Move over, baldness creams, pills, and plugs—a new breakthrough has put scientists on the road to finding a real cure for hair loss.
A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation finds that faulty scalp stem cells are to blame for male-pattern baldness—not a lack of hair follicle stem cells, as scientists once thought.
In the study, researchers used lab techniques to examine the skin of balding men. Though both balding and hair-covered areas had the same number of stem cells, the cells in the bald areas had a major flaw: They weren’t able to develop into the type of cell that produces hair.
Future drugs could help the cells develop correctly, allowing hair to grow again, says George Cotsarelis, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania. “If there were no stem cells or a decreased number, it would be much more difficult to develop a treatment.”
However, scientists aren’t quite sure how the drugs would work yet. “We are working on identifying the exact factors that are preventing activation of these cells,” says Cotsarelis. “Once we identify this we will have a better understanding how to develop hair loss drugs.”
It’s too early too predict when new drugs will hit the market, Cotsarelis says. Until then, here’s how to work with what you’ve got: If you’re balding, have the thinning areas cut slightly shorter than the fuller parts so they blend seamlessly with the rest of your hair. Avoid thick moisturizing conditioners and styling products—they’ll make your hair clump, which shows your scalp, stylist Antonio Prieto, owner of Antonio Prieto Salon in Manhattan
—Dana Leigh Smith