I don't think it takes a Rhodes scholar to see that many bodybuilders, both male and female, are particularly thin on top. The top of their heads' that is. A few years back I wrote an article on dyhydrotestosterone (DHT) and its effects on hair loss, prostate enlargement, and acne. Specifically, I talked about the effects of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase (5AR) and its role in the above problems and ways to shut this enzyme down using 5AR inhibitors such as Proscar and Saw Palmetto.
In my book, I also discuss these topics at length and add in some useful additional information that was not in the article. So what am I doing here, you might ask, writing another article on hair loss? Well our knowledge of what actually causes hair loss has dramatically expanded over the past few years and several new products have hit the market.
I thought a new article for those people who are really bumming that their hair is falling out, want to make sure their hair does not start falling out, or are just real paranoid about their hair falling out, was in order. If you fit any one of the above descriptions-which most people do- than this is the article for you!
So why do I care so much about hair loss? My mother's father was bald, my father is mighty thin up top, my hair started to thin a while back -you do the math! Now I have a lot of respect and admiration for those people who can lose their hair and say things like "It's natural and the way of nature.
If I lose my hair, so be it." Well I am not one of these people! I have never said such a stupid statement in my entire life and I will fight my hair loss until the day they put me in the grave!
Anyway, over the past few years, and in addition to my usual research into nutrition, training, and other topics, I have also been keeping up with the latest research and products for hair loss. Have I found the absolute cure for hair loss? No, but we're getting damn close!
Hair Loss 101
So what makes your hair fall out? Well for a long time scientists thought that DHT was the sole cause of hair loss, but this does not appear to be the case. As most of you already know, androgens such as testosterone (natural and otherwise) can convert to DHT by the previously mentioned enzyme 5AR. People who have high levels of the enzyme 5AR have higher levels of DHT and are prone to losing their hair.
The Facts and Myths About DHT!
DHT is one of those good guy/bad guy hormones that is sorely misunderstood. For many people, it is NOT something that you want to reduce or eliminate in the body. For some others though, keeping DHT levels under control is probably a prudent course of action. Knowing the facts about DHT will help you decide.
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Men with a congenital deficiency in 5AR show no receding of the hair line. This knowledge of the relationship of DHT to hair loss kicked off the big race to find things that shut down the 5AR enzyme and thus reduce the amount of DHT.
Simple enough right? Well I have said it a thousand times before and I will now say it a thousand and one times: two plus two rarely makes four in the human body and this is the case again regarding the relationship of DHT to hair loss.
People and researchers who used 5AR inhibitors such as Proscar and Saw Palmetto found it helped with the hair loss but in no way shut it down or regrew much of the hair that was lost. What appears to be the ultimate cause of hair loss for most people is an auto immune response where the body actually attacks the hair follicle like some kind of foreign invader thus causing an inflammatory response.
By yet unknown mechanisms, DHT causes a change in the follicle signaling the immune system to attack the follicle and your hair starts falling out (If you take a close look, you can actually see a red line of inflammation on the scalp of some people losing their hair). How do we know this?
It was discovered that the hair follicles of people losing their hair look very similar under a microscope to people who experience organ rejection after surgery. And, it has been found that the immune system suppressing drug which is used to stop the organ rejection (Cyclosporine) grows hair like crazy because it shuts down the immune response in the body. A cure you say? NO!
If you take some Cyclosporine and you grow hair it will be because you have no immune system and you will get very sick and possibly die. I shit you not-don't mess with this stuff. Anyway, though DHT is clearly important in the cause of hair loss, it is not the final cause and a new race has been started to address the inflammatory response which ultimately causes you hair to fall out.
Clearly, you have to attack hair loss from both the DHT and inflammatory response, and that's what most of this article is about....sort of. There are also other factors related to hair growth and hair loss such as nutrition, SODases, Nitric Oxide (NO) and others, but DHT and the immune response are the two biggies.
As most of you know, certain anabolic steroids will make your hair fall if you are genetically susceptible to hair loss. However, steroids generally will not make your hair fall out if you are not destined to lose your hair in the first place (lucky you).
OK, as we all know androgens such as testosterone, Anadrol, D-bol, and others can convert to DHT much easier than low androgen steroids such as Primobolan, Anavar, or Winstrol. Some steroids are actually derived from DHT but do not necessarily cause hair loss, though it really depends on the individual steroid.
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For example (don't you just love steroid examples?), Winstrol is derived from DHT and generally does not cause hair loss in the majority of those who use it. Anadrol on the other hand, which is also derived from DHT, will cause hair to fall out on all but the most resistant heads.
Personally, one of the many reasons I don't use steroids, besides the fact that they're expensive, illegal, and fake 99% of the time, is I don't care how much muscle I have if it makes me a life long member of the Hair Club For Men! Ever wonder why the guy on the Golds Gym logo is bald? Now you know! Being this is not an article on steroids, I will not go into great detail on this topic.
If you really want to know more about it, I go into much more depth in my book Priming The Anabolic Environment.. The point is, if you are losing your hair, regardless of whether or not you are using steroids, you should be able to do something about it.
Below is a list of various products that I have found effective for hair loss. Some are new products and others are products that have been around a while but are still useful, and maybe I have found new ways of using them.
Copper Binding Peptides
Recently a drug called Iamin was approved by the FDA for wound healing. Another drug similar to Iamin is Tricomin. Both Iamin and Tricomin were invented and subsequently patented by Dr. Loren Pickart. These drugs are copper based compounds that have certain peptides added to them. When put on the skin they have profound anti inflammatory properties and increase the rate at which skin heals dramatically (hence Iamin's approval for wound healing).
As I mentioned earlier, chronic inflammation at the site of the hair follicle appears to be a major link in the chain of what makes hair fall out. Dr. Pickart set out to formulate an improved version of Iamin and Tricomin specifically for hair that could be purchased over the counter without a prescription.
This product is called Folligen and is made by Skin Biology, Incorporated. They can be contacted at 1-800-405-1912. I consider this product to be very promising for hair loss, but it is too early to tell exactly how useful it will be. This product is used by rubbing it on the scalp before bed then washing it out in the morning.
Nizoral Shampoo was first brought to the attention of bodybuilders by Mike Mooney who learned of it from a doctor friend of his. Mike is the publisher of the Metabolics news letter and a writer for Muscle Media 2000. Nizoral is an anti fungal shampoo and the active ingredient is a plant derivative called Ketoconazol and is produced by Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
How and why Nizoral works on hair loss in not very well understood. It might work by blocking the DHT at the follicle and/or working by reducing the amount of inflammation at the hair follicle. Unfortunately, there is not much hard data regarding this product and hair loss, but a lot of people (including Mike) really swear by this stuff.
It is not particularly expensive or hard to use, but it does require a prescription. Many people are getting it without a prescription by ordering it from other countries. Non controlled medications can be ordered from other countries. Nizoral is just used as a regular shampoo, left on the scalp for at least five minutes, then rinsed out.
There is also such a thing as Nizoral tabs. Nizoral tabs should never be used as they are quite liver toxic and generally bad for your health. Nizoral shampoo does not get into general circulation and is perfectly safe. I have been told by a few Dr.s who specialize in hair loss that Nizoral works even better when it is alternated every third or fourth day with a selenium based shampoo such as Head and Shoulders.
Hopefully some research to look specifically into Nizoral's effects on hair loss will be carried out in the near future. Mooney feels Nizoral is particularly effective at stopping the hair loss caused by certain steroids, but I can't say whether or not this is true.
As most people already know, Proscar is a very specific inhibitor of the enzyme (5AR) that converts androgens into DHT. Its official use is for prostate enlargement which is also related to DHT levels (among other things). It was felt originally that Proscar would not be effective for hair loss because it only inhibits the enzyme found in the prostate and not in the hair follicle.
Well again, nothing is cut and dry in the human body, and Proscar has been found to reduce the amount of DHT in circulation which reduces the amount of DHT the follicle has to deal with and thus less hair is lost.
Several recent studies have shown Proscar is effective for hair loss and can help regrow some hair on some people, but as I said before, the use of 5AR inhibitors only deals with a part of the problem and are generally not very effective when used as the only treatment. One thing people should be aware of is the fact that the use of these compounds can raise estrogen.
I mentioned this several years ago (I think I was the first to do so) and the PDR now includes gyno (bitch tits) as a possible side effect of using Proscar. The trick is to use just enough to reduce the DHT but not enough to raise estrogen levels significantly. Several studies have shown that using just 1 or 2 mg is virtually as effective as using 5mg of Proscar for reducing DHT, so you do not have to use much, and this saves a lot of money.
Also, there is research that shows taking just one 5mg tab of Proscar every five days keeps DHT levels suppressed. I have found the most effective way to use Proscar is to take one quarter of a tab a day (1.25mg) and one 5mg tab every 5-7 days. This is the most cost effective and side effect free way of taking Proscar.
Now I don't know if this regimen would be totally effective for a person taking large amounts of steroids high in androgens or not. Most of the people I have told to take Proscar this way who use steroids felt it worked for them, but that's all I can say at this time.
Again, I am sure it depends on how genetically susceptible a person is to hair loss, which type(s), and how much, steroids are being used.
Ok, Minoxidil did not turn out to be the hair growth stimulant we all hoped it would be and if it had not recently gone OTC I would not even have included it in this list. However, being minoxidil can now be purchased without a prescription and is about half the price of what it used to cost, I think it is a useful addition to a person's regimen.
For hair growth, minoxidil has pretty much been a bust, but for reducing hair loss, I have found it is definitely better than nothing. Its only about twenty five bucks a bottle these days and it lasts over a month. Personally, I just use it once a day before bedtime, so it lasts several months for me.
This is the mother of all topical anti androgens. RU58841 is made by the Roussel Corporation of France. This stuff shuts down DHT at the hair follicle like nothing else. One of the major problems has been that anti androgens such as Spironolactone and Flutamide taken orally might be good for hair loss, but they cause all sorts of problems related to having low androgens in your body, such as loss of muscle, increased fat, loss of sex drive, gyno, etc.
When these same anti androgens have been used topically (put directly on the scalp) they do not cause the negative systemic side effects, but they did not seem to do much of anything for hair loss or growth either. Therefore, a topically active anti androgen without systemic effects would be highly desirable. RU58841 is a topical anti androgen that shuts down DHT at the follicle without any systemic side effects in the body!
This stuff is the best thing since the invention of the vibrator! Woops, did I actually say that aloud? Now for the bad news. RU58841 is not out for sale and probably won't be for quite some time. It is in the early stages of testing and I understand there are other reasons that it might be a long time until it hits the market.
I would tell you what those reasons are, but then I would have to kill you, and that would be bad for magazine sales...... Make no mistakes about it, RU58841 is the drug of choice for hair loss and would stop hair loss cold in conjunction with a good topical anti inflammatory. Through my secret source, I was told that the initial feelings about this stuff by the researchers who tested it was that it would probably even grow back a lot of hair for some people.
I would give my right-no make that left-gonad for some of this stuff. Oh well, maybe I can find some crazy chemist to whip me up some of this nifty compound for my own personal use. Will it cost me a nad?
The Ultimate Hair Stack
We all know what a "steroid stack" is and most people know what a "supplement stack" is, but have you heard of a hair stack? Probably not. Well I am going to give you the hair stack I, and a bunch of other people I know, currently use based on the above information. I would say better than 90% of the people I have given this stack to who have followed it religiously (didn't you know that the science of hair loss is a religion for some people?), have noticed a total cessation of hair loss and even some moderate regrowth.
As for me, I could definitely use some more hair, but I am a lot better off than my mothers father was or my father is now, not to mention my brother (good thing my brother does not read bodybuilding magazines!). Obviously, I can't and won't make any guarantees that this will work for you, but it should.
However, the causes of hair loss are many and depend on numerous physiological variables (certain medications, stress, diet, genetics, etc.), so keep your expectations to something that is realistic for your particular level of hair loss. Translated, if you are a young person (male or female) and have started losing some hair but still have most of it, this stack should work like gang busters for you.
If you are older and don't have much hair on your head and have not had much hair on you head for some time, than this stack will be helpful for sure. How helpful, I have no clue. "Right, enough blabbering Brink, give us the damn stack!" you say? Here it is:
- Wash hair with Nizoral shampoo every day leaving it on the scalp for at least 5 minutes. Every third or fourth day, use a selenium based shampoo such as Head and Shoulders instead.
- Take one quarter of a tab of Proscar (1.25mg) with a meal and a 5mg tab every 5-7 days.
- Put Minoxidil on your head in the morning and before bed. Note: I have found using Minoxidil once a day before bed with the above compounds is sufficient, and putting it on in the morning gives you an ugly "do" (or is that a "don't?!"). However, the directions on the bottle say to put it on twice a day for best results.
- Finally, rub Folligen in the scalp where the hair is thinning before bedtime and wash it out in the morning. Note: Put the Minoxidil on first but make sure it has dried before adding the Folligen. Here's the best way to do it.
Put the Minoxidil on first, then do your other pre bedtime activities, like brush your teeth, take some vitamins, turn out the lights, kick the cat, or what ever. Now put on the Folligen after the Minoxidil has dried.
- Pray to the hair Gods that RU58841 gets on the market before we all look like Kojak!
If you have mild hair loss, any one of the above products might do the trick, but if you have heavy to moderate hair loss, than I assure you, you will need to attack it with multiple products and from various angles. I have not put the prices down of all this stuff because it varies so much depending on where, and from who, you get it.
So where do you find all these products? I have given you the phone number for Folligen. Minoxidil can now be found in any drug store without a prescription. The RU58841 is out or reach for now, unless you know something I don't. As for the Nizoral shampoo and Proscar, you can ask your doctor for a script or you can call the DR Foundation.
They should have information on how to obtain these products from various sources (doctors, foreign mail order, etc.). Their number is 305-758-3173. "What does DR stand for" you ask? Dermatology Research Foundation of course! Us "hair guys" are a little strange...
About The Author
Will Brink is a columnist, contributing consultant, and writer for various health/fitness, medical, and bodybuilding publications. His articles relating to nutrition, supplements, weight loss, exercise and medicine can be found in such publications as Lets Live, Muscle Media 2000, MuscleMag International, The Life Extension Magazine, Muscle n Fitness, Inside Karate, Exercise For Men Only, Body International, Power, Oxygen, Penthouse, Women's World and The Townsend Letter For Doctors. He is the author of Priming The Anabolic Environment and Weight Loss Nutrients Revealed.
He is the Consulting Sports Nutrition Editor and a monthly columnist for Physical magazine and an Editor at Large for Power magazine. Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and pharmaceutical companies.
He has been co author of several studies relating to sports nutrition and health found in peer reviewed academic journals, as well as having commentary published in JAMA. He runs the highly popular web site BrinkZone.com which is strategically positioned to fulfill the needs and interests of people with diverse backgrounds and knowledge. The BrinkZone site has a following with many sports nutrition enthusiasts, athletes, fitness professionals, scientists, medical doctors, nutritionists, and interested lay people. William has been invited to lecture on the benefits of weight training and nutrition at conventions and symposiums around the U.S. and Canada, and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs.
William has worked with athletes ranging from professional bodybuilders, golfers, fitness contestants, to police and military personnel.
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