Bald HeadMy hair has never been more than an inconvenience for me— but when it started to rain from my head like confetti, it rekindled my interest in hair products. As a single gay man (with an arguable appreciation for beauty) there were few things that could darken my romantic prospects more than going bald.

I knew I wanted to keep my hair, but I was concerned about the cost and effectiveness of the different options out there. Fortunately there are treatments and… if you know what to get, they cost less than some designer shampoos.

Don’t be fooled by gimmicky products

Much of the non-prescription treatments advertised on television do little more than darken thinning hair (kind of like mascara) or tint the scalp (kind of like spray paint). There are a lot of snake oils out there aimed at getting your money and preying on customer desperation. Knowledge is power: talk to your doctor or look for customer reviews in hair loss forums before buying.

There are, however, a couple things that are proven to work…

Rogaine (aka Minoxidil) is now available as a generic non-prescription product. Target has a three month supply for around 18 bucks… which is not bad. The downside to minoxidil is that it’s a topical liquid and must be applied twice daily. The chemical may discolor fabrics and doesn’t feel too pleasant on the hands. It doesn’t work in all cases and won’t re-grow hair.

Propecia is the other remedy. Originally approved as a prostate medication (finestaride), Propecia not only slowed or stopped baldness in many patients but even reversed it in a small percentage. This is currently most recommended solution by medical professionals although many men use it in conjunction with minoxidil.

Propecia is not generic and you can expect to shell out about 60 bucks a month in out of pocket health care expenses. But, as with many things in our crazy system of medical insurance, there is a loophole. The exact same drug, used to treat prostate issues, is available in a higher dosage pill (called Proscar) or as a generic, which costs about the same but has five times the active ingredient. Finestaride is just for men.

Your doctor can prescribe the finestaride 5 milligram and you can purchase a pill splitter to divide it into quarters, saving nearly 75%. My insurance even ended up subsidizing the medication.

The Nuclear Option: Hair transplants.

Doctors can surgically relocate the hair to fill in the bald areas. As you might imagine, the treatment is expensive and not covered by insurance (although there is always flexible spending). There’s also an art to it, so make sure the person doing it is skilled. The benefit over a toupee is that you can say it’s really your hair.

Don’t wait.

If you aren’t sure if your hair loss is an issue, talk to your stylist. Then your doctor. The longer you wait the less hair you have to hold onto.

When not checking the bathroom sink for stray hairs, Mike writes Broken Cupid, a dating blog for gay men.