Improved hair loss treatments on the horizon

For people experiencing hair loss, there's a mix of encouraging and discouraging news. No drug treatments have gained FDA approval since 1997, and the most effective therapy, a hair transplant, is expensive. But transplants now offer increasingly satisfying results thanks to improved surgical techniques, and recent biotechnology discoveries may lead to less invasive treatments, reports the August 2008 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

The FDA has approved two drugs, minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia), to slow hair loss or regrow hair. Propecia is more effective than Rogaine, but it's more expensive. A major drawback of both is that you need to keep on taking them to sustain the benefits.

Hair transplants involve removing hair follicles from the sides of the head and implanting them in bald or thinning areas. One of the main obstacles is money—surgery costs $8,000 to $12,000. Transplants have improved over the years, making for a more natural hairline by continuing the trend toward smaller and smaller grafts.

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