There is a wide range of male hair loss causes, and thanks to modern medicine, many choices of hair loss treatment for you to consider. The majority of men lose their hair thanks to inherited genes and the normal aging process, but there are other causes as well. The key to selecting an effective hair loss treatment is to determine the underlying cause of hair loss and then select among the assortment of hair loss solutions to find the most appropriate treatment.
Male Pattern Baldness
Up to 90% of all male hair loss is due to male pattern baldness, also called androgenetic alopecia. In this situation, the cause of hair loss is due to genes inherited from the father, the mother, or both. The older a man gets the more likely balding is to occur, although some men begin to lose their hair as early as their late teens or early twenties.
Male pattern baldness generally appears in one of two ways – thinning hair on the crown of the head or a receding hairline. One way to predict the balding a man will experience is to look at hair loss and causes in his relatives. This is not always accurate, though, as sometimes male pattern baldness can skip a generation.
Cause of Male Pattern Baldness
Experts say that as many as 50% of all men will experience hair loss, ranging from mild to moderate, by the time they turn 50 years old, and 65% of males will have perceptible baldness by the time they are 60 years old. Whether due to aging, genetics or a combination of the two, why exactly is it that hair loss occurs?
The answer is a chemical called dehydrotestosterone, or DHT. It is a male hormone that collects and builds up around hair follicles, eventually causing the follicle and the hair growing out of it to be killed. As DHT levels rise with aging, more and more follicles are affected by it and hair loss becomes more pronounced.
Other Male Hair Loss Causes
If 90% of male pattern baldness is due to genes and aging, what about the other 10% of men who have lost or are losing their hair? For these men the causes of hair loss can range from medical conditions to damage caused by extreme hairstyles or harsh hair care. Examples can include:
Medication – Some anti-depressants, blood thinners and medications for the treatment of gout can cause hair loss, as can excess Vitamin A. Chemotherapy medications also often cause hair loss.
Severe Illness/Surgery – The body undergoes tremendous stress during a severe illness or major surgery, often causing hair loss within three to four months following the illness or surgery.
Disease – Hair loss in males can be the cause of an undiagnosed medical condition such as lupus or diabetes, or a fungal infection of the scalp.
Hormones – The human body contains an assortment of hormones, both male and female, that can become imbalanced and cause hair loss. Hormonal problems due to an overactive or underactive thyroid gland can also lead to hair loss.
Because there are medical as well as genetic causes of male pattern baldness, it is important to correctly diagnose the exact cause before selecting the most appropriate hair loss treatment. The best course of action is to consult with your doctor before starting any treatment.
If the cause of hair loss in males is something other than genetics and aging, the good news is that it is often reversible just by reducing or eliminating the medicine or condition that is causing it. The danger of self-diagnosis is that an underlying illness or medical condition could continue untreated, leading to more serious medical issues.
Strong feelings and emotions related to hair loss are understandable, but should not be used as an excuse to avoid consulting a doctor. A doctor can confirm that there is no medical condition requiring treatment and provide advice about potential solutions.
Understanding Hair Loss Treatments
For the 90% of men whose hair loss is due to causes such as common male pattern baldness, there are several treatment options to consider. These range from topical medications to oral medications to surgical techniques, all of which come with varying advantages, disadvantages, costs, and other considerations.
The key to selecting an appropriate treatment for a male’s hair loss is considering convenience, short term and long terms impacts to daily life, cost, effectiveness and ongoing maintenance requirements. The best solution for one man may be very different from the best treatment for another man, so it is important to make a decision based on personal circumstances and desired outcome.
Topical Hair Loss Treatment
By far the most common type of hair loss treatment for males is topical application of hair loss products. These products can range from special shampoos and conditioners to scalp stimulating oils to chemical medications.
The most effective topical hair loss treatment to date is minoxidil, marketed under the brand name Rogaine. Previously available only by prescription, this treatment is now available over the counter at nearly any drugstore, grocery store or large discount retailer. To maintain hair growth, Rogaine must be used on an ongoing basis; when use is discontinued, any hair regrowth of hair that occurred will be lost again. Rogaine is the only hair loss treatment approved by the FDA for use by both males and females.
Many other topical treatments for males are available that have not been proven effective. Beware of any product that is promoted as an “instant cure” or “miraculous hair growth” remedy. While these hair loss products typically will not cause particular harm or damage to the scalp or hair, neither will they effectively promote new hair growth. They are most often a waste of money that could otherwise be spent on a medically proven treatment.
Oral Hair Loss Treatment
Another effective hair loss treatment for males is finasteride, marketed under the brand name Propecia. This medication is available by prescription only and comes in the form of a pill that is taken each day. As with Rogaine, if use of Propecia is stopped then any hair regrowth that has occurred will be lost.
Propecia is an FDA approved hair loss product for use by males only, and in fact comes with a strong warning to women because it can cause serious birth defects. Women who are pregnant or could become pregnant are strongly advised not to even handle Propecia tablets, because the medication could potentially be absorbed through the skin.
Surgical Hair Loss Treatment
A number of good surgical hair loss treatments are available. These treatments have improved dramatically over the years thanks to better techniques and better medical technology. The results typically look extremely natural in most males and do not disappear over time.
The most common surgical treatment for males is hair grafting, a process by which hair from one part of the head is transplanted to balding areas. Grafts can be as small as a single hair, making it possible for the surgeon to create a very natural-looking hairline.
Another surgical option for males is more invasive, involving the cutting away of bald areas and stretching the areas that still have hair over the excised area. Recovery time is longer for this type of treatment, and not all hair loss patients will be good candidates for the procedure.
If you are experiencing male pattern baldness, consult your doctor or dermatologist who can diagnose the underlying cause of your hair loss and suggest the best treatment for your particular situation.