Male pattern baldness is something that affects many men. Read on to find out more about how it occurs, and what options you have as far as treatment is concerned.
There are, generally speaking, about 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on the scalp. The colour, length, curl, thickness and amount of hair are all determined by the person’s genes. The hair on the head is continuously growing and shedding, with around 90 percent of the hairs at any one time being in the growing phase, and 10 percent being in the resting phase. The resting phase is where there is no hair growth and it lasts for about three months. After this, the hair falls out. The scalp generally loses between 50 and 200 hairs per day.
Male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, occurs when the growth phase of the hair becomes shorter and the resting phase becomes longer. There is also an increasing amount of time between the end of the resting phase and the next growth phase, meaning that fewer hairs come out onto the scalp. This process begins at the sides of the head and also at the top of the head and gradually spreads. It most commonly starts at the forehead. This male pattern baldness is the most common type of baldness in men, with about half of all men having it by age 50 and more than 80 percent of men having it by 70.
The cause of male pattern baldness is not yet completely understood but the hormone testosterone is thought to play a part. Testosterone is the most important sex hormone in males, and it is responsible for such things as the growth of bone and muscle, sexual function, and for physical things such as facial and body hair. The body converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. Hair follicles can become more sensitive to dihydrotestosterone over time, causing them to produce weaker, shorter hair, and hair growth can sometimes stop altogether. It is not understood why only the scalp hairs are affected or why different follicles are affected at different times, causing the balding to be a gradual process.
Male pattern baldness is also affected by genes – there are several genetic factors that can influence baldness. The speed, pattern of balding, when balding starts, and the amount of balding, are all influenced by the genes. If there is baldness on either your mother or father’s side of the family, you will be predisposed to baldness.
The most common medicines for male pattern baldness are finasteride and minoxodil. Finasteride (Propecia) is a drug that was originally designed to help treat an enlarged prostate. It is thought to work on baldness as it stops the enzyme that changes testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, the hormone that is thought to be responsible for male pattern baldness. It slows hair loss in about 80 percent of men and can even cause the hair to start regrowing. However, the effects of the medicine are not permanent – if the medicine is stopped than any hair regrown will be lost.
Minoxodil, commonly known as Rogaine, is a topical treatment that needs to be massaged into the scalp twice a day. It is thought to work by increasing the flow of blood to the hair follicles and stimulating them. It is available over the counter from chemists and around 80 percent of men notice that the rate of further hair loss slows when they are using it. Around one third of men can expect to see moderate hair regrowth and almost one in ten see dense regrowth. However, it does need to be used continuously or any regrowth will be lost.
Surgery in the form of hair transplants is another option. This is where strips or plugs of hair are taken from the back or sides of the scalp and placing them in areas that have no hair or thinning hair. Each strip or plug contains between one and four hairs for a more natural look.
Hairpieces are another option. These are attached to the scalp through the use of bonding glue, adhesive tape, hair clips, or by meshing with the existing hair. The hairpieces can be removed so that the existing hair can be washed or for sleeping. Hairpieces are made from human hair generally.
There are some alternative therapies that may help with balding. These include:
• Nutrition* – reduce your intake of inflammatory foods. These foods include saturated fats, dairy products, refined foods, and so forth. A diet rich in vegetables, wholegrains, essential fatty acids, and protein may be helpful. Biotin is a supplement that may help with hair growth. Vitamin B6, zinc, and gamma-linolenic acid help to inhibit the hormone that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. Essential fatty acids, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and magnesium can be used to help correct hormone imbalances.
• Herbal medicine* - green tea and saw palmetto may help with male pattern baldness. Chaste tree can help to normalise the pituitary gland.
• Massage – this can help to increase circulation and also reduce stress. Massaging the scalp with a blend of rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, and cedarwood essential oils in a carrier oil can help to increase circulation.
Balding is a fact of life for many males but if you notice that you are suddenly losing hair, that hair loss is happening in clumps, or if you are losing enough so that you see large amounts of hair falling out, this is not male pattern baldness. You should see a medical professional for further advice.