No matter their age, almost everybody is concerned with their physical appearance and looks. Hair plays a vital role in looks and the physical facial appearance. Study shows that 1/3 of men experience hair loss/baldness at some stage or age of their lives. The most common type of hair loss that affects men is called male pattern baldness (MPB), also known as "Androgenetic alopecia." Although male pattern baldness may start as early as age 17, 50% of the severely affected are those in their late twenties. The main reason behind this condition is still unknown but it is believed that genes and the male sex hormone (testosterone) are the main culprits.
Here we will look into the most common causes and symptoms of male pattern baldness, as well as some trusted, FDA-approved methods to prevent and treat the hair loss.
Causes and symptoms:
- Understand that genes are the major contributor to this condition. If you or any of your immediately family members has male pattern baldness, you are more likely to develop the condition, too.
- Testosterone is supposed to play a major role in MPB. In persons who are affected by male pattern baldness, the male sex hormone (Testosterone, a dominant sex hormone in male's body) is being transformed into Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes the follicles (the space/cavity in the skin where a hair grows from) to shrink. This reduction in size blocks the blood flow to the roots and as a result, the hair receives less nutrition. The lessening of blood flow results in finer and shorter hair in each growth cycle until the follicles shrink to a size where they cease to grow hair.
- Male pattern baldness usually starts with the crown. The hair continues to grow finer and shorter from the crown and from the font hairline, eventually resulting in a bald area.
- Women can also develop the condition. When women suffer from baldness of this type, it is known as female pattern baldness. In women, it starts with finer and thinner hair from the crown and frontal hairline, however, it rarely ends with a complete bald area.
- Other conditions can also impose baldness in men and women. Taking certain medications, certain illnesses and health conditions can also result in hair loss and baldness which are not rated as MPB/GPS (and are beyond the scope of this article).
Methods of prevention and treatment:
- Understand your condition thoroughly. Get informed about your condition and causes of hair loss before jumping into any kind of treatment/remedy. Talk to your doctor and tell him about you and your family's health history.
- Never trust the market advertisers/money makers. Advertisers/marketers will always try to get through to you via different products such as shampoos and conditioners claiming a complete cure for baldness, but they are all useless and usually harmful chemicals (unless backed by clinical proofs that can be trusted). However, keep in mind that there is no magic pill that will resolve your problem overnight as many of these product-sellers claim. They only use beautiful words to persuade you to buy their products. The FDA has recorded more than 300,000 products claiming treatment/prevention of hair loss, while none has any medically-backed proof or any study records to prove their claims.
- There are only two types of medicine/drugs approved by the FDA for male pattern baldness. So far only two drugs (Minoxidil and Finasteride) have been approved by the FDA. These two drugs have proved to slow down and reverse the hair loss process and even in some percentage, re-grow the hair.
- Using Minoxidil as treatment for hair loss. Minoxidil, also called Rogaine, is approved by the FDA to treat and reverse the hair loss process. It usually comes in a 2% and 5% topical solution. Men can benefit more with the 5% solution while in women, the 2% solution is enough to regain the strength and thickness of hair. You need to apply approximately 1 ml to the affected area twice a day (morning and at night before going to bed). The dose should not exceed more than 2 ml a day. It will take around 4 to 5 months to see the results. Minoxidil is more effective in the crown area of the scalp than the frontal area. The new hair will be thin and with less color at first, but after some time, it will become thicker and darker. However, the new grown hair will shed again in 6 to 12 months time if you stop using the drug and baldness will continue as before. There are rare side effects using Minoxidil, such as an itching scalp, etc.
- Using Finasteride as treatment for hair loss prevention. Finasteride, also called Propecia, is another drug approved by the FDA that has proved to stop the falling hair and re-grow new hair. Propecia comes in 1 mg tablets that are taken daily and results can be seen in around 3 months time. To gain full hair growth and thickness/density, it takes 6-12 months of taking the drug. This drug is not approved for use in women. It is recommended that pregnant women should not even touch the tablets because the drug can be absorbed by the skin (which will cause serious birth defects in a male fetus). Side effects are rare in taking this drug but can include low sex drive and some abnormal sexual performance. As in Minoxidil, if you stop taking the drug, the new grown hair will shed in 6-12 months time and baldness will continue as before.
- To have fast and better results, use both. I recommend (based on personal experience) using both Minoxidil and Finasteride for 6-8 months time. If no changes in hair loss or hair growth are noticed, then usually it is better to stop taking Finasteride.
- Hair transplantation is another option for baldness. Another method that is widely used today by many celebrities is hair transplantation; this method is also approved and has proved to be a good alternative to restore/re-grow hair on bald areas. In this method, your doctor takes a strip of skin containing a good amount of healthy hair from the back of your head and cuts it into pieces containing one, two and three hairs each and grafts/plants it in the balding area of the head. After 6 months, the new healthy hair will start to grow as normal hair. This type of treatment is usually permanent and has fewer complications, but the surgery is expensive. In my next article, I will describe hair transplantation in greater detail and will give some recommendations on how to carry it out with best results.
Before deciding on any treatment method, take your time and talk to your doctor regarding any possible complications or side effects. Find out if your condition is male pattern baldness or if it may be due to any other temporary reasons such as medications, malnutrition, etc. Spend your money wisely.