Millions of people around the world struggle with male pattern baldness, which is the primary cause of hair loss in the global population. The hair loss industry exceeds $1 billion per year, so there are many people who are willing to spend money to keep their locks in place. However, it is crucial to understand all of the details about this condition before turning to some of the proposed remedies for this common condition.
What is Male Pattern Baldness?
Also commonly known as male-pattern hair loss and androgenic alopecia, male pattern baldness is defined as hair loss that tends to be restricted to the front and crown of the head, particularly in the case of men. While this condition is mainly associated with men, nearly 25% of women also experience their own version of the disorder. However, in females, baldness is far less common than thinning of the hair due to heightened hair loss.
There are numerous incorrect beliefs related to the cause of male pattern baldness, as well as plenty of ineffective treatments that don’t address the underlying root of their hair loss.
Causes of Male Pattern Baldness
The cause of male pattern baldness has been debated for generations, but it is currently believed to be a combination of various factors, including hormonal balance in the body, genetics, health status, age and lifestyle habits. Some of these contributing factors may have stronger effects than others, but it can be difficult to identify the specific cause in a given individual. Female pattern hair loss remains even more inexplicable to researchers and experts.
Age: The growth and retention of hair is inherently linked to various hormones in the body, primarily dihydrotestosterone (DHT). As we age, the balance of our hormones shifts, including a marked drop in testosterone and a high level of free androgens, including DHT. Certain enzyme levels, such as 5-alpha-reductase, are also skewed high in men with male pattern baldness, and can be associated with age. Essentially, this means that your risk of male pattern baldness increases with age.
Health Conditions: If you suffer from metabolic syndrome or any other condition that may affect your hormone levels or metabolic speed, male pattern baldness is much more likely to be in your future. Diabetes and poor cholesterol balance is also closely linked with your risk of premature androgenic alopecia, so working on your overall health can help prevent this condition.
Hormones: As mentioned earlier, hair loss is deeply tied to hormonal levels at the site of the hair follicles. Dihydrotestosterone interacts with insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which regulates the activity of hair follicles on the scalp. These hormones don’t always function the same way; for example, the same hormones that may inhibit the growth of hair on the scalp could also stimulate the growth of facial hair. Working with a specialist to balance your hormones is key if you think this is the root of your male pattern baldness.
Lifestyle: Although research is limited on this, excessive brushing and the use of strong chemicals or scrubs can also increase your risk of androgenic alopecia. Similarly, things like smoking and drug/alcohol abuse can also decrease overall nutrient levels and boost your likelihood of developing male pattern baldness.
Symptoms of Male Pattern Baldness
As mentioned briefly above, the symptoms of male pattern baldness include gradual or rapid hair loss in the scalp and forehead areas, as well as the region near the temples. Beginning at the hairline and gradually moving further back, the hair will typically form an “M” shape, before continuing to recede. The “final” stage of male pattern baldness is when only a horseshoe or “U” shape of the hair remains, leaving the scalp mostly exposed.
Throughout this process, the hair will become shorter, finer and thinner, exposing more and more skin beneath it. Hair on the sides of the head is rarely affected, although some men choose to shave these areas to even out the decreased hair levels on top of their head. Female pattern baldness doesn’t have as clear of a progression, but is instead characterized by a general thinning of the hair.
Treatments for Male Pattern Baldness
Treatments for male pattern baldness vary greatly, from pharmaceutical solutions to natural/herbal remedies, including hairpieces or new hairstyles, Finasteride, hair transplants, Minoxidil, mustard oil, laser therapy, henna leaves, onion juice, aloe vera and Indian gooseberry, among others.
There are a number of permanent transplant solutions for male pattern baldness, such as micro-grafting and slit grafting. Hair grafts or hair plugs can be taken from donor hair or from other parts of the body/scalp. While there is some reported loss of hair grafts in the 4-5 years following the procedure, it can be very effective in visually fixing the problem.
In the early stages of male pattern baldness, simply changing your hairstyle can alleviate this embarrassing problems. Ranging from comb-over hairstyles to completely shaving the head, changing your style can quickly and efficiently cover the signs of hair loss.
As one of the two most popular pharmaceutical solutions to hair loss, Finasteride is found in medications like Propecia. It can help to reduce the production of the hormones that can cause hair loss, which slows the process of male pattern baldness.
From the natural side of things, mustard oil can be topically applied to the scalp, as it is rich in both zinc and beta-carotene, two nutrients closely linked to the production of hair and the stimulation of hair follicles.
Low-level laser therapy can be used to stimulate hair growth by firing “cool” lasers at the follicles of the scalp, thus stimulating their activity and increasing the rate of hair growth, even for dormant follicles.
This is an ancient remedy that has been used to deliver nutrients and stimulate hair growth for thousands of years. While the exact mechanisms aren’t full understood, this can increase blood flow to the scalp, which should help to slow or reverse the symptoms of androgenic alopecia.
This is the second common pharmaceutical compounds for male pattern baldness, and can be found in popular products like Rogaine. Although not as effective as Finasteride, it is reported to have less side effects, and can effectively stop hair loss while it is being used.
Also known as amla, this traditional Ayurvedic remedy is packed with antioxidants and other critical nutrients that can help stimulate hair growth and boost circulation to the scalp. Some hair loss is caused by oxidative stress and the activity of free radicals, which can be countered by consuming these berries or topically applying a concentrated dose of amla juice.
Armed with a number of critical enzymes that can prevent inflammation and the death of skin cells on the scalp, Aloe vera is a trusted remedy for hair loss and male pattern baldness around the world.
Sulfur is not only an active ingredient in onions, but also a key compound for hair growth, so regularly massaging this concentrated juice of onions into the scalp can quickly boost hair growth and re-activate formant follicles.
Wigs and Hairpieces
Another option is to simply buy a wig or a hairpiece. Toupees are very popular among men who are just beginning to show signs of male pattern baldness, as this can effectively cover up the gradual hair loss. Some people oppose this option due to their “artificial” appearance, but they remain popular.
Is it Hereditary?
A large amount of research has been done on male pattern baldness, and it has been found that there is a gene variation segment that is linked to androgenic alopecia found on the X chromosome. Since this chromosome is passed down from your mother, there is a hereditary connection to your mother’s side when it comes to your increasingly bare head. The main culprit is the androgen receptor gene, a variation in which will significantly increase your risk of premature hair loss.
However, this isn’t a simple explanation, as there is other evidence that shows multiple genes having an impact on your ultimate head of hair. Some of these genes may also be passed down from the father’s side. With all of that being said, there are other non-genetic factors that can lead to male pattern baldness, so if your grandfather on your mother’s side still has all of his hair, it isn’t a guarantee that you will enjoy the same fate.