Male pattern hair loss (also known as androgenetic alopecia) affects all men to some degree as they grow older. The process can be a hit to your self-esteem, especially if it starts to occur much earlier than your peers or progresses quickly. This might have you reaching for the clippers as soon as possible or searching for causes and cures. That’s why we’re answering some of the most common questions about male hair loss (because there are plenty of myths out there) with the help of dermatologist, hair specialist and hair transplant surgeon, Dr Pooja Sharma.
What happens when we lose our hair?
Testosterone is a male sex hormone that’s important for adult male features such as facial and body hair. It acts on different organs in the body, including the hair follicles. In some families, there are genes that make the hair follicles more sensitive to testosterone. This leads to the hairs becoming thinner, shorter and less visible over time.
How does hair loss usually progress?
Hair loss usually begins at the temples, with the hairline gradually receding. Subsequently, hair at the crown of the head also starts to get thinner. In severe cases, loss of hair progresses leaving a horseshoe pattern of hair around the back and sides of the head.
How common is hair loss in men?
Most Australian men will become aware of hair loss as they grow older. Significant balding affects about one in five men in their 20s, about one in three men in their 30s and nearly half of men in their 40s.
Is hair loss hereditary? And is it passed down on a certain side?
“Research suggests that men who have a bald father are more likely to develop male pattern baldness than those who do not,” Dr Sharma says. “However, this type of hair loss is also known to skip generations.” The genes are carried by X chromosomes, inherited from the mother, which is why baldness on mum’s side also influences hair loss in men (but it’s not all her fault like some myths have made out).
Can certain factors worsen hair loss, like stress or nutrition?
“It is true that physical, emotional, nutritional and other health factors can impact hair growth,” Dr Sharma says. “Emotional stressors, sudden weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, surgery, chemotherapy, severe infection or trauma can cause hair to fall out, even a few months after the event.” This is usually resolved on its own but can unmask an underlying genetic susceptibility to hair loss.
Can frequently wearing hats cause hair loss?
It’s a common concern but infrequent wearing of hats and helmets does not cause hair loss, however, in rare cases, it can result in traction alopecia, which is a different form of hair loss.
Can washing your hair too often with shampoo cause hair loss?
“Frequent washing, use of gel or spray does not result in hair loss,” Dr Sharma says. “While tightly braiding hair in dreadlocks or a ponytail can cause traction alopecia, the problem often lies beneath the skin surface.”
Does getting your hair cut often or shaving your head makes it grow thicker and faster?
No, how regularly you trim has nothing to do with how fast or how thick the hair grows.
How is hair loss treated?
Men usually seek hair loss treatment for cosmetic rather than medical reasons. Some medicines — taken in a tablet or applied to the scalp — can stop or slow hair loss, and sometimes create new hair growth. “There is a lot of research going on with regards to the management of hair loss, and newer therapies are constantly being developed,” Dr Sharma says.
What about hair transplants?
Hair transplantation involves taking tiny plugs of hair from areas where it continues to grow and inserting them in bald areas. Multiple transplant sessions are usually needed, and this can be expensive. However, results are usually good and are permanent.
What can I do if I’m anxious or distressed about hair loss?
While hair loss is a normal part of the ageing process, for some men it can be pretty distressing. You might feel less confident or attractive, or think it makes you look older. Talking to a counsellor can be helpful if you’re feeling worried about your hair loss.