It may be common, but this fact doesn’t make it any more pleasant.  Yes, male pattern baldness will affect 50% of all men worldwide by the age of 50. If you fall within this demographic then we’re sure that you want to understand exactly what it is, and what causes male pattern baldness.  More importantly, you’ll want to understand what treatments are available to combat – or at least delay – its onset.  Let’s explore this further.

What Is Male Pattern Baldness?

Male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is a genetic condition that affects the growth cycle of hair follicles. Healthline offers details on our hair growth cycle as it occurs in three phases:
  • Anagen (growth) phase. The hair begins to grow from the root. This phase usually lasts between three and seven years.
  • Catagen (transitional) phase. The growth slows down and the follicle shrinks in this phase. This lasts between two and four months.
  • Telogen (resting) phase. The old hair falls out and new hair begins to grow from the same hair follicle. This lasts between three and four months.
Over time, hormonal changes impair the growth and development of new hair, the hair strands grow slower and finer, and eventually, the follicle stops producing hair altogether. This process can start as early as the teen years in some men, but most will see the greatest effect as they move into their 40s. 

Why Does Male Pattern Baldness Affect Some Men and Not Others?

While there are several reasons for men to lose their hair, male pattern baldness is recognised as hereditary. If your family members have lost their hair early in life, then it’s likely that you carry the same genes that will affect your hair growth.  Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is an androgen, a male hormone that gives men their distinctive features such as a deeper voice, higher body mass, and body hair. However, while higher levels of DHT in men contribute to more armpit, facial or body hair, it tends to inhibit hair growth on specific areas of the scalp that are genetically sensitive to it. DHT attaches to the androgen receptors within these sensitive hair follicles and slows their growth; shortening the growth phase and increasing the resting phase until the follicle stops producing completely. WebMD confirms this, saying, “Scientists think the gene may affect how sensitive your hair follicles are to a hormone called DHT, which makes them shrink”  Each hair grows thinner and slower on each cycle, but because individual hair follicles are in different phases at any given time, the overall process is gradual.

How to Recognise It

Unlike other causes of hair loss such as alopecia areata which result in sudden, random hair loss, male pattern baldness occurs in a distinct pattern. Hair loss begins with thinning hair at the temples and crown. The hairline is gradually pushed back away from the face and outwards from the crown of the head. This pattern was documented and referenced in the Norwood-Hamilton scale, depicting the most common progress of male pattern baldness.
Norwood-Hamilton scale of partial hair growth in men
Norwood-Hamilton Scale
male pattern baldness

What Exacerbates Male Pattern Baldness?

There’s not too much we can do about the genetic hand we’ve been dealt, but there are steps that we can take to delay the resulting hair loss.  Researchers point out that male-pattern baldness is also related to lifestyle issues. External factors have a bearing on hair loss, hormone levels, and overall health. These include:
  • Chronic stress
  • Increased levels of estrogen from antibiotics or certain illnesses
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
While maintaining great health and overall wellness won’t guarantee that you dodge the genetic bullet completely, it will certainly work in your favour to keep what you have for longer. 

Treatment Options

There is no cure for male pattern baldness, but there are treatment options to explore. 

Finasteride

Finasteride is an oral prescription medication that works to inhibit the effects of DHT on hair follicles. It offers a good success rate but can come with some side effects such as depression, erectile dysfunction, and rashes. As such, we tend not to recommend this medication, particularly for younger men.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is a topical treatment applied to the scalp which has been shown to reduce hair loss and stimulate hair growth. As with any treatment, there are potential side effects, but these vary from person to person and should be discussed with your doctor or trichologist.

Non-medical treatments 

  • Hair camouflage products which include shampoos, mousses, or concealers. These can boost the appearance of hair density on a short term and non-permanent basis.
  • Hair fibres that bulk up the hair for temporary, natural-looking thickness and can provide incredible confidence during events.
  • Scalp micropigmentation, which provides a natural replication of the appearance of hair follicles on the scalp to reduce visibility of the scalp in a semi-permanent way.

Hair transplants

Surgery is the final and most successful option for reducing the appearance of male pattern baldness but also comes at the greatest cost.  During a transplant, non sensitive follicles are taken from unaffected areas of the scalp (usually the back of the head) and implanted into the scalp areas that are most sparse. These transplanted follicles are not genetically affected by DHT and therefore continue to grow. Transplants should be done with a qualified and registered surgeon and it is important that they are confident and experienced in working with your particular hair type before proceeding with them. The right surgeon can deliver incredible results on a suitable patient. You can find out if you are suitable with us. A healthy diet also plays a role in balancing hormones and affects your overall health for the better. It’s especially important to eat foods high in B vitamins if you are experiencing hair loss. Foods rich in B vitamins include:
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Eggs
Foods with zinc can also help reduce hair loss, as zinc is an essential nutrient that supports healthy testosterone levels. In addition to red meat and pork, beans and whole grains are good sources of zinc. 

In Summary

For many of us, hair loss is an unpleasant yet inevitable part of life. That doesn’t mean, though, that we must just accept it – especially if you feel it is important to seek treatment. Getting the correct diagnosis and understanding the causes of male pattern baldness is the first step to finding the best route to inhibiting its progress while paying close attention to our overall health. If you would like to talk to a qualified trichologist to answer some of your questions around this topic, please feel free to get in touch. We’ll be happy to assist. 
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