Perhaps it starts with finding a few strands of hair on your pillow in the morning. You start to notice that every day you’re leaving more and more hair on your hairbrush. Pretty soon you’ll be leaving hairy bath plugs behind every time you wash your hair. At this point it's pretty clear for everyone to see – you’re going bald!
While you may have a full head of hair, it may not always be that way. In fact, more than 50% of all men on the planet suffer from some form of hair loss. Generally associated with the process of aging and seen as something that only starts around middle age, the truth of the matter is that hair loss can start at any age and it is not uncommon for men in their twenties to have a gradually receding hairline.
While we may try and avoid the truth and blame our hair loss on shampoo or from wearing a hat too often, androgenic alopecia, more commonly known as male pattern baldness, is usually caused by drawing the short straw in the genetics game and/or androgenic hormones like testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
While this might cause panic and have you wondering how you can make headwear a permanent part of your outfit, male pattern baldness can be slowed, stopped or even reversed. The key is early detection. The sooner you detect it, the less hair you lose.
Thankfully the modern man has a selection of safe and effective treatments from which to choose that can help restore some or all the hair they’ve already lost.
Today we’ll be combing through the facts on male pattern baldness along with the most common and effective treatments to help you overcome male pattern baldness.
As its name would suggest, male pattern baldness is a pattern of hair loss in men, which left untreated can lead to a man only having hair on the temples and back of the head.
Men who suspect that they may be suffering male pattern baldness should watch for signs of hair loss around the temples and/or the crown of their head. Another sign to look out for is the appearance of a “widow’s peak”. This occurs when the hair loss is focused on the hairline (the ‘front’ of your hair, which is on your forehead) forming a shape similar to that of the letter “M”. If left untreated, the hair loss can progress up to the point where most or even all the hair on the head is lost.
While generally regarded as being a natural part of life and the aging process, male pattern baldness actually can and does affect teenagers. In fact, it is so common that a quarter of all men in the US suffer some hair loss by the age of 21. This number rises to 66% of men experiencing a noticeable loss of hair by the age of 35. By the age of 50, almost 85% of men suffer a significant loss of hair.
This hair loss usually comes down to genetics, with countless scientific studies showing a direct link between men with a higher risk of male pattern baldness and having close relations suffering from male pattern baldness. The risk increases significantly if these relatives are from the maternal side of the family tree.
While the vast majority (95%) of hair loss among men is due to male pattern baldness, hair loss could also be a symptom of a more serious condition. It could be a sign of:
The above conditions usually count hair loss among a range of other symptoms that include:
A blood test or skin biopsy using a sample of skin from the scalp can be used to test for these disorders.
Male pattern baldness is caused by two factors:
DHT is a hormone that is naturally produced by the male body and is a by-product of testosterone. Essentially, this means that the body is continuously taking a portion of testosterone and converting it into DHT. DHT plays a major role in the body changing from that of a boy into a man. It is known to change the appearance of the genitalia and jaw, deepening the voice and increasing the amount of hair found on the body.
While all the above are vital in the maturation of the male body, DHT does have a downside. It is known to bind to hair follicles, causing them to shrink and shrivel. This, in turn, causes the hair to grow at a slower and slower rate until the follicle can no longer create strands of hair.
Some men suffer no ill effects from DHT, and their hair growth continues as it always has. Unfortunately, not all men are this fortunate and may react negatively to its presence and notice signs of balding from a young age. Basically, the more sensitive the follicle is to DHT, the faster the hair loss.
This might sound simple enough – if you have lost enough hair to notice a difference, you are balding. A doctor might employ a device called a densitometer. This tool allows them to view tiny hair follicles and the spaces between them.
Doctors usually classify a patient’s male pattern baldness according to a system known as the Norwood Scale. This system classifies male pattern baldness according to a series of diagrams ranging from a receding hairline to full balding. Male pattern baldness may take several different forms, with the most common being the previously mentioned receding hairline along with diffuse thinning of hair and thinning or balding at the crown
In most cases, a man might start to suspect male pattern baldness as his hairline moves further and further up his head. When the receding is uneven, with the corners disappearing faster than the center, the man is left with a widow’s peak.
This is a general thinning of hair across the entire scalp, without any real change to the hairline. Diffuse thinning is most noticeable when the hair is wet or under a bright light that shows the scalp that is usually covered by hair.
For some men, their hairline might never recede, but their hair loss is centered on their crown. Because of the location of the crown at the top of the head, most men do not notice hair loss in this area until it is quite advanced. The best way to check is via feel. If it feels like the scalp is barer than in other areas, a handheld mirror or taking a selfie are good ways to confirm.
The golden rule when it comes to hair loss is the earlier you act, the more remains intact. And these days there are several ways you can act on hair loss. The most effective treatment when it comes to male pattern baldness is the pharmaceutical treatments - Finasteride and Minoxidil. However, if the hair loss is at an advanced stage, a hair transplant via surgery may be undertaken.
There are currently only two FDA-approved medications for treating male pattern hair loss - Finasteride and Minoxidil.
Finasteride (sold as a branded drug under the names of Propecia and Proscar) is an oral medication that causes the body to stop production of DHT. Clinical testing has shown that finasteride can reduce levels of DHT by up to 71.4%. Continued use of finasteride has even been shown to regrow hair over time.
Compared to the only other FDA-approved hair loss treatment, minoxidil, finasteride has a higher rate of success. However, if the patient ceases taking this medication, they will start to lose them again. The patient will only see a reduction in hair loss after three months to a year. If there is no change at all after a year, doctors usually advise the patient to stop treatment.
Known side effects of finasteride include:
The only other hair loss treatment approved by the FDA is Minoxidil, a topical treatment that is applied directly to the patient’s scalp. Clinical studies have shown that minoxidil is effective in reducing the rate of hair loss in those suffering from male pattern baldness. It does this by activating the growth phase of follicles. This, in turn, causes an increase in the amount of blood and nutrients flowing to the patient’s hair, encouraging growth.
In certain cases, Minoxidil has even stimulated the growth of new hair. However, much like finasteride, results are not immediate, and, on average, patients will only see an improvement after 4-12 months of treatment. If the patient stops taking minoxidil, hair loss will return.
Known side effects of minoxidil include:
There are countless over-the-counter supplements and products that claim to slow, stop and reverse hair loss. While some may be of no actual use in treating male pattern baldness, there are some that can be beneficial. While perhaps not as effective as the FDA-approved treatments, they can form the basis of a program aimed at minimizing the effects of hair loss.
Like finasteride, saw palmetto has been shown to reduce levels of DHT in the body. However, it is far less effective at doing this compared to the FDA-approved treatment.
Clinical studies have shown that while biotin can be linked to improved hair growth, it does not directly slow or stop hair loss.
While there are an almost infinite number of shampoos that claim to be miracle cures for baldness, many of them can be viewed as snake oil. However, those containing biotin, ketoconazole and saw palmetto, can be good for your hair.
If none of the treatments are effective or possible, the patient may choose to disguise/hide their hair loss. There are several ways in which this can be done.
Usually only advised as a last resort, this process consists of hair being taken from parts of the scalp unaffected by male pattern baldness and transplanting it in bald areas of the scalp. Needless to say, this process must be carried by a skilled and experienced surgeon. However, if successful, it can remove all signs of hair loss. Since a hair transplant is regarded as cosmetic, it’s extremely unlikely that the process is covered by insurance
Also classified as a cosmetic procedure, scalp micro-pigmentation is a process where the pigment of the scalp is altered to give the appearance of a full head of hair. This is not regarded as a treatment for male pattern baldness since it does not slow or reverse the process of hair loss, only disguising it.
Today wigs and hairpieces are more realistic than ever, with many of them being virtually indistinguishable from actual real hair. There is a wide range of styles, textures, and colors available but if the patient is aiming for people to never even know that they suffered from hair loss, it is advised that they choose something as close to their natural hair as possible.
Weaves are similar to wigs but are actually sewn into the patient’s own hair. For this to be possible, they must have enough hair of their own. By being sewn on, weaves are always secure and in place. On the downside, they must be resewn after a period due to natural hair growth. The patient’s natural hair can become damaged after the process is repeated a number of times.
Hair growth can be kick-started and the thickness improved thanks to a daily massage using hair oils.
There has been no scientific proof of the items listed below having any effect on hair loss, yet there are those who swear by them.
Sometimes the best solution is just to accept it. In fact, shaving off your remaining hair rather than clinging onto the idea of a head full of hair can give you a new sense of confidence and may even suit you and give you a brand-new look.
Losing your hair can be a traumatic experience and affect your self-confidence, causing anxiety, low self-esteem, and even depression. Those who struggle coming to terms with hair loss should seek counseling.
By now it should be clear that hair loss does not mean all is lost. Whether you choose a pharmaceutical treatment, to disguise the hair loss or try a supplement, the most important thing is to remain consistent with your treatment. And remember, the earlier male pattern baldness is diagnosed, the more hair you will be left with.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming reviews on the most popular and successful online hair loss experts and the treatments they offer.