When a man loses his hair it can be a devastating experience. Some see a full head of hair as their crowning glory, the most important part of their appearance, and essential to their self-worth. Another theory is that men can feel insecure about balding because it forces them to face the reality of their own mortality.
About 50% of men over 50 are affected by hair loss, of which male pattern baldness (Androgenic alopecia) is the most common type, according to figures from the NHS Trust. Despite this condition being so common, many men worry about losing their hair because of the judgments and stereotypes that society holds about balding males. They may worry about being seen as old, or the butt of jokes.
Many struggle to accept their hair loss and are embarrassed about it. Although there are several solutions to this problem, some men feel options such as wearing a wig are just as embarrassing as having a bald head. It's therefore helpful to know what male pattern baldness is and what the various options are.
This condition is usually inherited and thought to be caused by over-sensitive hair follicles. Male pattern baldness in particular is caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT) causing follicle shrinkage that eventually stops the hair follicles functioning altogether. It's not that men who experience this have too much testosterone, but rather that the hair follicles are sensitive to the hormones.
The main signs include a receding hairline and thinning hair around the crown and the temples. When the areas meet in the middle of the head, it can leave a horseshoe shape around the sides and the back of the head, and may even eventually lead to complete baldness.
Male pattern baldness can occur at any age but for most men it takes up to 25 years for hair loss to happen. About 14% of the male population is thought to have the genetic make-up required for male pattern baldness and age and genetics are the main factors for its occurrence. Caucasian men are most likely to experience hair loss, whereas Asians are least likely to.
Male pattern baldness is genetic, so unfortunately not much can be done to avoid developing the condition. Baldness affects each man differently, but this doesn't mean there is nothing you can do to improve the situation.
Some men use particular styling techniques to hide their baldness, such as combing over sections of hair to hide bald spots, changing their hairstyle, shaving the head or even wearing wigs or toupees.
Aside from having a hair transplant, which can be a costly procedure, thickening products can improve the look of the remaining hair, making it appear fuller. This is different from curing the problem, but many men may consider having thicker hair as the next best thing and settle for this option instead.
Another option is to take a prescription treatment such as Propecia, which works by blocking the chemical in the body that causes male pattern baldness.
Hair loss is a normal part of the aging process. Around two thirds of all UK men will experience thinning hair at some point during their lives, and it's not uncommon for hair loss to occur at a young age. If you are experiencing hair loss and would like to know more, the NHS website has some further information.