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90% of the products you see advertised for “Thinning Hair” are not really intended to treat thinning hair at all. The majority of the time it is just a marketing tool intended to trick consumers into buying it. Find out how to differentiate between products intended to improve the *appearance* of hair, and those that will actually stop hair loss… You’ve seen them, countless advertisements and web sites for “hair loss” products, but can you identify which products are purely cosmetic and which are specifically designed to promote hair growth? The distinction is not easy to make, even for professionals, and some product manufacturers intentionally blur the dividing line between the cosmetic product and the pharmaceutical drug.
What is the distinction?
Well, cosmetic products just cover up the underlying problem but do not actually treat it, while pharmaceutical drugs focus on treating the underlying cause of the condition, but make no attempt to mask the symptoms. In our case the symptom is hair loss, but the underlying cause of the symptom is, for example, androgen activity in pattern baldness. An entirely new crop of products known as “cosmeceuticals” has begun to emerge in the retail arenas. Exactly what a cosmeceutical is, is hard to pin down. In most cases they are products half way in between a cosmetic and a pharmaceutical drug. They have some modest action over the long term underlying cause of the condition, but the primary, short term objective is to help mask the symptoms. For example, you may have seen skin creams advertised on TV that claim to reduce wrinkles with repeated application and make skin look younger. These are cosmeceuticals. They are cosmetic creams that immediately improve skin texture by hydrating it, while over the long term the creams are claimed to gradually improve the actual skin structure – that is a pharmaceutical action. These two actions combined together make a cosmeceutical.
Cosmeceutical Hair Products
To give you some hair related examples, cosmetic products that hide hair loss include things like hair thickening shampoos and powders like Toppik. These products work by coating the hair fibers in some kind of protein (serum, keratin, etc.) making the hair fiber look thicker. The products do not affect the biochemistry of hair loss however. The hair loss continues, but what hair is still present is made to look better. Other examples are products that color the skin to reduce the contrast between hair and skin color, like Couvre. Even wigs can be described as a cosmetic product. So cosmetics do not modify the biochemistry of hair loss, they just reduce how noticeable the hair loss symptom is. The biochemical process that causes hair loss continues unabated.
So what’s the problem?
The problem arises when you are listening to the radio, or more likely, surfing the internet and run across one of about a thousand websites selling a product that *they* claim is “for hair loss sufferers”. Technically, they’re telling the truth. Any product that can help hair look thicker is best marketed to those with thinning hair. Unfortunately, many people think the slogan “Makes hair thicker” means “Grows new hair, making it thicker”. They assume that thicker hair means new hair. Immediately the difference between a clinically proven growth stimulant like Rogaine, and this random “hair thickener” is lost.
As mentioned above, its important to remember, there is only one clinically proven hair growth stimulant on the market today, and that is Rogaine. There is only one clinically proven product that can actually stop or reverse male pattern baldness, and that is Propecia. It is illegal for any company to claim that their product can grow new hair, so they capitalize on confusing terminology like “thickens hair” to get sales from hair loss sufferers.
Pharmaceutical versus Cosmetic
Pharmaceutical drugs for hair loss include things like Propecia. Propecia is a drug that specifically targets the underlying biochemistry of pattern baldness. The intention here is to interfere with the biochemical mechanism that leads to hair loss. By reducing the biochemical activity in pattern baldness, the drug provides a more favorable environment in which hair can grow. Propecia has no actual effect on how the hair fiber looks or even on hair fiber production, it just reduces the androgen hormone activity so that the hair follicles have a better opportunity to grow. There is no attempt to make the hair fiber that is currently present, look better cosmetically.
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