If you’re a man who is seeing more of your scalp than you’d like, you’re not alone. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, two out of three men in this country develop some form of balding.
While cutting-edge treatments in the world of hair renewal are still things of the somewhat distant future, treatments such as medications and hair transplantation surgery are now available. You probably won’t sprout an instant shock of hair, but you can start filling in those gaps.
Most men who experience hair loss have a hereditary condition called androgenic alopecia, says the Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Dermatology at Cornell University Medical College. These men have increased levels of a hormone known as 5(alpha)-reductase, which transforms testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
The DHT, in turn, causes follicles to sprout shorter, finer hairs, before eventually dying out. It also causes the growth phases of hair follicles to become shorter, and the other phases to be longer.
Also, it doesn’t matter which side of the family you inherited the condition from; chances for men and women to carry this condition in their genes are very high. However, your chances increase by 50% if you have an immediate family member who is balding. Sometimes, it’s just inevitable.
Male myths about balding
1. Wearing hats
Wear all the hats that you want, for as long as you want. However, just make sure to let your scalp breathe for at least seven hours a day (don’t sleep with a hat on, genius).
2. Using hair products
Hair gels and sprays contain no active ingredients that promote male baldness, so don’t worry about using them. If you are still worried, then start using gels that are more natural-based and contain ingredients such as chamomile and Aloe Vera.
Going through a traumatic experience will not make your hair fall out.
4. Playing with your hair
Twiddling your fingers and always playing with your hair does not cause premature baldness. If you do this though, you should seriously consider stopping; it might be a sign of stress and nervousness. But don’t worry, she can play with your hair all night long.
5. Viral infections
There are no viral infections that cause direct balding. Some powerful medications, however, may be culprits of hair loss since they kill off the hair’s roots. In any case, always consult your physician.
6. Sun bathers
If you’re a sun dweller, don’t worry; it will not harm your precious follicles. Most of your hair already protects your scalp from the sun’s dangerous UV rays. Normally though, the sun’s radiation could play a part in thinning a person’s arm and leg hair.
What are the psychological effects of baldness and the treatments?
Psychological effects of balding
Men have this illusion that “hairiness” is a very manly attribute, and that lack of hair is effeminate. It’s ironic, then, that the exact same hormone attributed to men — testosterone — is the culprit that causes balding in men!
In any case, balding men need to realize that having no hair on the crown is actually regarded as sexy by many women. In most cases, men become depressed with their looks primarily for other physical reasons, and blame their unhappiness on the hair loss instead. Therefore, before you feel all down and blue about losing your hair, make sure the real issue is not about having gained some weight instead.
Women are first attracted to a man’s abs and butt, rather than his crown. The sooner you start feeling better about yourself, the sooner you’ll start feeling more like a man.
hair treatments today
Fortunately, for those who still have hair on their heads, there are steps you can take to keep the hair you have. But time is of the essence, since the two FDA-approved drugs for hair growth work better when the hair follicles are still active.
An over-the-counter lotion that is rubbed on the scalp twice daily, Rogaine is available in 2% and 5% strengths. Originally developed to treat high blood pressure, the drug has been studied for more than two decades and is considered safe, although how it works remains a mystery. While the 5% solution works faster, and most say better, some find the consistency too greasy and favor the lower dosage.
In general, the younger the candidate and the smaller the amount of hair loss, the more likely Rogaine will work. Those between the ages of 25 and 35, who have experienced hair loss for less than five years and have only a small area of baldness see the best results, says Arthur Jacknowitz, Pharm. D., chairman of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at West Virginia University.
The most common side effect (experienced in less than 2% of users) is an allergic rash. In some cases, the drug can cause additional hair loss, which can, however, be reversed. Those with a pre-existing cardiovascular problem should use the drug with extreme caution because an increased heart rate, dizziness and other heart-related problems could occur.
Propecia is a prescription pill originally marketed at a higher dosage to treat enlarged prostates; it has been available for the treatment of hair loss since 1998. The drug lowers the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
As with Rogaine, Propecia works best in younger people with limited hair loss. Results can be seen anywhere from a couple of months to a year after beginning treatment.
While the drug appears safe — and may even have some health benefits related to keeping the prostate small — impotence has been associated with its use in a very small percentage of men.
“Every man is afraid of that,” says Wilma Bergfeld, M.D., head of clinical research for the Department of Dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, who was involved in studies of both drugs, “but in truth it hasn’t been a problem.”
One important note is that if a man is taking Propecia and going for a prostate screening, he needs to alert his doctor, as the drug can interfere with the test results.
Though some unanswered questions remain about the drug, most believe it is fairly safe.
Since few insurance plans cover either drug — or the surgery, for that matter — and you need to take them without interruption to see the benefits and maintain them, hair-transplant surgery is probably more cost-effective.
Making the decision
There are a number of issues to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to take one of these drugs:
Hair loss is a cosmetic, not health concern (although there can be psychological implications).
Drug therapy can be expensive, costing from $20 to $50 a month (although generic versions of Rogaine may be cheaper).
Treatment must be continued indefinitely, as interruption will result in the loss of all hair that has been saved or restored.
Although unlikely, the potential for long-term side-effects does exist.
If the decision is made that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, your doctor should record your complete medical history before beginning treatment.
Brought to you by Merck & Co.