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The follicle five: Battle against baldness

It's been almost six months since we last saw our "follicle five." Each of our Dateline volunteers is trying a different hair growing treatment.
/ Source: Dateline NBC

It's been almost six months since we last saw our "follicle five." Each of our volunteers is trying a different hair growing treatment. And we've sent them back to Dr. Paolo Romanelli, a professor with the University of Miami's Dermatology Department. The doctor took photos of each of our volunteers at the start of this project and is now taking similar shots. We'll be comparing those before and after pictures and hear Dr. Romanelli's subjective opinion on who has and has not grown new hair.

But first, we sat down with our five guys to hear what they think.

Joe, our oldest volunteer at 54, is disappointed. He grades his progress at a D-minus, saying he doesn’t see any difference. Joe is taking a double-punch approach. Using both of the only two FDA approved drugs for hair growth, Propecia and Minoxidil. But where Joe doesn't see a difference, Dr. Romanelli sees some minor changes.

Dr. Romanelli: "I like to say mild to moderate growth. Some results, but not spectacular."

That's enough of an incentive to keep Joe trying the drugs for another six months. The manufacturer of Minoxidil says its product is most "appropriate" for men who have "gradual hair loss on the top of their scalp" and not for "frontal baldness." Also experts say it will take about a year before our volunteers will truly know if their treatment is a success or a failure.

George, our twin who is married, says he regularly uses his laser comb. It's a $700 device that emits a low level laser that is supposed to stimulate the scalp. He says he has noticed a difference. Dr. Romeanelly, who did not know what each of our volunteers was using, feels George had good results.

Dr. Romanelli: "I think had some substantial results. I see some new follicles. New hair follicles in the crown. I think the results were very encouraging."

As for Richard, our single twin –

Dr. Romanelli: "Richard, moderate growth. Some good results, especially around on the bi-temporal areas."

Hector, our computer support technician is taking Viviscal, the fish-based product imported from Finland. He had said his expectations were low.

Dr. Romanelli: "Hector, unfortunately, is the most disappointing one.  On the bi-temporal area -I don't see any growth."

Still, Hector feels he has had some success, because his hair has stopped falling out. It also has stopped drying out.

Stafford: "Hector, it's $600 a year for Viviscal."

Hector: "Yeah, I think it's worth it. If it helps you maintain what you have, I think it's definitely worth it."

The company that makes Viviscal says people who are in the early stages of hair loss "likely benefit most" from using their product. Hector has been losing his hair for more than 10 years. But when it came to growing hair, there was unanimous agreement about our last volunteer. But Paul was not feeling confident two weeks after he had his $10,000 hair transplant. Back then, he was in a panic. His scalp was traumatized right after the surgery and he actually lost some of his existing hair. Paul's doctor, however, reassured him that it's not unusual to lose hair right after a transplant. But what's happened since then? He's thrilled with his new growth.

Dr. Romanelli: "Paul, I definitely see substantial growth in the bi-temporal areas. In the two temples."

Paul, who hasn't taken a family photo in years, is changing. He's become friends again with the mirror -- and something else. He now has a brush.

So far, Dr. Romanelli says he's seen minimal to substantial growth in 4 out of 5 of our men. We're going to check back in another six months to see how they're all doing after one full year. It's important to remember our Dateline hair project is an unscientific exercise. Your results may be different and you should consult your doctor before starting any of these treatments.

And while Paul already feels transformed, there's another big change coming for his family this holiday season. It had been 10 years since he’d taken a Christmas picture with his family.