In the past few years, medicine has made tremendous strides in the treatment of men’s hair loss. With the advent of 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors such as Propecia and the evolution of surgical hair restoration, for many, living with noticeable hair loss is no longer inevitable. For the first time in the history of mankind, it is now possible to stop or slow the progression of hair loss and to replace lost hair through surgery with completely natural results. However, with that said, the vast majority of hair loss treatments being marketed today are still nothing but “snake oils.”
You’ve all seen the ads in the back of men’s magazines, you’ve heard the commercials on the radio and you’ve seen the infomercials promoting miracle treatments for hair loss. The bottom line is that the vast majority of advertised “treatments” do not work for the prevention and treatment of hair loss. If a hair loss treatment is not approved by the FDA or recommended by The American Hair Loss Association, chances are you are wasting your precious time and money. Remember, successful treatment of hair loss is greatly dependent on early intervention. It is critical to begin treatment with an effective product as soon as you notice the onset of hair loss.
The Norwood Scale
When considering treatment for your hair loss, it is important to understand just how far your hair loss has progressed. There will be times when you will have to relay this information via telephone or the internet to physicians or practitioners you may be trying to receive information from. It is also important to guard yourself against misdiagnoses of your condition.
Note: There are many variants in pattern hair loss; these have been cited as the most typical.
Androgenetic alopecia or common male pattern baldness (MPB) accounts for more than 95% of hair loss in men. By the age of thirty-five two-thirds of American men will experience some degree of appreciable hair loss, and by the age of fifty approximately 85% of men have significantly thinning hair. Approximately twenty five percent of men who suffer with male pattern baldness begin the painful process before they reach the age of twenty-one.
Contrary to societal belief, most men who suffer from male pattern baldness are extremely unhappy with their situation and would do anything to change it. Hair loss affects every aspect of the hair loss sufferer’s life. It affects interpersonal relationships as well as the professional lives of those suffering. It is not uncommon for men to change their career paths because of their hair loss.
The American Hair Los Association recognizes how devastating male pattern baldness can be for men of all ages, and has created resources for men to get completely objective answers to their hair loss questions.
We strongly advise against researching your options through the yellow pages or commercial websites. There are hundreds of products and services being sold to the vulnerable hair loss consumer, but currently there are only two FDA approved products that have been clinically proven to stop or prevent hair loss. In addition, only a handful of surgeons are performing surgical hair restoration to state of the art standards.
Causes of Hair Loss
Androgenic alopecia or male pattern baldness (MPB) is responsible for the vast majority of hair loss in men. While there are many possible reasons people lose their hair, including serious disease, reaction to certain medications, and in rare cases extremely stressful events, most hair loss in men can be blamed on heredity.
What male pattern baldness sufferers are actually inheriting are hair follicles with a genetic sensitivity to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Hair follicles that are sensitive to DHT begin to miniaturize, shortening the lifespan of each hair follicle affected. Eventually, these affected follicles stop producing cosmetically acceptable hair.
Male pattern baldness is generally characterized with the onset of a receeding hairline and thinning crown. Hair in these areas including the temples and mid-anterior scalp appear to be the most sensitive to DHT. This pattern eventually progresses into more apparent baldness throughout the entire top of the scalp, leaving only a rim or “horseshoe” pattern of hair remaining in the more advanced stages of MPB. For some men even this remaining rim of hair can be affected by DHT.
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a derivative or by-product of testosterone. Testosterone converts to DHT with the aid of the enzyme Type II 5-alpha-reductace, which is held in the hair follicle’s oil glands. While the entire genetic process of male pattern baldness is not completely understood, scientists do know that DHT shrinks hair follicles, and that when DHT is suppressed, hair follicles continue to thrive. Hair follicles that are sensitive to DHT must be exposed to the hormone for a prolonged period of time in order for the affected follicle to complete the miniaturization process. Today, with proper intervention this process can be slowed or even stopped if caught early enough.
Typical male pattern baldness is usually diagnosed based on the appearance and pattern of the hair loss, along with a detailed medical history, including questions about the prevalence of hair loss in your family. An experienced medical hair loss expert should examine the scalp under magnification (preferably with a device called a densitometer), in order to assess the degree of miniaturization of the hair follicles. This assessment is very important when recommending the proper course of treatment.
Some advertised “clinics” might recommend a costly hair analysis or a scalp biopsy to properly diagnose your hair loss. The only reason to have a hair analysis is to assess the possibility of poison induced hair loss. A hair analysis may reveal substances such as arsenic or lead, however, hair loss caused by poising does not present itself in a typical male pattern. You should avoid these clinics and seek the advice of a physician who can properly examine you and help you treat your hair loss.