Most of us worry about losing our hair (if it hasn’t started happening already) so we look to our family tree to see how much time we have left with our locks. We watch in pain as our forehead expands like the Sahara, or as a yamaka-like patch spreads from the centre of our scalp. The ‘hair loss prevention’ industry has pounced on our insecurities by flooding the market with millions of lotions and potions promising Flavio's tresses - but there are only a handful of options that actually produce results.
We’ve sifted through the rubbish to bring you a few effective remedies. If you’re thinking of seeking treatment, however, you should always consult a doctor and get a blood test - especially before taking any pills. Horror stories of side effect are plastered all over the internet because the drugs affect you hormone levels. It can be pilly-willy to the extreme.
Male pattern baldness (Androgenic Alopecia) is caused by a number of factors, from stress to not eating well, but it relates directly to the testosterone levels in your scalp. As you age your scalp stops producing the key hormone, chiefly in the crown and temple regions.
There’s only one way to guarantee, 100%, you’ll regain hair from every type of balding and that’s to have a transplant or hair graft like Wayne Rooney. Sadly the treatments are expensive and they’re also quite dramatic procedures but there are a couple of other solutions, albeit somewhat temporary. Most critically, if you’re thinning out, you should take steps immediately to stop yourself going bald. Prevention is the best way to keep your mop on top.
Branded as Propecia or Proscar, Finasteride will generally only stop balding in the back or crown of the head – it’s far less effective at treating a receding hairline. The good news is that although there are some skeptics, along with Minoxidil, it’s the only drug scientifically proven to prevent hair loss. It’s not 100% successful but it’s fared well in clinical trials.
You should begin by asking your doctor if you can take it or not (on health grounds) but the only way to find out if Propecia actually works is to undertake a three or four month course and document your dome with photos.
Finasteride has various possible side effects but the one that scares off men is the potential loss of libido. While on the drug some men have claimed that they can only reach half mast when they’re hoisting the flag of "The Republic of Dong". Propecia can be purchased at almost any pharmacy in Hong Kong for roughly HK$425 (month).
If you’re on a budget you can also use Proscar which is the same as Propecia but you have to split each pill into five pieces to get the required dose of 1mg of Finasteride per day. At HK$350, Proscar is a little cheaper than Propecia - even though it's the same drug - but we’d still recommend paying an extra HK$75 to get the exact dose. Pill cutters or not.
In the West, Finasteride requires a prescription but most Hong Kong pharmacies will sell it to you under the counter and you can get it anywhere on your next trip to Thailand.
Branded as Regaine or Rogaine, Minoxidil is a foam or liquid product that you rub into your scalp twice a day. Possible side effects include scalp irritation or an allergic reaction to the formula. You can find it in some Hong Kong pharmacies including Watsons for about HK$500 for a three month package. It can treat all areas of the scalp.
You have to be particularly careful when you’re buying Regaine (or any hair loss medicine) because there are far more replicas than genuine solutions. They’re often sold under similar names and have no effect at all but remain best sellers because they prey on willing, balding men.
Perhaps the most amusing but shocking example we’ve come across relates to Fabao 101 Formula. Their marketing team spun such successful propaganda that Japanese travel agencies arranged tours to China to buy the miracle cure throughout the 1980s. The point is that a whole industry has been built around fictional products so be aware of false promises.
Chinese remedies are also prevalent in Hong Kong - think snake blood, rhino tooth or whatever other poor animal has been slain for your follicles. Instead the path to righteousness (and hair) is straight forwardly simple - avoid all but Finasteride and Minoxidil.
For the best non-surgical results we’d suggest taking Propecia and Rogaine at the same time which will cost you roughly HK$500-HK$600 per month. Remember to consult your doctor first.
Transplant or Graft
There are a few Hong Kong clinics you can get a professional hair transplant/graft but there’s a minimum price of about HK$20,000. That said you’re probably looking at HK$50,000 (HK$30 per follicle) at the better known institutions like the NU/HART Hair Clinic. It’s not a treatment taken lightly so we’d suggest getting opinions and quotations from a few different places such as Dr. Bertram Hair Transplant and Hairworks. The consultations should be free.
Depending on what you want from the transplant (thickness and surface area) different clinics will specialize in different methods. Strip harvesting is commonly used but we suggest avoiding it because it’s the oldest, cheapest and most rudimentary solution. They essentially cut out a patch of hair from the top of your neck but it leaves a linear scar and can be dangerous. What’s more, if you’re already spending HK$20,000, what’s a couple of extra Gs to be on the safe side?
The optimal method is called neo-grafting or follicular unit extraction. The doctor removes follicles one by one with a tool that looks like a massive syringe - so if you're afraid of needles it will get a little hairy. It’s the most modern treatment and leaves you with the least scarring.
If you would like to see the differences between strip harvesting and neografting we've created a comparative photo. Although it shows what's at stake it's a very graphic image so be warned - its not for the squimish. See photo.
If you’re not up for changing your body's chemistry or putting your melon under the knife but still want to make a change, there are specialists who can make hair pieces from your own bonnet, weave in extensions and glue patches on to your cranium. You can find trusted Hong Kong professionals at Harvard Add Hair Technologies who’ve not only got the skills but can also refer you to doctors for relevant medical advice.
There are even services (outside Hong Kong) that will tattoo fake hair to your skull to make it look like you shaved your head two days ago. Alternatively you can go shopping and spend 20 large on hats instead on surgery and become the ‘hat guy.’
It’s also worth remembering that some men just look better bald. Think Bruce Willis, Jason Stratham, Michael Jordan and Professor X for starters, so you could just embrace the bald. All you need to do is pick up some clippers and kick back as you no longer have to worry about hair products, styling, trimming or any of that shampoo nonsense.