Hair loss (alopecia) can affect just your scalp or your entire body, and it can be temporary or permanent. It can be the result of heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions or a normal part of aging. Anyone can lose hair on their head, but it’s more common in men.
Baldness typically refers to excessive hair loss from your scalp. Hereditary hair loss with age is the most common cause of baldness. Some people prefer to let their hair loss run its course untreated and unhidden. Others may cover it up with hairstyles, makeup, hats or scarves. And still others choose one of the treatments available to prevent further hair loss or restore growth.
Before pursuing hair loss treatment, talk with your doctor about the cause of your hair loss and treatment options.
Prevention and treatment
Prevention is often one of the best ways to treat any condition. In some cases, depending on the exact cause of hair loss, it may be possible to prevent, or at least, slow down hair loss.
Some of the best prevention methods include:
- eating a balanced diet
- using combs with wider spaces between bristles
- avoiding harsh treatments and hair styles
- switching medications to avoid the side effect of hair loss if possible
- avoiding pulling or twisting hair
It is important to remember that not all types of hair loss are preventable or will even slow down with preventive measures. In these cases, men can try to combat hair loss through active treatment.
Some methods men can use to treat hair loss include the following:
There are medications that can be bought over the counter that may help treat hair loss. These typically come in the form of foams or other topical ointments.
The two most common medications are minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia).
Minoxidil was originally developed to treat high blood pressure. Developers found that it had the side effect of excessive, unwanted hair growth. This effect gave drug companies reason to consider it for male baldness.
The exact way that minoxidil works is not entirely known. The drug appears to widen the hair follicle, which causes a thicker strand of hair to grow.
In addition, minoxidil appears to prolong the growth period of a hair, which results in longer hair and a higher number of hair strands. When used properly, minoxidil has been shown to be safe and effective.
Finasteride is used to treat male pattern baldness, which appears at the crown and the middle of the scalp.
This drug carries several warnings about its use. It should only be used on adult men and should be kept away from children and women who may be pregnant or breast-feeding.
Finasteride was originally created to fight prostate cancer. It works by decreasing the amount of a hormone called DHT in the scalp. DHT appears to cause hair follicles in the scalp to become thinner, so by decreasing the levels of DHT, hair regrowth may increase and hair loss may slow down.
Unlike minoxidil, finasteride does not affect hair growth on other parts of the body.
Therapies for hair loss often involve combinations of drugs, ointments, creams, and shampoos.
Other therapies include meetings with specialists. Several companies specialize in hair treatments for men. They typically offer services to help work out the best course of action to take and tailor treatments based on the individual man’s needs.
The only surgery available for hair loss is hair transplant surgery.
Transplanting hair works for men with male pattern baldness. The transplant involves removing hair follicles from the back of the head where they are resistant to DHT and placing them on the scalp.
Laser combs are a newer form of treatment for hair loss. It is claimed these devices promote hair growth by using concentrated light that stimulates hair follicles.
This treatment has mixed results and may work best when combined with other forms of treatment.
Wigs and hair pieces
In some cases, hair loss may be permanent or long-term. In others, men might prefer a non-medical way to treat hair loss. Wigs and hairpieces offer a means to disguise hair loss.
Wigs and hairpieces have advanced enormously in the past several years. If the baldness is caused by a medical condition, the cost of a wig may also be covered by the person’s insurance provider.
Men can experience baldness or hair loss for different reasons.
While there are many causes for hair loss, the most likely cause is genetics. Finding out whether or not hair loss is caused by genetics or another reason can help determine the best course of treatment.
Male pattern baldness is a hereditary condition and is the most common cause of male baldness. It can start as early as puberty or develop much later in life. It often occurs gradually and in predictable patterns, affecting the temples and the front of the middle of the scalp.
Most often, the man will be left with a horseshoe pattern of hair. Heredity affects how fast, at what age, and to what extent a man will experience baldness.
Men with male pattern baldness inherit hair that is sensitive to DHT, the hormone that can shorten the lifespan of the individual hair follicles.
Some of the other most common causes of hair loss for men include:
- Scalp Infections. Infections such as ringworm can invade the hair and skin of the scalp. When this happens, it can lead to scaly patches and hair loss.
- Hormonal changes. Hormonal changes and imbalances can cause temporary hair loss. For men, the thyroid gland is the most likely cause of hair loss due to hormonal changes.
- Patchy hair loss. Also known as alopecia areata, patchy hair loss occurs when the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles. The attack causes sudden and rapid hair loss that leaves smooth, often round, bald patches on the skin.
- Skin disorders. Diseases such as psoriasis and lupus may result in permanent hair loss in the scarred areas.
- Hair-pulling disorder. Hair-pulling disorder causes people to have an irresistible urge to pull out their hair. The person will pull from the scalp, the eyebrows, or other areas of the body.
- Medication. Certain medications may cause a side effect of hair loss.
Some less common causes of hair loss include:
- Radiation treatment. If a man receives any sort of radiation treatment near the scalp, the hair may fall out and grow back in a different way than before.
- Hairstyles or treatments. Wearing hair in ways that pull it excessively or treating it with oils and color can cause permanent hair loss.
- Natural triggers. Stress or extreme trauma may result in loss of hair. Often, the thinning will reduce when the triggering event is over.
As with any condition that physically alters appearance, coping with hair loss will vary greatly from person to person.
Some men may wish to seek counseling services as part of their treatment. Others may choose a hairstyle that hides the hair loss, such as shaving their head.
Sometimes hair loss can have a devastating effect on a man’s self-esteem and may lead to depression and reduced quality of life.
If a man notices that his quality of life is affected after the onset of hair loss, he should seek support from a medical professional.