There are many different reasons that traditional hair loss treatments might not work for someone, but regardless of the reason, people who still want to overcome their condition may need to look into alternative treatments.
There are a lot of different alternative treatments available, some that may work and some that do not. Finding an alternative treatment that works can be like finding a needle in a haystack because there are many people out there trying to take advantage of desperate people that want to cure their hair loss, but they do exist.
In this article we are going to be looking at acupuncture as a potential hair loss treatment. You will learn how acupuncture works and we will review the scientific evidence to ultimately determine if it is viable as an alternative treatment or not.
But first it is important that you know what acupuncture is.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the oldest standing health practices and is believed to have started around 100 BC in ancient Chinese medicine.
The way that it works is an acupuncture specialist inserts small needles into the person's body at various depths in an attempt to balance their energy. But what medical applications does “balancing energy” have?
It all has to do with qi (pronounced “chi”).
In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that qi flows through the body, traveling through various pathways called meridians. You can essentially think of meridians as the circulatory system.
Sometimes though qi flow can get blocked, clogged, or have other problems that the Chinese believe lead to several health issues.
When acupuncture is done correctly, needles that are inserted in the appropriate spots and combinations are believed to be able to alleviate a wide range of issues. Lower back pain, neck pain, headaches, blood pressure issues, dental pain, and sciatica are just some of the applications for acupuncture, many of which have been scientifically proven to be effective.
While the health benefits are proven, there is no available evidence supporting the existence of meridians. Scientists often use neuroscience to explain the benefits of acupuncture saying that the benefits come from blood flow stimulation and natural pain killers produced by the body.
Interestingly enough, both of these may apply to hair loss, let’s take a look.
How acupuncture may help hair loss
Both blood flow and inflammation are directly related to hair loss, and if acupuncture can benefit either of them then the notion that it can help hair loss would have much more validity.
Blood flow and hair loss are directly connected.
Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout the entire body, including to the hair and scalp. The hair follicles use the oxygen and nutrients to grow and complete healthy cycles, but when there is not enough blood flow then problems begin to arise.
Not enough blood flow means not enough of those vital compounds, and this means that the hairs growth cycle may begin to suffer. When the hair cannot complete entire growth cycles it will become shorter and thinner every cycle, which eventually can lead to complete baldness (1).
If acupuncture was able to increase blood flow to the scalp it could help mitigate the growth issues that are associated with low blood flow, therefore promoting hair growth.
Inflammation is the body's response to real or perceived threats. White blood cells are sent to the affected area to help fight off bacteria and viruses to prevent infection.
Unfortunately, although this is normally a healthy process, inflammation and hair loss have shown to be correlated (2). Scientists theorize that this is because DHT (the androgen responsible for hair loss) causes irritation that leads to inflammation. When inflammation is short-term it is usually not an issue, but when it is prolonged (which it likely would be if it was caused by DHT) it can lead to hair miniaturization worsening.
There is evidence that acupuncture can help reduce inflammation (3) which may help reduce the hair damage.
What the research says
One study conducted in 2011 (4) tested acupuncture against a combination of cystine, vitamin B1, and minoxidil (all ingredients that have been shown to help against hair loss). 43 of the test subjects were treated with acupuncture and 35 were treated with the serum, all for a form of hair loss called alopecia areata (AA). The study lasted four months.
At the end of the study the subjects who used acupuncture had a 97.7% rate of effectiveness while the group with the solution only had a 77.1%. These are remarkable results… if only they had been repeated.
Unfortunately this is the only study that has been completed, although there is another study that is currently underway testing acupuncture for seborrheic alopecia (another form of hair loss) (5).
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence as well, but unfortunately you can never fully trust it as there are too many factors that are not taken into consideration and the control factor is often lacking.
Overall, the fact that there is scientific evidence, even if only a small amount, supporting acupuncture is valuable because many alternative treatments have not had any studies done whatsoever.
Based on the information that we currently have available, not only do I believe that acupuncture for hair loss needs to be investigated further, but if you can make time for it and afford it you should consider adding it to your regimen.
Should you use it as a standalone treatment? Probably not, but it may a good natural blood flow enhancer or just a good treatment to add on to an already existing regimen that you want to get more (potential) growth from.
Don’t expect to see results when trying acupuncture as there is nothing showing that you will for sure grow hair, but also dont be surprised if you implement it into your routine and it does show some results.