Hair loss means something different to each man. To a lucky, unfazed few it’s just a natural part of getting older, to others it’s a loss of their identity, to some it’s a distressing sign of fading youth. As a bald man that used to obsess over his long blonde hair like it was a key personality trait, I can tell you it’s completely normal (but frustrating) to experience all three like they’re different stages of grief.
But however you feel, just know that you’re not alone in the process. In fact, 6.5 million men are estimated to be currently experiencing a form of hair loss in the UK right now, 50% of men will go through it over the age of 50, and Google searches for hair loss are at an all time high.
Despite all these mammoth statistics, hair loss is not something we discuss openly. As evident above, we’re more likely to use a search engine than speak to an expert or our friends and family, which could be the reason why so many weird myths have been circulating around the condition e.g. wearing a hat too much will make you go bald, brushing your hair too much will result in hair loss, too much product will make it fall out – all of which are nonsense.
We consult with Dr Adam Friedmann, consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics, and Dr Fiona Worsnop, consultant dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic, to reveal everything you should really know about male hair loss, ensuring you have a smooth, educated experience in however you decide to deal with it.
A dermatologist can identify the exact cause
“In terms of knowing and treating which form of hair loss you have, there is nobody more qualified than a consultant dermatologist,” explains Dr Adam Friedmann. “Diagnosis will involve a consultation, full scalp examination and sometimes blood testing to establish if there is a deficiency or hormonal problem. If scalp disease is present or a diagnosis is not straightforward, a scalp biopsy might be undertaken to examine the process at a microscopic level.”
It can happen at any age
“Hair loss is extremely common; male pattern hair loss affects around half of men over the age of 50, although for many it begins much earlier in life, reveals Dr Fiona Worsnop. “Some forms of hair loss, such as alopecia areata, can even first appear in childhood. It really can happen at any age, but hair loss can be treatable once the cause has been established, so if it is causing concern, diagnosis is the first important step in determining which treatments may be suitable.”
Stress can play a part
“Telogen effluvium is stress or illness related hair loss,” states Friedmann. “An increased proportion of hairs shift from the growing phase to the shedding phase. It occurs due to an interruption of the normal hair cycle which may have been brought on by a severe trauma such as a family bereavement or perhaps new medication.
“When stressed, our cortisol and adrenaline levels are elevated more often and for longer. Hair grows and then reaches a resting phase where it will eventually shed, and new hair will grow – that’s normal. But in the case of telogen effluvium type hair loss, stress hormones called neuropeptides push hairs out of the growing phase into the resting phase – slowing regrowth to the point thinning hair is more obvious.”
Healthy eating is key
“Another important trigger for hair loss is a sudden loss of weight or a dramatic change in diet, both of which can spark telogen effluvium,” says Worsnop when asked about other lesser known reasons for hair loss.
“Having a varied, nutrient rich diet, with plenty of protein and fruit and vegetables with vitamins that aid against oxidative stress, provides an optimal environment for hair growth. It is also important to correct any underlying deficiencies, particularly iron and vitamin B12.”
Treatments are available
“The key is to catch it as early as possible, ideally as soon as you notice any thinning or loss of hair, because the sooner you can begin treatment the greater your chance of achieving a good recovery,” explains Worsnop.
One of the main treatments for male pattern baldness is Minoxidil, which tends to improve the blood supply thus improving hair regrowth.
Topical minoxidil is licensed for the treatment of male pattern balding and can be purchased over the counter. Applying 5% minoxidil foam or lotion twice daily to the scalp can slow down or stabilise hair loss, and for some can help with hair regrowth. It is only effective whilst it is used, so if it proves to be helpful, it must be continued in order to maintain this effect.
Don’t be ashamed of your hair loss
“Hair loss is nothing to be embarrassed about and is also not an insignificant or only cosmetic problem,” says Wornsop. “Hair loss can affect psychological wellbeing, and where there are so many treatments available which could prove helpful, my advice is to seek help early if hair loss is concerning you.”
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