We get it. Male pattern baldness isn’t the sexiest health topic to discuss. In fact, many young guys choose to outright ignore that it exists rather than cope with the fact that, yes, all men will have to deal with it at some point.
Lucky for you, male pattern baldness isn’t usually a health problem. Unlucky for you, there’s no cure and it’ll happen eventually. The most you can do is learn all there is to learn about male pattern baldness and be ready for it when it happens. So without further ado, here are things every guy needs to know about male pattern baldness, also scientifically known as androgenetic alopecia.
It affects both men and women.
That’s right! Hair loss is not just a curse on the guys! While it’s less noticeable, hair loss in women exists. In men, balding follows a predictable pattern, beginning at the temples and then experience a slowly receding hairline to the crowd of your head in an M shape. In women, thinning hair is common all over the head.
If you’re worried about hair loss, you’re in good company. About 20% of men in their 20s experience hair loss. This rises to 30% of 30-somethings, 40% of 40-somethings, and, well, you get the pattern.
There are different types of hair loss.
Alopecia is not the only reason why you may be noticing clumps of hair disappearing from your head. For example, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your own hair follicles. Hair loss can also happen due to certain medications and treatments, as well as in response to stressful events.
If you experience unexplained hair loss that doesn’t look like male pattern hair loss, visit your doctor.
It’s caused by testosterone. Well, not really.
You’re likely familiar with testosterone, the male sex hormone. Contrary to popular belief, male pattern baldness is not associated with high levels of testosterone, at least not directly.
In your body, testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This substance interacts with proteins in your body called androgen receptors which are, in turn, controlled by the AR gene. Variations in this gene are believed to be associated with male pattern baldness.
Male pattern baldness is genetic, but contrary to another popular myth, it does not come just your mother’s side of the family. Instead, genes associated with it probably come from both parents.
There are medications to treat male pattern hair loss.
Male pattern hair loss is not a disease, and treatment is mostly cosmetic. Two medications, finasteride, and minoxidil are typically used to stimulate hair growth.
Finasteride (known by its brand name Propecia®) stops the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Two out of three men will experience some hair re-growth with finasteride, while one in three men won’t experience hair growth but will see their hair loss stop. Finasteride doesn’t work on one in 100 men.
Minoxidil (also known by the brand name Rogaine®) is a lotion you can rub into your scalp. The big question is, does rogaine work? Well, about 50% of men who use minoxidil experience delay in balding and about 15 in 100 guys will experience some hair re-growth. While side effects are uncommon, your skin may be irritated by this treatment.
Male pattern baldness may be associated with more serious health conditions, but you’re likely okay.
Male pattern baldness has been associated with other conditions such as coronary heart disease and prostate cancer. For example, an Australian study found that hair loss from the crown of the head only was associated with prostate cancer. However, scientists are far from a consensus on this topic. So before you start panicking, remember that virtually every guy deals with balding, but not every guy deals with coronary heart disease or prostate cancer!
While male pattern baldness is not preventable, you can still take care of your hair!
Unfortunately, losing your hair is just something everyone has to deal with at some point. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t do things to take better care of your hair, to make sure other types of hair loss don’t happen.
- Quit smoking. Interestingly enough, there is an association between smoking and baldness in men.
- Be gentle on your hair. Avoid tight hairstyles, hot treatments, and being too rough when combing your hair.
- Protect your hair from ultraviolet sunlight.
Don’t use medications and supplements that may cause hair loss. If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor first before starting a medication or supplement.
It’s OK to be sad about losing your hair.
Some guys lose their hair earlier than others. If you’re a young dude struggling with a balding head, this can be very distressing. Know that your negative feelings are valid. Also, know that you are not alone. Male pattern baldness has been known to strike younger guys; it’s even been reported that 16% of boys ages 15-17 experience it! Reading personal stories about hair loss may help you feel less alone in your experience.
If your negative feelings around hair loss are really bothering you, don’t ignore them. Instead, find someone you trust to talk them through. There’s no shame in talking to a mental health professional. Our bodies are an important part of our identity, so never shrug off your body issues as a small deal. It can be a big deal!
There are numerous drug-free ways to hide baldness.
If you can’t afford medication, or if you prefer going drug-free, you still have many options when it comes to dealing with hair loss.
- Go completely bald. Yeah, this is bold, but it can look quite good on some guys. Plus, there’s less hair to clean and you can easily shave at home yourself, saving you a few bucks at the barbershop.
- Wear a hat. This is an awesome way to rep your favorite sports team, or, you know, just to keep your head warm. Hats can also show off elements of your personality; for example, you can choose baseball caps or fedoras to match your mood of the day.
- Head to your local hairdresser and shop for a hairpiece. Yeah, hairpieces in movies tend to look comical, but in reality, there are high-quality, personalized ones available that can match your natural hair fairly well.
In conclusion, male pattern baldness may be a depressing problem, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s nothing to worry about, and there are plenty of options available for you to deal with it.