The age-old search for the Fountain of Youth often ends at your local pharmacy.
But do products that promise to turn back the clock really work?
The May issue of Consumer Reports Health features a series of reports on the burgeoning market for products promising to turn back the clock on aging. It has the results of testing done by the magazine and of surveys of thousands of its readers about their experiences with remedies for balding and wrinkles.
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And Consumer Reports Senior Projects Editor Tod Marks let "Early Show" viewers in on the results Tuesday:
TREATMENTS FOR BALDING
The bottom line here is that 53 percent of men and 40 percent of women believe the treatments were "overhyped."
Consumer Reports National Research Center revealed that some remedies help more than others. We questioned 8,082 online subscribers (6,248 men and 1,834 women) who had lost hair. Most men and some women blamed genetic makeup or age; other women said their hair loss was due to a health condition (such as thyroid disease) or stress. We excluded respondents whose hair loss was related to chronic illness or chemotherapy. Respondents ranged in age from about 20 to 90-plus.
Finasteride (Propecia) (by prescription)
27 percent rated very effective
13 percent rated not effective
This pill, available as Propecia and in generic versions, was most successful with respondents. It's prescribed for men only, because it can cause serious birth defects. Cost is $16 to $84 per month.
Pros: In clinical trials in which men with pattern baldness took 1 milligram per day for two years, new hair grew in 66 percent of patients. In 83 percent, hair loss was halted.
Cons: Side effects are infrequent, but might include impotence and depression, which should disappear if the medicine is stopped. Patients should commit to it for at least three months, and they eventually lose any gains when they stop taking it.
4 percent rate very effective
43 percent rate not effective
This topical product is sold in strengths of 2 percent (the only version approved for women) and 5 percent, which also comes as a foam. Sold under the brand name Rogaine or generically, versions go for as little as $10 per month. Minoxidil works best on patients whose hair loss is recent.
Pros: In a study cited in the journal ACP Medicine, even the 2 percent solution was shown to produce visible hair growth in about one-third of patients and fine hair growth in another third.
Cons: In the same study, Minoxidil was ineffective in one-third of patients. Our survey respondents reported that it was largely ineffective. Results might not be visible for four-to-12 months, and any benefits are lost when you stop applying the product. Side effects include dry, itchy, or irritated scalp and increased facial hair.
Most people opt for a basic hair transplant, in which hair grafts are moved from the back of the head to the top or front. The average cost per graft is $5, and the average hair transplant can take 2,000 grafts. In many cases, the procedure must be repeated, doubling the price.
Pros: If you find a skilled surgeon and the transplants take, you can end up with a good head of hair. Contact the American Hair Loss Association or (www.americanhairloss.org) or International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons to find doctors who have undergone extensive training.
Cons: Not everyone is a successful candidate for surgery. There's the possibility of infection, a long recovery period, scarring, or patchy hair growth.
If None of Those Work for You
Sadly, there is no magic bullet. At the end of the day, the best remedy may actually be acceptance. Those surveyed told us that masking hair loss was one of the more effective options. And they pointed out actual benefits of being bald: You won't get hat head, you won't waste time grooming your hair, and you'll save lots of money on shampoo, conditioner, gels, mouse, hair dryers, and other hair care products!
Readers' suggested alternatives:
Wear a wig or toupee 65 percent
Shave head (for men) 46 percent
Dress better 46 percent
Exercise to improve physique 44 percent
FOR THE WORD ON ANTI-WRINKLE OFFERINGS, GO TO PAGE 2.
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