Recent advances in the understanding of male pattern hair loss mean we’re closer than ever to a cure. But there’s a lot of information out there, and it’s sometimes a matter of connecting the dots and seeing the links. In this article, we’ll look at two related hair loss therapies and the common links between them.
Scalp massage revisited
A while back, Top Hair Loss Treatments looked at whether scalp massage could be used to stop or reverse hair loss.
I know, it sounds too simple to be true.
However, there is actually a surprising amount of evidence which suggests it may really be effective. From clinical trials to photographic evidence, there is a growing amount of support for scalp massage as a hair loss treatment. If you’re curious to learn more, check out the article and decide for yourself.
What’s also interesting are the comments. Whilst there are a few reports saying scalp massage did nothing, there are a bunch of success stories too:
“I’ve also noticed lots of new hair growth on my crown area. My hair looks much heathlier and thicker.”
“So about 4 months ago I found about scalp massage method, and I decide to try it […] and guess what my bold pattern started disappearing after 3 months!! hurray! And my hair got much thicker.
“I’m at month 4 now and almost all my hair has come back!”
I was just as sceptical as you probably are regarding scalp massage. But given these reports, and the evidence discussed in the articles, I’m starting to think there’s something to it.
Not only that, I came across this video the other day:
The interesting part – at least with regards to hair loss – starts at around 34 minutes.
Application of mechanical force – perhaps the kind caused by scalp massage – appears to cause various changes in gene expression. If you read the previous article on scalp massage for hair loss, you’ll remember that this was also observed in this 2016 study.
The Christopher Walken method – hair pulling
Speaking of out there hair loss treatments – try this on for size.
In a 2004 interview, actor Christopher Walken attributed his fantastic head of hair to a rather bizarre method: hair pulling.
He rises early and runs two miles on a treadmill that dominates his small suite. Then he showers and vigorously yanks his hair for 10 minutes. […] “Tony Perkins taught me to yank it to increase the blood flow,” Walken says. ”I can’t explain it.”
And yes, it sounds even crazier than scalp massage, but maybe there’s something to this claim…
But before you get carried away, it’s almost certainly not advisable to ‘yank’ your hair as Christopher Walken describes. Trichotillomania is a psychiatric disorder characterised by excessive hair pulling – and no, most people who suffer from it do not have thick heads of hair.
That said, the principle of the ‘Walken method’ appears to be the same as scalp massage: mechanotherapy. Scalp massage is without doubt the safer way to go about it though.
Derma roller hair regrowth: more evidence
A related hair loss therapy we’ve also covered previously is derma roller microneedling.
In the previous article we looked at what was then the only known trial of microneedling for hair loss. It’s worth once again looking at the phenomenal results achieved through this relatively new treatment:
It’s important to point out that the microneedling treatment was used in conjunction with the established hair loss treatment minoxidil. Even so, these results were demonstrated to be far superior compared to minoxidil alone.
Now, there is another study of the effectiveness of microneedling as a treatment for male pattern hair loss.
This study – this time only on four patients over six months – boasts equally impressive results as the first, further confirming the effectiveness of microneedling in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia:
“All patients showed a response of + 2 to + 3 on standardized 7-point evaluation scale. The response in the form of new hair growth started after 8-10 sessions. The patients’ satisfaction was more than 75% in three patients and more 50% in one patient, on patients’ subjective hair growth assessment scale. The obtained results were sustained post procedure during 18 months follow-up period […] Treatment with microneedling showed an accelerated response with addition of microneedling procedure leading to significant scalp density. This is the first case series to report the boosting effect of microneedling with respect to new hair follicle stimulation in patients with androgenetic alopecia who were poor responders to conventional therapy.”
But, as always, the best evidence is the pictures:
The study also suggests various mechanisms of action through which microneedling causes hair regrowth. These are:
- Release of growth factors (the same mechanism through which PRP is supposed to work)
- Activation of stem cells
- Increased expression of hair growth-related genes, just as we saw above in the scalp massage discussion
Challenging the conventional wisdom on hair loss
For decades, the conventional wisdom has said that hair loss is caused by the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
This has made it tempting to dismiss therapies such as scalp massage as ineffective – after all, how could rubbing your head have anything to do with hormones?
But as more and more evidence comes in, this question appears to be increasingly misguided. Whilst it does play some part, there is strong reason to suspect DHT is not the primary cause of hair loss.
Instead, a more plausible explanation is that DHT indirectly sets in motion various events that cause hair loss. It may be that DHT decreases expression of hair growth genes, or increases the ratio of PGD2 to PGE2.
If this is the case – and it seems increasingly likely – then DHT blockers like dutasteride and finasteride throw the baby out with the bathwater. They work, yes, but at the expense of a crucial male hormone. Hence why they cause such devastating side effects.
A better treatment would specifically target these more specified causes of hair loss. And it seems this is precisely what scalp massage, microneedling, and minoxidil do – perhaps this is why these methods are more effective for hair regrowth rather than simply maintenance?
In any case, these findings and the links between them suggest we are heading in the right direction. Hopefully, it won’t be long before Propecia is consigned to the history books – as new treatments tackle the real cause of hair loss.