How to cope with male pattern baldness
50 per cent of men over the age of 50 are completely, or almost completely, bald. Here's everything you need to know about hair loss, from why it happens to how you can style it out and learn to love your follicle free self.
Why does hair loss happen?
All men will progressively lose hair as they grow older, but for some it’s far more noticeable than others.
Male pattern baldness is a hereditary trait, meaning it runs in families, and this is what causes 95% of male hair loss. Identical twins will generally lose their hair at the same time, in the same pattern.
It’s thought to occur because of an excess of a male hormone that functions like a more intense version of testosterone playing on sensitive hair follicles.
A quarter of all men will have noticeable hair loss by the age of 30 and that increases to two-thirds by the age of 60.
How does the hair loss happen?
Hair loss is incredibly logical. It progresses from hair follicle to hair follicle, not skipping a single hair so that the loss occurs zone by zone.
Generally, it follows the pattern of a receding hairline, followed by thinning around the crown and temple area, eventually leaving a horseshoe shape of hair around the back and sides of the head.
There are three different ways to lose hair, and they will affect different men to different extents. These are:
1. Hair loss in the temples
Hair loss around the temples (also called a receding hairline) starts towards the forehead and progressively moves backwards.
This sort of hair loss occurs with almost all men and fewer than 5% of adult males maintain the straight hairline they had as young boys.
2. Hair loss in the crown
This hair loss tends to happen in a circular pattern. It usually begins in the crown at the back of the head and expands from there.
3. General thinning
You may first notice your hair thinning because your parting has widened. This type of hair loss is actually more common, or noticeable, in women—75% of whom are affected by hair loss as they age. Asian men are also particularly affected.
Men can see the overall volume of their hair reduce by 50% through general thinning without an actual bald spot ever occurring. For some men, a sunburnt scalp is the first sign that they are losing their hair in this way.
How is hair loss treated?
Male pattern baldness is a completely natural part of ageing and doesn’t pose a risk to your overall health. For this reason, it doesn’t need treatment.
If, however, you want treatment for cosmetic reasons it’s best to first pay a visit to your GP who will discuss various options with you before referring you to a private dermatologist.
Two types of medication, called finasteride and minoxidil are commonly used. They don’t work for everyone however, and require continual use to stay effective, making them expensive.
- Finasteride is a one-a-day tablet that works by preventing the hormone testosterone from being converted into dihydrotestosterone, which is responsible for follicle shrinkage. It takes three to six months to see effects of this treatment, and if you stop taking the tablet the balding process will resume within six months.
- Minoxidil is a lotion that is applied to the head every day. It’s available from pharmacies without prescription. Much like finasteride it requires use for several months before a result is obvious but any new hair will fall out once use of the lotion stops.
Before and after the tattooing process. Image via Blogspot
Tattooing the scalp can give the illusion of a full head of hair, provided you don’t mind the skinhead aesthetic. By applying varying shades of pigment to the scalp which replicate the size, shape and density of hairs the process creates the appearance of a ‘buzz cut’ hairstyle.
This option is mildly uncomfortable but leaves no scarring and is adaptable for any further hair loss. It’s quite an expensive process, with pricing starting from around £3000.
Before and after a hair transplant. Image via Bob Man's Hair Transplant blog
Using a local anaesthetic, a 1cm part of the scalp that bears plenty of hair is removed and divided into single hairs or tiny groups of hair. These are then grafted onto areas where there’s no hair.
Amazingly, this procedure requires no stitches because the the grafts are held in place by the clotting of the blood in the areas where the hair is inserted.
Within six months the hair settles and begins to regrow, but the process takes a long time; a break of nine to 12 months is required between procedures. There’s also a risk of scarring and infection, which could leave to more hair loss.
The process can be very expensive as it is not offered by the NHS.
This technique works by implanting synthetic fibres under the scalp using local anaesthetic. If you’re considering this option, it’s important to be aware that there are serious risks of infection and scarring. Clinics have been known to be reluctant to tell clients this, for fear of losing their custom.
In fact, it’s a method strongly discouraged by most dermatologists because of the risks of infection, scarring and the synthetic fibres falling out.
This is the future of treatments for male pattern baldness. Scientists now believe that stem cells could be used to grow new hair and provide more effective hair transplants.
So far the treatment has only been tested on rats, but there are plans to trial the transplants on humans in the near future.
Styling out hair loss
There are ways to help slow down hair loss without resorting to drastic treatment. Being careful to wash your hair with lukewarm water rather than hot, and being gentle when drying is key to maintaining the life span of the hair you’ve got.
Getting plenty of sleep—at least seven hours per night—is also crucial, as growth hormone levels are at their highest while we sleep.
Embracing your hair loss, rather than forking out for expensive surgeries, will not only leave you with more money in your pocket, but could do wonders for your self esteem, teaching to love yourself as you are.
Hair loss is a completely natural part of ageing and there are plenty of benefits to having a less-than-full head of hair. Your morning routine becomes infinitely simpler for example. No more faffing with an elaborate quiff, just wash and go.
Your worth as a man is not tied up in how much hair there is on your head. If you don’t make your hair loss a big deal, nobody else will either.
Look to celebrity role models for some inspiration on styling out hair loss. Have you ever noticed that most of film action heroes are completely bald?
If they can live highly successful lives unhindered by their lack of hair, then you certainly can too. Here are just a few to get you started.
Image via Back Stage
Actor Corey Stoll shot to fame in the huge hit Netflix series, House of Cards where he plays politiican Peter Russo.
He combines his completely bald head with a 5 o'clock shadow and bag loads of confidence.
Sean Connery and Harrison Ford
They don't come much more legendary than these Hollywood heroes.
If a bald James Bond and thinning Indiana Jones don't prove to you that hair loss can still be handsome, nothing will!
Samuel L Jackson
Image via PMC
The king of cool himself, Samuel L Jackson, has rocked the bald head for years and accessorises perfectly with this cool pair of glasses.
Is there a link between action legends and male pattern baldness? Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, even Anie has thinned over the years. Bruce Willis' hair has been thinning most of his career, but it never affected his heart-throb status.
Image via Folo MOJO
Bald heads aren't just for action stars, Ben Kingsley rocks the intellectual look and has done for most of his career.
A Reader's Digest favourite, Patrick Stewart's baldness has not stifled his fantastic acting career. If he fancies adding a bit of flare to his look, he grows a beard, or occasionally a moustache.
Jude Law remains incredibly handsome despite his receding locks. He never tries to hide it, he just goes with it.
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