features that can indicate further thinning.
Patients should expect questions regarding their hair health experience and individual hair loss trends over recent months and years: the more detailed info, the better.
So much of what dermatologists encounter is a product of lifestyle, whether it’s diet influencing acne, sun exposure causing wrinkles, or the impact of certain medications on skin health and longevity.
The same principles apply to hair loss and its root causes, as lifestyle factors play a large role in the progression of receding and thinning.
While many people have an unavoidable genetic predisposition towards hair loss, lifestyle can either accelerate the inevitable or stave off the impact of hair loss over time.
There’s no avoiding genetics as a key determinant of hair loss in both men and women. Androgenic alopecia is the primary driver of male pattern balding, and while women generally experience hormonal hair loss, this is also genetically influenced.
While there isn’t much a dermatologist can do about inherited traits, they may ask patients about the history of hair loss in their family to narrow down causes and determine the best course of action.
As with any medical diagnosis, time is of the essence when looking at hair loss and coming up with a plan. Based on the severity of hair loss so far and anticipated patterns, a dermatologist may recommend a unique set of prescriptions and actions that fits the situation more precisely.
For example, someone exhibiting very early stages of hair loss might be encouraged to make minor lifestyle adjustments and try a basic over-the-counter drug. Those with advanced cases will likely need more immediate and severe intervention.
There is a time and place for every type of treatment, and dermatologists should always consider the timing when setting a plan of action.
What Are Commonly Prescribed Drugs for Hair Loss?
Every case of hair loss is unique, and as we’ve discovered, dermatologists draw from a broad range of metrics to reach the correct diagnosis before prescribing any medications or treatments.
However, dermatologists use a handful of commonly prescribed drugs to help hair loss patients at various stages, based on the abovementioned factors.
Here are the top prescriptions and what they aim to accomplish.
A powerful vasodilator, topical minoxidil is one of only two FDA-approved hair loss drugs on the market. Dermatologists emphasize the use of this drug because it fits with their medical framework in which the health of both the skin and hair are inextricably linked.
Minoxidil works by stimulating blood vessels in the target area of the scalp, thereby opening up the channels for increased volume of oxygen, nutrients, and reparative growth factors over time.
Countless trials show that minoxidil effectively improves hair quality and quantity for men and women in two months or less. However, because of this drug’s side effects and complex application, you may want to consider alternatives like hair replacement instead.
While oral finasteride might be for men only, it’s still a proven FDA-backed drug with plenty of supporting evidence. Dermatologists acknowledge the prevalence of DHT as a driver of hair loss in men and prescribe finasteride to counteract the concentration of this compound in the scalp.
The benefits of finasteride include easy administration (just one pill per day) and relatively quick initial results in six weeks.
Cortisone steroid injections are common in dermatology and are typically used to treat severe deep-tissue acne and other skin problems. However, doctors have recently seen promising results with using these injections to limit short-term hair loss in cases involving stress, trauma, adverse medical reactions, and autoimmune conditions.
The average case of androgenetic alopecia will likely not necessitate these injections, but dermatologists know the score when it comes time to use these treatments.
Hair loss shampoos are up for debate regarding efficacy, and dermatologists’ opinions vary widely on the subject.
Some practitioners will recommend branded dandruff shampoos if skin issues persist, but few will promote hair “growth” shampoos that tend to lack clinical support. In most cases, using these products will be a matter of due diligence and safe experimentation on the part of the patient.
Dermatologists vs. Hair Loss Experts | Key Differences
Is there a real difference between how dermatologists and hair loss professionals approach hair restoration, and why does this matter? Let’s look at possible divergences in these practices and explain which works best.
Broad vs. Narrow Area of Focus
Although dermatologists are well-qualified to prescribe medications for hair loss, they have a much wider field of focus compared to hair loss specialists. Remember, dermatology also accounts for skin, nails, and deeper health issues related to each.
Conversely, hair restoration leaders like Dr. Jae Pak focus on maintaining and revitalizing hair with cutting-edge medical tech and tactics.
Understanding Aesthetics and Vision
Not all dermatologists have an eye for how hair should look and feel, focusing instead on the surface-level pharmacology of hair loss.
Instead, you want to work with a hair loss expert who knows about hair aesthetics and how to formulate a unique restoration plan that complements your best natural features in every way.
Therefore, when it comes to prescriptions and procedures like hair transplantation or hairline lowering, be sure to work exclusively with expert surgeons specializing in hair loss.
The Limits of Dermatology for Hair Loss
Dermatologists can get you moving in the right direction for hair restoration.
However, hair loss professionals like Jae Pak, MD, have a deeper, more focused set of experiences and abilities to give patients optimal results, both now and in the future.
What is Dermatology? | Cleveland Clinic
Diagnosing Hair Loss | NYU Langone Health
Find out if Hair Restoration is right for you.
Speak with Jae Pak, M.D. today!