Hair loss can dramatically affect your appearance and hurt your self-confidence. With 30% of men aged 30 and over suffering from some sort of hair thinning or hairline recession, the odds are most of us will come across it at some point. We delve into the science and what you can do to save your hair before it’s too late.
What is hair loss?
Male Pattern Baldness is a genetic condition that can be passed down from either side of the family tree. So if your father has a perfectly thick head of hair, don’t think you are safe! It is a condition caused by a by-product of testosterone named Dihydrotestosterone, or DHT (hence the long-running urban myth of bald men having high testosterone levels, which sadly isn’t necessarily true). DHT attaches to the hair follicles and causes them to shrink over time, which causes the hair to become thinner and thinner until some men become bald on the top of the head – at this stage, each hair is simply too thin and weak to penetrate the surface of the skin.
How do I know?
Many men do not identify their hair loss until it has become relatively advanced, which could be too late to stop it in its tracks. The reasons men do not detect their hair loss can simply be down to denial or wishful thinking, or because the process is slow and prolonged and it is something that they just might not notice. At the opposite end of the scale, many men worry about hair loss when they have no reason to worry.
Aside from noticing yourself in the mirror, the best ways to know if you are losing your hair are:
- Other people informing you that you are losing your hair (you may not see yourself)
- Excessive hair on your pillow, the shower bed or in the bath plug.
- The Norwood Scale is an excellent visual reference for the progression of male pattern baldness. The scale demonstrates the sequence of a receding hairline and thinning crown.
How can I treat it?
There are many options available for treating male pattern baldness, including clinically proven medications, laser devices and hair restoration surgery.
Minoxidil is the first of two medications clinically proven for the treatment of hair loss. Minoxidil is a topical liquid that should be applied twice a day for the most effective results. It works by effectively stimulating blood flow to hair follicles, causing them to enlarge and grow thicker hairs. Minoxidil is applied to your scalp as it’s a topical solution for hair loss.
Finasteride is the second of the two only clinically proven treatments for hair loss. It is a daily pill that works by inhibiting the DHT levels in your body and gives your follicles a better chance to expand and grow thicker hairs. This is particularly prevalent when paired with Minoxidil. In a five year clinical study by an independent panel of dermatologists, 9 out of 10 of the 279 men that took part, maintained or increased their hair count – pretty impressive.
Other options for hair loss you may consider are:
Low-power laser therapy uses light emitting diodes to stimulate the hair follicles and can easily be administered at home. Low-power laser therapy devices are quick and convenient to use, being combed through the hair with patented components that allow the light to get directly to the scalp, in order to further support healthy hair growth.
Finally, hair therapies involve a range of soothing, nourishing and stimulating treatments tailored to the individual needs of each person. These may include infrared therapy, ultra-violet light, scalp steaming, massage and hair masks.
Scott McDougall (MPharm) is a clinical pharmacist and in addition to being Cornerstone’s senior in-house pharmacist, is the co-founder of The Independent Pharmacy, one of the UK’s leading independent online pharmacies.