Treatment options for hair loss 

Wait and see (no treatment)

Some types of hair loss improve on their own without treatment

  • Telogen effluvium usually improves without treatment in six months
  • Alopecia areata may get better without treatment by 12 months
  • Male- and female-pattern baldness are likely to get worse with time
  • Alopecia areata may return at some time in the future
Treating the underlying condition

Treating lichen planus or discoid lupus, for example

  • Will prevent further hair loss
  • Hair loss that has already occurred is permanent
Finasteride tablets

Taken every day for male-pattern baldness

  • Can increase the number of hairs men have by 24%
  • Nearly a third of men see an improvement if they use finasteride for several years
  • Needs to be used for three to six months to see an effect
  • If treatment is stopped, hair loss will start again within 6-12 months
  • Not available on the NHS
  • Side effects include loss of sex drive and erectile dysfunction
  • Only for men
Minoxidil lotion

Rubbed onto the scalp every day for male- and female-pattern badness

  • Can slow or stop hair loss and may cause hair regrowth in both men and women
  • Available without a prescription
  • Side effects are uncommon
  • Can be used off-licence for alopecia areata and effects are seen after 12 weeks
  • Needs to be used for at least four months before any effect is seen
  • Any new hair that regrows will fall out two months after treatment is stopped
Corticosteroid injections

Injections given into bald patches of alopecia areata

  • Most effective treatment for small patches of alopecia
  • Can be used on the scalp and other areas, such as the eyebrows
  • Injections need to be repeated every few weeks
  • Alopecia may return when the injections are stopped
  • Side effects include pain at the injection site and thinning of the skin
Lotion, gel or foam containing corticosteroids

Rubbed into bald patches of alopecia areata

  • Mixed opinions about its effectiveness
  • Long-term benefits not known
  • Cannot be used on the face, such as the beard or eyebrows
  • Side effects include thinning of the skin and spots
Dithranol cream

Regularly applied to the scalp to help alopecia areata; causes a skin reaction and hair regrowth

  • Can cause hair to regrow in some people with alopecia areata
  • Not as effective as immunotherapy
  • Can cause itchiness and scaling of the skin and it can stain the scalp and hair

A chemical solution is applied to a small area of bald skin caused by alopecia areata. The strength of the chemical is gradually increased until it causes a skin reaction that encourages hair to regrow

  • Most effective form of treatment for extensive or total hair loss from alopecia areata
  • Can cause hair to regrow after around 12 weeks in some people
  • Can cause a severe skin reaction if strength is not increased gradually
  • May cause a rash and patchy-coloured skin
  • Hair can fall out when treatment is stopped
  • Only available in specialist centres
  • Need to wear a hat over the treated area for 24 hours
Light treatment (phototherapy)

Exposing the bald patches of skin to ultraviolet (UVA or UVB) rays

  • Can cause hair to re-grow in some people with alopecia areata
  • Can take up to a year to produce maximum results
  • Responses vary and it is often not effective
  • Hair loss may return after treatment is stopped
  • Side effects can include feeling sick, pigment changes to the skin and an increased risk of skin cancer
  • Needs to be carried out in a hospital

Eyebrows are tattooed on

  • No need to use make-up every day
  • May be painful
  • Not available on the NHS

Made of acrylic or real human hair

  • Useful for extensive hair loss
  • Available on the NHS
  • Acrylic wigs do not need styling
  • Human hair wigs last for three to four years
  • Acrylic wigs can be itchy and hot
  • Acrylic wigs only last six to nine months
  • Human hair wigs may need to be styled by a hairdresser and professionally cleaned
  • Can cost between £60 and £2,000
Hair transplant

Individual hairs or small groups of hairs are grafted onto a bald area

  • Can achieve natural-looking hair
  • Hair settles and starts to grow within six months
  • Not available on the NHS
  • Can be expensive and take a long time
  • Several sessions needed, with 9-12 months between procedures
  • Risk of infection and bleeding, which can lead to hair loss and noticeable scarring
Scalp reduction surgery

Pieces of bald scalp are removed and sections of scalp with hair are stretched over this area and stitched together

  • Available on the NHS for people with scarring alopecia
  • Not suitable for hair loss at the front of the scalp because of scarring
  • Risk of infection in the area
Artificial hair surgery

Surgery to implant artificial hair fibres

  • May be possible to achieve natural-looking hair
  • Not available on the NHS
  • Serious risk of infection or scarring
  • The synthetic fibres can fall out