You’ve probably heard about Latisse, a topical treatment that is often prescribed to improve the growth of a person’s eyelashes. Applied once daily for 16 weeks, the medication helps make eyelashes thicker and longer.
Since Latisse helps hair grow, a number of people suffering from thinning scalp hair or hair loss have wondered if it will work on their head. The answer is yes, in some cases. The medicine isn’t yet approved by the FDA for use on the scalp, but that hasn’t stopped some people from trying.
How It Works
The active ingredient in Latisse is bimatoprost. Originally prescribed to people with glaucoma, the medication was placed in the eye and worked to lower the amount of pressure in the eye. Bimatoprost is a prostaglandin analog, which increases the amount of fluid that leaves the eye, and thus reducing pressure.
Bimatoprost’s ability to increase hair and lash growth was found as a fortuitous accident. It’s not quite understood how the medication grows hair, but it seems as though it raises the number of hairs in the growth phase and keeps them in the growth phase for longer. The medicine was approved by the FDA to help grow eyelashes in 2008.
The company that makes Latisse conducted a clinical trial in 2011 to see if the product could effectively grow hair on the scalp and provide an alternative hair restoration option to men suffering from male pattern baldness. As with other topical hair loss treatments, such as Rogaine, Latisse provided limited results when used on the scalp. Some people have reported that the treatment has led to thicker hair on their head. But, the clinical trials suggested that results from using Latisse on the head were less promising than anticipated.
One of the reasons why Latisse might not work on the head as well as people had hoped is that it can only help follicles that are still producing hair. When a person suffers from male pattern baldness, the hair follicles become miniaturized, meaning it shrinks. The hair growing from the follicle becomes smaller and thinner. Eventually, the follicle stops producing hair altogether. While Latisse might help hair follicles that are still producing hair, albeit thin hair, it’s no use once those follicles have given up.
Aside from not working as well as one would hope, using Latisse on the scalp has a few disadvantages. One is the high cost of the treatment. A one-month’s supply of Latisse, for use on the lashes, costs about $150. Patients who decide to use it on the scalp may need more than a single bottle each month.
You may also need to keep purchasing Latisse to keep your results. Over the course of a year, if you buy one $150 bottle each month, you’ll have spent $1,800. If you keep using for a decade, you’ll end up spending $18,000, assuming the price doesn’t increase. Even though other options, such as a hair transplant, seem pricey at first, they pale in comparison when it comes to using Latisse every day for 10 years.
The thickness of the skin on the scalp can be both a help and a hinderance when it comes to using Latisse. The skin of the eyelids is very thin, which allows Latisse to sink in effectively and work better in terms of regrowing the hair. Since the scalp’s skin is considerably thicker, it might not absorb the medication as well.
But, that thickness can also reduce a person’s chance of side effects. One of the side effects of using Latisse on the eyelashes is that it can cause hyperpigmentation of the skin. It’s thought that discoloration is less likely to take place on the scalp. Any discoloration that does occur can be concealed by the hair growth.
Won’t Replace Hair Restoration Surgery
In the end, even if researchers find a way to have Latisse on the scalp work for the majority of patients, as Latisse on the eyelids does, it will probably not replace hair restoration surgery as the go-to, permanent solution for hair loss. Certain types of hair, often found on the back and sides of the head, aren’t susceptible to miniaturization.
During a hair transplant, these hair are moved to the top of the scalp. Since they won’t miniaturize and come from a patient’s own head, the surgery provides an effective, natural looking treatment. As an added benefit, many patients only need a single surgery to get permanent results, compared to having to apply Latisse everyday.
If you are experiencing male pattern baldness and want to learn more about your options for treatment, contact Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, a hair restoration surgeon with nearly two decades of experience. Dr. Epstein is one of the most well respected surgeons in the field. Call (212) 759-3484 to schedule an appointment at his New York office or (305) 666-1774 for an appointment at his office in Miami.