What is male hair loss?
The most common cause of male hair loss is androgenic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness. This can affect in excess of 50% of all males over the age of 50 and a significant percentage of men in their younger years.
Whether you are going to suffer from male pattern baldness or not, is to a large degree, dependent upon your gene pool. If either or both of your parents, carry the baldness gene, you are very likely to suffer from it also.
Recognising the signs of androgenic alopecia or male pattern baldness
The earliest indication that a person may be suffering from male pattern baldness is a receding hairline. The hairline is that part of the scalp above the forehead, at which the head hair begins to grow.
With male pattern baldness, the hairline begins to recede to the left and right sides of the forehead, resulting in the distinctive U shaped pattern of hair to the front of the scalp. At the same time or slightly later, the hair on top of the head will start to thin, eventually forming a bald patch which will grow in size to meet the receding frontal hairline.
The result is the typical and really quite common, “friar tuck” hair formation of full thickness hair to the sides and back of the head but complete baldness to the front and top of the scalp.
To understand fully how male pattern baldness works it is first necessary to understand the normal growth pattern of hair.
The normal growth pattern or life cycle of hair
Each strand of hair has a specific growth pattern or life cycle and a healthy, well functioning follicle will push the hair through this cycle on a continuous basis.
The first phase of this cycle is known as the Anagen or Growth Phase and, as the name suggests, this is the phase in which the hair does its growing. Nearly 85% of the hair on your head is growing at all times and this phase lasts from anywhere between 2 and 6 years. Growing at a rate of 10cm per year, this means that even if left uncut, hair is unlikely to exceed 60cms before entering the second phase of its cycle.
The second phase of this normal growth cycle is called the Catagen or Transition Phase. Whilst in this phase of its cycle, the follicle will shrink to approximately one sixth of its normal size and the dermal papilla, which feeds the follicles with oxygen from the bloodstream, breaks away to rest. This phase usually lasts from 1 to 2 weeks and afterwards the follicle enters the third phase of its cycle.
The third phase of the life cycle of hair is called the Telogen or Resting Phase. During this period, lasting some 5-6 weeks, the hair will not grow. The follicle simply rests and waits to be rejoined by the dermal papilla. When the whole cycle starts again, a new hair is produced and the old one is pushed out, if it has not been shed already. These are the hairs you will find, in your sink, in the shower or in your brush or comb and are a part of the natural cycle of hair growth.
With male pattern baldness, this normal growth cycle is damaged through the effects of androgens on otherwise perfectly healthy hair follicles. These naturally produced chemicals, contain Dihydrotestosterone or DHT which is carried around the body in the bloodstream. They attach themselves to the sensitive hair follicles in the scalp and these follicles then react by shrinking, shedding their hair and closing to the point where they cannot produce another strand. The follicle is, in this way, prematurely forced into the Telogen Phase and is then, unable to produce another strand of hair.
Hair loss – the reaction
Some men react to baldness with the philosophical view, that age comes to us all and that, for a man, losing ones hair is simply a natural part of the aging process. Modern, short cut or shaved hairstyles have been created that glorify and even accentuate baldness. Others are unwilling or unable to accept this line of thinking and would rather do something about it.
Is hair loss preventable?
The trick is to catch it early, the earlier the signs are recognised and acted upon, the more that can be done to save your crowning glory. It is important to get into a hair loss prevention programme at the earliest opportunity.
Treatments for male hair loss
If you wish to prevent full baldness there is a range of natural hair loss treatments available that help to reduce hair loss, prevent further thinning and even lead to regrowth. Treatments generally help to stimulate blood flow to the scalp, block the hormone DHT, strengthen the root and cleanse the hair follicle. In most cases, treatments need to be used for around six months to start producing results.
Hair weaving or non-surgical hair replacement
If you are in the advanced stages of hair loss then hair weaving is at present the only option open to you other than the use of wigs/toupees or surgery. This treatment is suitable for both males and females and will not damage your existing hair.
Each unit of hair is tailored to match exactly with you existing hair so that when it is fitted, it looks completely natural. Also, since it is made of real human hair, there is no need to buy any special cleaning products. You simply continue to use the same ones you’ve always used. To maintain the best results following this treatment it is advisable to revisit your clinic every 4-5 weeks or so, in other words, about as often as you might visit your salon.
Surgical hair replacement
With this form of treatment, healthy hairs are removed from unaffected areas of the scalp, typically the back and sides, and transplanted to the affected areas. Hair type and hair colour as well as the nature of the hair loss itself, need to be considered here, prior to treatment.
This surgical technique is offered to those with smaller bald patches on the top of their scalp. A small area of the bald scalp is surgically removed, upon which the elastic properties within the skin bind and knit it back together. This will bring the healthy hair producing follicles closer together. When used together with transplant surgery, the treatment should result in a fuller, healthier head of hair.
Scalp flap surgery
Scalp flap surgery utilises the existing healthy hair follicles to the back or sides of a person’s head. Small amounts of this healthy hair and scalp tissue are removed and transplanted to the affected area.