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How Men Kept Their Hair 40 Years Ago Vs. Today

Hair Health

9 Min Read

By Dr. Kali Olsen, ND2020-09-30

Medically Reviewed by


Modern men are changing the script on hair thinning and preservation; it isn’t just a middle-aged man’s game anymore. Much like women in their twenties and thirties are taking a proactive approach to skin aging, millennial men are finding new ways to age-proof their hairlines. 

Throughout the last few decades, guys have addressed hair thinning with topicals, drugs, and advancing surgery techniques. Today, men’s options have evolved to the current frontier of hair wellness, which is centered on the science of natural ingredients and whole-body balance as an alternative. “Hair wellness is a new category that we developed,” says Nutrafol CEO Giorgos Tsetis. “It’s perfectly in line with our approach to addressing the root causes instead of symptoms.” 

While men’s hair thinning isn’t a new problem, our solutions keep advancing with the times. Read on to see how the options for men’s hair health have evolved over the past 40 years.

The '80s: Hair transplant surgery and Rogaine

This was a decade of advances in hair transplant surgery. Micrografts or minigrafts made up of one to four hair follicle units could be meticulously transplanted into areas of desired hair growth. However, treatments required multiple sessions that didn’t come cheap. Costs in the 1980s for a hair transplant session commonly ranged from $1,000 to $2,500 (equivalent to $3,000 to $7,800 today), making it an expensive investment for the average man.

Pharmaceutical hair growth support was also in full swing in the ‘80s, with the accidental discovery of Minoxidil’s influence on hair growth leading to the release of topical Rogaine by 1986. Though it isn’t entirely understood how Minoxidil works to support hair growth, it appears to impact cells of hair follicles by positively stimulating their activity, enhancing the hair growth phase, reducing hair loss, and improving blood flow. These pharmaceutical options came with the caveat of a need for continued use, with results halting or progressively worsening for patients once these drug interventions were stopped.

The '90s: Hair Club for Men and Propecia

With his famous tagline, “I’m not only the Hair Club president, but I’m also a client,” ‘90s businessman Sy Sperling gave a face to male hair thinning. Sperling’s openness on national TV helped make the subject of male hair loss less taboo. Though recently deceased, the legacy he leaves behind paved the way for important discussions about male health and aesthetics for decades to come.

In this decade Propecia, or Finasteride, became a popular new approach to combating male hair thinning. Finasteride’s claim-to-fame was the mechanism of blocking 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme responsible for turning testosterone into the more potent, hair-stressing androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Later, in 2012, the FDA imposed the need for Finasteride to include warnings of its association sexual side effects, including erectile dysfunction and low libido, the latter of which can continue even after stopping use of the drug. This sobering announcement made the need for natural, effective hair growth alternatives more pressing than ever.

The Early 2000s: PRP and scalp micropigmentation

The new millenia came with a boom in cosmetic dermatology advancements, making way for platelet-rich plasma therapy, or PRP, and scalp micropigmentation. Commonly performed in a series of three monthly treatments (with maintenance follow-ups), PRP is the injection of a highly concentrated serum of one’s own natural growth factors into the scalp to encourage hair growth. Micropigmentation, meanwhile, encompasses the medical use of tattooing to help camouflage hair thinning. The process usually requires multiple eight-hour sessions for full results. 

These new advancements came with a lower price tag than hair transplant surgeries, but they still required a sizable investment. PRP sessions average $400 or more per session, while micropigmentation sessions can range from $400 to $1,000. Both techniques are commonly utilized with other treatments. Experts in the use of PRP, in particular, commonly combine this technique with pharmaceutical-grade nutraceuticals to help their patients achieve better, longer lasting results.

2010s to present day: Hair wellness and nutraceuticals

As brands like Goop pushed the wellness industry forward, consumers and physicians took notice of medical-grade nutraceuticals as a viable alternative to harsh drugs and invasive procedures. Around this same time, Dr. Sophia Kogan, MD, a co-founder of Nutrafol, was researching the five underlying root causes of hair thinning — stress, hormones, environment, metabolism, and nutrition — along with the clinically tested botanicals that could address them.

“We identified Nutrafol with hair wellness because whole-body wellness is directly tied to the health of your hair,” says Tsetis, who launched Nutrafol in 2016 as a natural and effective option for improved hair health. Recommended by dermatologists and stylists nationwide, Nutrafol boasts a patented Synergen Complex™ with ingredients clinically shown to improve hair growth in both men and women. These ingredients include ashwagandha, shown to help support healthy levels of stress hormone cortisol, and saw palmetto, shown to safely help block testosterone’s transition into hair-thinning DHT. Curcumin was chosen for its influence on calming the inflammatory response and hydrolyzed marine collagen to help support and strengthen the scalp our hair follicles depend on for support.

As more men realize they have the power to take control of hair thinning even before it starts, they’re combining these powerful ingredients with healthy lifestyle choices to support their hair, naturally. 

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