Hair loss treatment is expensive, if you don’t know what you are buying.
In 2017, hair loss products were among the top 40 best-selling products on the online shopping website Taobao, with young consumers making up more than 40% of sales. Even with the hard economic impact COVID-19 has brought about, market analysts have reported a continued sustained growth rate of 3-4% for hair loss products.
A study has shown that 63% of Singaporean men suffer from male-pattern baldness. With a percentage like that, we can be pretty confident of two things: the odds of losing your hair are high, and hair loss is common enough that it shouldn’t be a source of embarrassment (mai paiseh leh).
Interestingly, the same study found that of those Singaporean men seeking treatment, 74% used treatment options of unproven effectiveness. That’s just such a waste of money, time and effort!
Here, we discuss the various hair loss treatment options in Singapore, weighing out the costs and effort involved:
The Cornerstone Treatments – Oral Finasteride and Topical Minoxidil
Oral Finasteride and Topical Minoxidil have been most extensively studied for the treatment of male-pattern baldness. Both medications have shown effectiveness and a good safety profile in clinical trials, hence elevating their status as the first-line treatment options for male-pattern baldness. They are also the only two treatment options for male-pattern baldness recognized by the FDA.
However, response to treatment with Oral Finasteride or Topical Minoxidil varies among men. While some achieve the ideal significant hair regrowth, others may only benefit the most from the slowing of additional hair loss.
Continued, diligent use of these medications is necessary for it to work. As soon as these medications are stopped, hair loss will recur. A common mistake among men is to stop these medications when it does not seem to be effective after only 1-2 months.
There is some evidence to suggest that combining treatment with Oral Finasteride and Topical Minoxidil may be more effective than treatment with either alone. However, further studies are still needed to determine whether combination therapy should be routinely recommended. Always discuss with your doctor the best option for you.
The Oral Finasteride
For the treatment of male-pattern baldness, the recommended dose of Oral Finasteride is 1 mg per day. Treatment with Oral Finasteride should be continued daily for at least 12 months for the full effect of the medication to be seen. Hair regrowth will be lost over 6-9 months if Finasteride is stopped.
Occasionally, Finasteride has unwanted effects on sexual function, including erectile dysfunction, decreased libido and ejaculatory dysfunction. The risk for sexual side effects increases with age. Sexual side effects related to Finasteride are temporary and usually resolve after the medication is stopped. Side effects are more likely to occur with the typical 5 mg dose used to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy.
The unwanted sexual side effects although found to be rare in clinical studies may still scare men away from Oral Finasteride. You may find Topical Finasteride available at specialised clinics in Singapore. Multiple studies have shown that Topical Finasteride can be effective with a favourable safety profile, but more research is still needed to determine the exact concentration that is safe and effective. To err on the side of caution, always speak to your doctors. For now, FDA still recommends Oral Finasteride as the approved treatment for male-pattern baldness.
Oral Finasteride 1mg is also a prescription-only medication, meaning that in Singapore you would require a legal prescription from a doctor to obtain the medication.
Oral Finasteride costs:
Clinic consultation (per visit) – $60-$120;
SIRE consultation: $10
Finasteride 1 mg tablet (90 tablets, 3 month supply) – $180-$240 (generic), $285-$330(branded).
SIRE: $1.50 – $1.90 per tablet (starts at $162 for 3-month supply)
Effort involved to take Oral Finasteride:
One tablet a day plus visit(s) to the doctor’s clinic to obtain a prescription for continued medication supply. 1 year and beyond.
Read more: Where to buy finasteride in Singapore
The Topical Minoxidil
In Singapore, Topical Minoxidil is available over-the-counter, without a prescription as a lotion with concentrations of 2%, 3% or 5% and as a 5% foam. Men who start applying Topical Minoxidil in the early stages of their baldness, and who have smaller areas of baldness, respond best to Topical Minoxidil.
The use of the 5% concentration is recommended due to evidence supporting better effectiveness of Minoxidil 5% lotion compared with Minoxidil 2% lotion in men. However, patients treated with 5% compared with 2% Minoxidil reported more scalp irritation.
Minoxidil 5% foam, unlike the 5% lotion, is free of propylene glycol, reducing the risk for scalp irritation.
Topical Minoxidil must be used twice a day for at least 4 months. Hair shedding may occur at the initiation of treatment and usually decreases within two months. Hair growth may then be seen within 4-8 months and stabilizes at 12-18 months. A full year of treatment is usually recommended.
Side effects from Topical Minoxidil are infrequent. The most common side effect experienced is scalp irritation.
Oral Minoxidil in Singapore
Some men may find it troublesome to apply a scalp treatment twice a day. There has been some evidence that a low dose of Oral Minoxidil can be safe and effective for the treatment of male-pattern baldness. Your doctor will be able to advise. If you don’t have one, you can book an appointment with SIRE’s doctor here.
Traditionally, Oral Minoxidil was used as a potent treatment in reducing high blood pressure. It fell out of favour due to the development of safer and more effective blood pressure medications.
Can a doctor prescribe Oral Minoxidil?
To date, there is no Oral Minoxidil product registered with the HSA. The recommendation by the FDA is still for Topical Minoxidil in the treatment of male-pattern baldness.
Since Oral Minoxidil is not registered with the HSA for use in Singapore, that means that doctors need to apply for a special licence to bring in Oral Minoxidil in Singapore.
Finasteride is the most common oral solution to hair loss in Singapore. However, that does not mean SIRE is shutting the door to Oral Minoxidil. If you discussed your concerns with our doctors, we might be able to provide a solution tailored to your needs.
Minoxidil 2% lotion (one month supply): $35-$60
Minoxidil 5% lotion (one-month supply): $70-$90
SIRE Minoxidil 5% (one-month supply): starts at $52
Effort involved to use Minoxidil:
Twice daily scalp application with Topical Minoxidil. 1 year and beyond
Hair Transplant Surgery
There are various hair transplant techniques available in Singapore. However, with all hair loss treatments, it may not be a permanent solution. Men can continue to lose non-transplanted hairs following hair transplantation, resulting in diminishing satisfaction with the results. The continuation of treatment with Oral Finasteride or Topical Minoxidil following a hair transplant procedure may help to limit further loss of pre-existing scalp hair.
Hair transplant costs:
One session can range from $2000-$20,000 depending on the number of grafts required and the hair transplant technique applied.
Read more about “The hidden cost behind hair transplant every Singapore men should know”.
Effort involved to undertake hair transplant:
A standard hair transplant session normally takes about 5-8 hours. Additional maintenance sessions may be required depending on response to surgery.
Low Level Laser Light Therapy (LLLT)
Studies have shown that Low Level Laser Light Therapy with a HairMax LaserComb device is effective in promoting hair regrowth in mild-to-moderate hair loss. It is also the only medical device approved by the FDA for the treatment of male-pattern baldness. However, more studies are still required to determine what the optimal treatment regimen is and how long hair regrowth can be achieved and sustained with LLLT treatment.
$650-$1250 per package.
Recommended treatment regimes are 90 seconds to 15 minutes of treatment, 3 times a week (depending on the device model used). 1 year and beyond.
In the treatment of male-pattern baldness, we’re in for the long-run. Treatment should be a good, sustainable fit money and effort wise for you to enjoy lasting success.
A dermatologist is another option if you have serious symptoms that are not typical. For example, if you have hair loss that does not fit the pattern of male pattern hair loss, or sudden hair loss. Read this article to find out when you should go to a dermatologist.