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The Best Treatments for Hair Loss, According to the NHS
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on February 14, 2024

The most efficient treatment for hair loss, according to the NHS, depends on the condition which is causing your particular type of alopecia. So if you are one of the 85% of men [1] or 55% [2] of women who experience hair thinning during their lifetime, it is important to be examined by a trichologist as soon as you see the first signs of hair thinning and balding.

Based on their diagnosis, you may be recommended hair growth medication, such as Minoxidil or Finasteride, treatments such as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or, if your hair thinning is more advanced, a hair transplant [3]. Or you may be happy to find that you don’t need any treatment at all, since the NHS points out that most hair loss is either temporary or a natural part of the ageing process which does not need to be addressed [3].

However, foregoing hair loss treatment is a risk that may not be worth taking without first ruling out progressive conditions that cause hair thinning, such as androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness). Getting an early diagnosis can increase your chances of stopping and even reversing your hair loss.

Keep reading this article to find out more about:

  • The best hair loss treatments recommended by the NHS
  • The main causes of hair loss according to the NHS and how to recognize them
  • NHS-inspired methods to prevent your hair from falling out
  • Tips from the NHS for coping with your hair loss
Table of Contents
The Best Treatments for Hair Loss, According to the NHS, Wimpole Clinic

Can you get hair loss treatment on the NHS?

While there are some types of medication which may be prescribed by your GP (meaning you will only need to pay the standard prescription charge to purchase them), most hair loss treatments are not available on the NHS [3] That is because treatment for hair thinning is generally considered cosmetical.

However, most hair growth medications (such as Minoxidil or some steroid creams for hair loss) are available over the counter and private clinics can give you access to more complex therapies, which require the use of medical technology, such as red light therapy for hair growth

If you are hoping to obtain a referral to a trichologist on the NHS, so you can get your hair loss diagnosed and receive the most appropriate treatment, be prepared for the bad news: unfortunately, trichology is not available on the NHS [4]. However, you can always get these services at a private hair clinic

treatments for hair loss plus a comb

The best hair loss treatments recommended by the NHS

Depending on the condition which has caused your hair to fall out, there are several treatment options that the NHS deems effective. However, these recommendations come with the caveat that no hair loss treatment is 100% effective and that the success of these medications and therapies depends on a multitude of factors [3].

man using Minoxidil

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is one of the most widely recommended hair growth medications, as it can be used to treat a range of conditions which cause hair loss [5] It is most often used topically, as a solution or as a foam and it can be purchased in the UK under the brand name Regain. Presently, it is the only treatment licensed for both male and female pattern hair loss. 

How does Minoxidil work?

Topical Minoxidil works by dilating the blood vessels in your scalp, so more oxygen and nutrients can reach your hair follicles. That helps them grow and produce healthy hair. 

What hair conditions can Minoxidil treat?

Minoxidil has mainly been proven efficient in treating androgenetic alopecia and chronic telogen effluvium, but there is also evidence that it may provide some benefits as an adjuvant in treating alopecia areata, chemotherapy-induced hair loss, frontal fibrosing alopecia and certain hair shaft disorders [6].  

Who is a good candidate for Minoxidil?

  • Both men and women are eligible for Minoxidil treatment. 
  • People who are experiencing mild to moderate thinning in the frontal and crown area often see the best results. 
  • People who are experiencing age-related hair thinning can use it to stimulate hair growth.

What are the risks of Minoxidil?

While Minoxidil is largely well tolerated in lower concentrations, higher ones can produce some unwanted side effects:

  • Weight gain or swelling due to fluid retention
  • Cardiological symptoms (increased heart rate, palpitations)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • Low blood pressure that can cause lightheadedness
  • Unwanted body hair growth
  • Breast soreness or sensitivity
  • Digestive problems (nausea, vomiting)
  • A rash on your skin

Is Minoxidil available on the NHS?

No, unfortunately, you cannot get Minoxidil on the NHS [5]. It is, however, available for purchase over the counter.

Finasteride tablet

Finasteride

Finasteride is the most widely prescribed hair loss medication and the go-to treatment for male pattern baldness. It is generally administered as oral tablets and it is sold in the UK under the brand names Proscar and Propecia [7].  

How does Finasteride work?

Finasteride prevents the conversion of excessive amounts of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), effectively reducing hair loss caused by androgenetic alopecia.  

What hair conditions can Finasteride treat?

Finasteride is licensed to treat male pattern baldness, but it can also sometimes be prescribed off-label, to treat female pattern baldness in postmenopausal women.

Who is a good candidate for Finasteride?

  • Men aged 18 to 65 who experience male pattern baldness are the best candidates.
  • This medication is not recommended for premenopausal women, as it can cause hormonal imbalances and foetal malformations. 
  • However, in certain cases, women can use Finasteride as well, once they have reached menopause.
  • Finasteride is not recommended for people with severe liver or bladder problems.

What are the risks of Finasteride?

While the side effects of Finasteride are not frequent, you should be aware that some people can experience [8]:

  • Decreased libido and erectile dysfunction
  • Lower sperm count and ejaculation issues
  • Low mood
  • Breast lumps, discharges, swelling or tenderness (see your GP if this happens)
  • Allergic reactions (call emergency services if you experience trouble breathing)

Is Finasteride available on the NHS?

No, you cannot get Finasteride on the NHS when used for hair loss (it is, however, available to treat prostate conditions) [5], but it can be acquired from your local pharmacy with a private prescription.

tube of topical steroids

Steroids

Also known as corticosteroids, these medications are anti-inflammatory, which means they reduce tissue inflammation and irritation. Steroids can be found in different forms, but topical forms (such as steroid creams, steroid injections, lotions or gels) are the most common in treating conditions that cause hair loss [9]. They are not to be confused with anabolic steroids, taken to increase your muscle mass.

How does steroid treatment work?

Steroid treatments work by switching off certain genes which produce inflammation and by reducing the activity of the overactive immune system [10]. They also play a role in the production of anti-inflammatory proteins [11]. 

What conditions can steroids treat?
Steroid treatments have been found effective in treating autoimmune disorders that cause scalp inflammation, such as alopecia areata, frontal fibrosing alopecia and scalp psoriasis. They are also sometimes prescribed to relieve the symptoms of common scalp problems such as eczema or seborrheic dermatitis.

Who is a good candidate for steroid treatment?

  • Most people can use topical steroids safely
  • Topical steroids should not be used on broken or infected skin or if you have scalp acne or scalp folliculitis.
  • Pregnant women should consult a doctor before applying topical steroids.

What are the risks of steroid treatment?

Steroid side effects are infrequent and generally mild. They may include [9]:

  • The development of scalp folliculitis
  • The thinning of the skin in the treated area
  • An allergic reaction if you are sensitive to steroids
  • The development or worsening of scalp acne or rosacea
  • If very potent steroids are used, Cushing’s Syndrome 

Can you get steroids on the NHS?

Some corticosteroids are available on the NHS. While less potent corticosteroids (e.g. hydrocortisone 1%) are available over the counter, stronger ones (e.g. betamethasone) often require a prescription. 

Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)

Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)

Commonly known as red light therapy for hair loss, low-level laser therapy is a safe and painless treatment, which involves the focusing beams of red or near-infrared light on your scalp [12]. It has demonstrated effects in simulating hair growth [13].

How does LLLT work?

LLLT works by enhancing cell metabolism and increasing blood flow to the scalp, so more nutrients can reach your hair follicles [14]. Find out more about the effectiveness of laser hair growth caps.

What conditions can LLLT treat?

While it can also be used as a stand-alone therapy, LLLT is often used alongside other treatments, such as Minoxidil or Finasteride, to improve the symptoms of non-scarring hair loss, such as androgenetic alopecia, alopecia areata, telogen effluvium and chemotherapy-induced hair loss. 

Who is a good candidate for LLLT?

  • LLLT treatment is suitable for people of all genders
  • There are no significant restrictions for using LLLT
  • LLLT may not be effective in patients with scarring alopecia

What are the risks of LLLT?

This therapy is safe and most studies have found no adverse effects.  Among the few minor unwanted side effects reported were scalp itching and tenderness, which resolved in under 2 weeks [15]. LLLT temperature is not high enough to cause discomfort or to burn your scalp. 

patient undergoing Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy for hair loss is a type of treatment which is normally used for autoimmune conditions, such as alopecia areata. It involves applying certain irritant substances topically to the scalp, to alter your immune system response [16]. Some of the most common forms of immunotherapy for hair loss involve JAK inhibitors, medications which play a role in reducing the inflammatory signals which contribute to autoimmune reactions [17]. 

How does immunotherapy work?

The chemicals added to your scalp irritate it, provoking a mild allergic reaction. This creates controlled inflammation, in an attempt to determine the immune system to start protecting your hair follicles from the allergens instead of attacking them [16].

What conditions can immunotherapy treat

Immunotherapy treatment for hair loss is most commonly used in the treatment of alopecia areata, but may also be effective in treating other inflammatory conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema).

Who is a good candidate for immunotherapy?

  • Immunotherapy is usually prescribed to patients with localized hair loss that has not responded to corticosteroid treatments
  • It is recommended to healthy patients, with no history of adverse effects to medications which alter your immune response
  • Immunotherapy for hair loss is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women or people with severe allergies

What are the risks of immunotherapy?

Topical immunotherapy can produce some unwanted side effects, such as [16]:

  • Persistent dermatitis
  • Generalized eczema
  • Enlargement of the lymph nodes in your neck
  • Blistering 
  • Scalp rash
  • Yellowing of grey hair
  • Whitening of the scalp
  • Triggering a flare-up of your autoimmune condition

Can you get immunotherapy for hair loss on the NHS

No, you can not get immunotherapy for hair loss on the NHS. If you are a good candidate, you may be recommended this kind of treatment at a private hair clinic. 

Wimpole patient before and after hair transplant

Hair transplant

Hair transplants are simple, efficient and largely painless surgical procedures, which lead to very good results in hair restoration. They are most frequently used to treat hair loss from androgenetic alopecia.

Unlike other treatments, hair transplants are permanent, meaning you can enjoy their results for years to come. If you are considering getting hair restoration surgery, but are having doubts about its outcome, take a look at our before and after hair transplant gallery. It speaks for itself to what this treatment can do for regrowing full and healthy locks in thinning areas of your scalp. 

How does a hair transplant work?

A hair transplant involves harvesting healthy hair follicles from a donor area on your scalp which is not affected by alopecia (usually, the back or sides of the head) and reimplanting them in balding areas. There are two main techniques used in hair restoration surgery: follicular unit extraction (FUE) and follicular unit transplantation (FUT) [18]. 

The main difference between FUE and FUT is that the latter involves harvesting an entire strip of skin from your donor area, while the former only makes punctures to harvest hair follicles. While they are both effective, FUE has been favoured in recent years, as it leaves minimal scarring, while FUT can leave a fine, linear scar on your donor area.

The difference between FUE vs FUT hair transplants informational graphic

What conditions can a hair transplant treat?

Hair transplants usually have good results in male and female pattern baldness and can treat mild to moderate diffuse hair thinning. It can also sometimes be used successfully for baldness caused by trauma or burns, provided there is sufficient donor hair available. However, they are not normally recommended for alopecia areata and are not effective if you have keloid scarring or if your baldness is too extensive.

Who is a good candidate for a hair transplant?

What are the risks of a hair transplant?

While hair transplants are safe for the most part, like any surgical procedure, they can carry some risks (some of which can be reduced with diligent aftercare):

Are hair transplants available on the NHS?

Since they are a form of cosmetic surgery, you unfortunately can’t get a hair transplant on the NHS [18]. However, you can get a natural-looking hair transplant at a private facility.  Some of the best hair transplant clinics in the UK have a 97-100% success rate.

The most common hair loss causes, according to the NHS

There are several reasons why you may be experiencing hair shedding or hair loss. Here are those deemed by the NHS as most common and how you can recognize them [3][19] [20][21].

However, be aware that in some cases, these conditions don’t have typical presentations, so if your hair loss persists or if your symptoms get worse, it is a good idea to see a hair specialist.

Hair loss causesMain symptoms

Androgenetic alopecia

receding hairline

This condition currently affects 6.5 million UK men and the NHS states that 50% of women and most men will experience it at some point in their lives [1].

It is caused by a combination of age, genetics and hormones. When your body produces an excess of a male hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), it binds to androgen receptors in your hair follicles and makes them shrink until they can no longer produce hair.

Male pattern baldness:

Female pattern baldness:

  • A widening of the midline parting
  • A Christmas tree pattern
  • Diffuse thinning along the midline parting
  • In advanced cases, a bald spot on the crown

Telogen effluvium 

hair shedding from telogen effluvium

This temporary condition occurs when your hair growth cycle is disrupted, making a greater proportion than normal of your hair follicles enter the shedding phase [20].

It is usually triggered by stress, illness or physical/emotional trauma and hair loss often develops 1-3 months after the stressful event. Once the triggering factor is resolved, this condition improves without treatment, often in under 6 months [20].

Alopecia areata

alopecia areata in young woman

This condition affects 15 out of every 10.000 UK residents. It often occurs early in life, as half of all cases start in childhood and 8 out of 10 cases are diagnosed before the age of 40 [19].

Alopecia areata is autoimmune, which means your white blood cells attack your hair follicles.

  • Round, smooth bald spots which can appear on your scalp, in your beard or eyebrows
  • Small, broken hairs which look like exclamation marks
  • Tiny yellow or dark-coloured dots on your scalp
  • Pitted or brittle nails

In rare cases, alopecia areata can make an entire swathe of hair on your scalp fall out (ophiasis alopecia) or it can lead to complete hair loss on your head (alopecia totalis) or on your entire body (alopecia universalis).

Medication-induced alopecia

chemotherapy hair loss edited

Chemotherapy hair loss is the most notorious medication-induced alopecia, as 65% of patients lose their hair [23].

However, other types of treatments, such as certain kinds of heart medication, birth control pills or antidepressants can also induce hair shedding.

Fortunately, your hair should grow back once you have finished your treatment.

Depending on the kind of medication you take and your personal characteristics, you may encounter symptoms characteristic of telogen effluvium, androgenetic alopecia, or alopecia areata. So you may be experiencing some of the following:

  • Diffuse hair thinning
  • Patterned hair loss
  • Alopecia totalis or universalis
young man shampooing his hair

NHS-inspired ways to prevent hair loss

There are many things you can do to keep your locks healthy and keep hair loss at bay. Here is some of the best hair care advice provided by the NHS [24]:

  • Wash and style your hair gently – avoid scrubbing, rubbing your hair vigorously or brushing it forcefully, as you can cause hair breakage
  • Use conditioner every time you wash your hair – conditioner moisturizes your strands and coats them in a protective layer, reducing friction damage. 
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals on your hair – shampoos with strong detergents can strip your scalp of its natural oil and overuse of bleach or dye can cause hair loss.
  • Reduce heat styling frequency – exposing your strands frequently to heat can lead to dry, brittle hair which breaks easily. It is also ideal to let your hair dry naturally instead of blowdrying.
  • Avoid wearing tight hairstyles – hairstyles such as braids or ponytails can cause hair loss, as they can lead to traction alopecia. Frequently wearing heavy extensions can cause hair loss as well. 
  • Protect your hair from UV radiation – Excessive exposure to sunlight is not good for your hair. That is because UV radiation can damage your strands, causing summer hair loss.  
  • Avoid smoking – it is scientifically proven that smoking can accelerate androgenetic alopecia and it can also reduce blood flow to your hair follicles.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet – certain vitamin deficiencies can cause hair loss, as can insufficient iron or protein. Be sure to get enough biotin for hair, vitamin D for hair and Vitamin E for hair and the best place to get them is from nutritious foods.
  • Reduce the stress in your lifestress and anxiety can cause hair loss, so it is a good idea to engage in relaxing practices, such as yoga, meditation, exercise or therapy. 
group counseling session

NHS tips for coping with hair loss 

It has been scientifically proven that hair loss can be psychologically distressing for both genders. That is because it can affect your self-image and erode your sense of confidence [25]. If your hair thinning is affecting your mental health, you may want to try the following tips for coping with hair loss: 

  • Join an alopecia support group – there are many groups across the UK where people who are experiencing hair loss can exchange stories and support each other. 
  • Discuss your hair loss in therapy – a psychotherapist can help you come to terms with your hair condition, foster your self-esteem and develop healthy coping strategies. 
  • Enlist the support of your loved ones – share your feelings regarding your hair thinning with your nearest and dearest and allow them to be there for you.
  • Give your hair time to regrow – don’t despair if more hair is falling out than usual or if your hair growth treatment does not work overnight. Sometimes, a little more time is all you need to see your locks growing back. 
  • Don’t fall for miracle cures  – There are many hair loss treatments advertised online which have no demonstrated effect. Make sure you only purchase evidence-based products, preferably at the recommendation of your trichologist. 
  • Use styling tricks to hide your thinning hair the perfect hairdo can help you make the most of your dwindling locks, so take advantage of the best female hair loss styles for a thinning crown, or, respectively, the best hairstyles for men with thin hair. Cosmetics, such as hair thickening spray or volumizing shampoo for hair loss can also help make your strands appear fuller.

Are you concerned about hair loss?

It is perfectly normal to lose between 50-100 hairs every day. However, if your hair loss extends beyond this and you start to notice thinning areas that don’t seem to recover on their own, it is time to call in the experts.

Book a consultation now with one of our top-tier trichologists. They will perform all the necessary tests to get to the root of your hair woes and prescribe the most effective treatment for your specific condition. They will also give you personalized hair care and will let you in on the most helpful tips for masking your thinning locks.

The Best Treatments for Hair Loss, According to the NHS, Wimpole Clinic

Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on February 14, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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