Hair loss is common in men, but this doesn’t mean it’s not distressing. If your hair is thinning, your self-esteem might have taken a knock. Perhaps you’re less confident in your dealings with other people, and this may be having a negative impact on both your work and personal life.
There may be steps you can take to slow or even reverse this process, but firstly you’ll need to research hair loss causes. It’s only once you understand what has triggered this problem that you’ll be able to look for possible solutions. This guide details some of the major causes of hair loss.
Male pattern baldness
The most common type of hair loss is referred to as male pattern baldness, or, if you want to be scientific, androgenetic alopecia. This is characterised by a receding of the hairline and thinning at the temples and on top of the head. In some cases, it progresses to complete loss of hair, but this is unusual. Male pattern baldness affects around half of men by the age of 50 and it usually starts when people are in their late twenties and early thirties.
A hereditary condition, it occurs when testosterone is converted into the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT has an adverse effect on the roots of hairs and it can slow down or even stop hair production.
There are treatments available for male pattern baldness and the most effective is finasteride (note that Propecia is a popular branded version of this medicine). It works by blocking the effect of DHT on hair follicles. In most cases, it takes around three to six months before results are seen and hair loss usually resumes if the treatment is stopped. Another option is minoxidil. This treatment is applied directly to the scalp as a lotion.
A second cause of hair loss is telogen effluvium and this results in a widespread thinning of the hair. It usually occurs after an illness or when the body has been through a stressful event, like sudden weight loss. It can also be triggered by intense emotional stress or by certain medications, like beta-blockers. Fortunately, this condition is usually temporary.
If you have developed small patches of hair loss across your scalp, you might have alopecia areata. This condition is most common in teenagers and young adults and it’s caused by a problem with the immune system. It is believed that some people’s genes make them more susceptible to this form of alopecia as one in five sufferers have a family history of the problem.
In most cases, hair grows back in a few months. At first, it may be fine and white, but over time it should regain its colour and become thicker. It’s also possible to treat alopecia areata with steroid injections, creams, gels or ointments.
A more severe condition is alopecia totalis, which is a complete loss of hair on the head. If the problem extends to all body hair as well, it is referred to as alopecia universalis. Unfortunately, in cases like this it’s unlikely that hair will re-grow, unless the problem was triggered by a traumatic event like chemotherapy.
Speak to a doctor
If you’re not sure what lies behind your hair loss, you can book an appointment with your GP. Meanwhile, if you don’t want to speak to a doctor face to face, you can seek professional advice from trusted sources online.
Photo by Jeremy Liebman for Details Magazine