Starting a prescription treatment for your hair loss can be exciting, comforting, and nerve-racking, all at the same time. Trying anything new is exciting, especially if it’s meant to solve a problem that’s important to you. Comforting for the fact that you’ll be worrying less about the number of strands falling out each day, and nerve-racking because it takes so damn long to see if it’s actually working.
To remove the nerve-racking component and figure out if your hair loss treatment is actually working, it’s best is to have a basic understanding of the hair cycle and the time frames it takes for the prescribed treatment to start working.
More importantly, recording your progress at key stages in the treatment plan will remove the subjectiveness of looking in the mirror every day and coming to your own conclusion.
The hair growth cycle
The hair growth cycle has three phases, but the two phases you should understand are the “growth phase” and the “resting phase.”
As the names suggest, the growth phase is the period when your hair is actually growing, which on average lasts for three years.
The resting phase, which lasts around three months, is where the hair stops growing and the follicle remains inactive. During this phase, the hair is let go by the follicle, and the hair falls out. Once the hair falls out, the follicle returns to the growth phase, and a new one grows. At any given time, 10-15% of your hair is in the resting phase.
Know what to expect from your treatment
The Shedding Phase (4 weeks)
It’s important to understand the hair growth cycle because it helps you understand the first milestone that may occur after you start treatment – the shedding phase. This usually occurs 4-6 weeks after starting treatment and may last for several weeks. Essentially, the prescription treatment activates the hair follicle in the resting phase back into the growth phase, which speeds up how quickly the follicle lets go of the hair. This basically means you may notice more hair following out than normal.
Some guys may shed more than others regarding the amount of shedding and the time period it lasts for. If you notice it, relax, it’s a sign the medication is working, and rest assured the follicle will be sprouting a new hair in a couple of months.
Important Point: Hair loss treatments control excessive hair loss and don’t stop all hair from falling out. It’s normal to lose 100 hairs per day as part of a natural and normal hair cycle. This should not be confused with the “shedding phase.”
The First Signs of Life (4 months)
Four months after starting treatment is the time things start to get interesting. Although, the first signs of life are usually in the form of small “baby-like” hair, which can be hard to see with the naked eye.
Any initial shedding that may have occurred when starting the program should have subsided.
Time to Review (8 months)
This is the true time frame you should wait for before making any judgment on the effectiveness of your treatment. New hairs which sprouted earlier are now longer and have increased in thickness and density and should be noticeable with the naked eye.
At this stage, the doctor should review your treatment and make any changes if required.
The first twelve months of a hair loss treatment is when you’re going to grow new hair. Clinical studies show that 12 months after starting treatment, you can see the maximum number of new hairs. This is the stage where you’ll truly see the results of your treatment plan.
Although the second twelve months of the program don’t yield any more hair, continued treatment results in an increase in the hair shaft diameter, giving the hair a fuller appearance.
Following this time period, we suggest you continue to monitor your hair retention yearly.
KEEP IT (beyond 2 years)
Providing all has progressed well in the first two years of treatment, this is the stage when you can consider a maintenance treatment to lock in the benefits you’ve realised in the last couple of years. It’s unlikely you’ll grow any more hair or see any major changes from this point forward, so it’s mainly about keeping your hair.
How to track your progress
Now that you understand the time frames on what to expect with your hair loss treatment, it’s important to track it from the start to remove any guesswork on your progress.
Tracking your progress is simple. With the introduction of smartphones, taking and keeping a photographic record at several points along the way is done in minutes and is very effective – if done correctly.
Key stages to track
- Before your start – get a baseline to compare against.
- 4 months – capture the first signs of life.
- 8 Months – the real review.
- 12 months – see how much hair you’ve grown.
- 24 months – The end result.
How to capture the right images
- Consistency of the photos is the key to ensuring you can accurately see the subtle changes.
- Find an area with ample natural daylight. Taking images at night with a flash or with varying light conditions doesn’t give an accurate representation of what’s going on.
- Take follow-up images from the same angle.
- Ideally, have the hair the same length to compare photos.
The angles to track
Everyone will differ in the location of their problem areas. Considering it’s so easy to snap a few photos from different angles, we suggest you track the following.
NB: Selfie stick not required. All images are to be taken from a standing or upright seated position with your phone.
Front of Hairline:
- Standing with your arms by your side, raise one arm directly in front of you with your elbow slightly bent, centre your face on the screen and take an image – just like taking a standard “selfie” shot.
- Holding that same position, place your chin down to your chest and take another image. This gives another angle showing more of the front of the hairline.
Top and Rear view of head:
- Holding your phone with both hands, raise your straightened arms directly above your head (head looking forward) with your biceps just in front of your ears and take an image of the top of the head.
- Hold the same position, place your chin on your chest, so your biceps are now behind your ears, and take another image. It may be helpful to take the images in front of a mirror to see what is on the screen.
Side view of Hairline:
5 & 6. Right Hand Side (RHS) –Standing with your arms by your side, raise your right arm sideways until perpendicular with the body, then bend your arm at the elbow until your forearm in parallel with your body. Ensure your head is facing forward, then take the image. Left Hand Side (LHS) –Repeat the directions above using your left arm.
If you’re a Harley client, you can upload your images into your account on the website (photo Upload).
Waiting for new hair to grow is literally worse than watching paint dry. Many guys fall into the trap of checking for changes more often than you should, which creates unnecessary anxiety.
Providing your using a medically prescribed treatment, you should take comfort in knowing the chance of having more hair in 12 months is very high. Try not to sweat it, be patient, and wait for the milestones to tick over.
The main thing you need to do is make sure your compliant and taking your treatment as directed.