Despite the natural expectation of hair loss as we get older, a lot of men dread the moment when baldness truly begins to appear.
It announces to the world––always sooner than we’d like––that we’re not as young as we used to be.
So what causes hair loss in men, why does it happen earlier than women, and is there anything men can do to slow the process?
What Are The Symptoms of Hair Loss?
According to one recent study, 80% of men start losing their hair by 80 years old. It’s darn near inevitable.
In many cases, the most obvious symptom is excessive shedding. However, men who keep their hair relatively short might not immediately notice an excess of hair in the drain or a brush. In fact, some men fail to realize they’re thinning or balding until someone points it out.
Hair loss generally leads to thinning of the hair before bald spots become obvious. Men most commonly experience thinning around the hairlines and temples first. When men have long hair and it begins to thin in the middle, it can take some time to become apparent.
Hair also often falls out in specific areas. When this happens, you might begin to notice circular spots or patches of hair that are showing early signs of balding. Beards can sometimes become susceptible to this type of baldness.
Scaling of the Scalp
Sometimes, the circular patches become itchy and begin to scale over. This happens more commonly in children, but men are not immune. It can be a sign of ringworm or psoriasis and shouldn’t lead to permanent hair loss.
What Are the Main Patterns of Baldness?
One way to spot baldness early is to know the specific patterns to look for. There are four main types:
- Bitemporal regression: This pattern of balding appears as thinning or receding of the hairline at the temples.
- Frontal baldness: This involves thinning of the hairline that starts at the front.
- Vertex baldness: In this type of baldness, a patch develops at the top or center of the head. This is the most common balding pattern that comes to mind for most people.
- Full baldness: Some men eventually progress to this stage, while others might notice from the start that their entire head of hair thins and not just specific spots.
What Causes Hair Loss in Men?
Scientists and medical professionals have spent decades trying to narrow down the causes of hair loss in men.
The truth is that losing hair itself not usually the problem. Everyone loses hair constantly, up to 100 strands per day.
Baldness becomes a problem when new hairs no longer regenerate quickly enough or at full length and thickness. The good news is that hair loss doesn’t have to be permanent.
Most men who experience thinning and balding can blame genetics. A 2016 study found that 80% of male baldness results from genetics. If there are other men in your family who have experienced baldness, the risk of you experiencing hair loss increases too.
Caucasian men also face the highest risk of going bald. In contrast, Native American, Black and East Asian populations tend to have a much later onset of baldness, if at all.
Hormones are, in some ways, responsible for hair loss in most men. The genetic component of baldness is actually a predisposition to your follicles being susceptible to “androgen” hormones. These are the typical sex hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, a downstream product of testosterone (T).
This genetic susceptibility is known as androgenic alopecia.
Over time, T and DHT binding to hair follicles in these men leads to shrinking, stunting, and even the death of hair follicles. It’s occurrence later in life is thought to be the result of these hormones working on the hair follicles for such a long period of time––consistently over years or decades.
Hair loss in men is a common cause of depression and low self-esteem. This can increase stress levels. Ironically enough, that can in turn speed up the hair loss process. The good news is that hair loss caused specifically by stress might not be permanent, and removing or alleviating key stressors (like financial situations or work) can result in hair returning or thickening within months.
One of the most alarming side effects of certain medications for some patients is hair loss. Drug-induced hair loss occurs when medications inhibit the hair regeneration cycle. Most people make a full recovery from hair loss caused by drugs once they switch or stop taking the offending medication. Here are some of the medications to watch out for when protecting the health of your strands:
- Azole antifungals
- Anticancer agents
Hair loss is often classified as a health condition on its own, but there are other conditions that can trigger hair loss as a symptom. Depression and cancer are the two health conditions most commonly associated with hair loss. While depression itself can trigger hair loss, it’s often chemotherapy treatments for cancer that leads to hair loss. Autoimmune conditions can also lead to or contribute to hair loss.
Some diseases of the skin or scalp can wreak havoc on hair growth and retention. These are some of the most common conditions you should ask your dermatologist about:
- Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis
- Atopic dermatitis
- Scalp aging
Smoking can lead to premature aging of the skin, which includes the scalp. Cigarette smoke can also damage the DNA of hair follicles, which hinders the process of healthy hair regeneration. One study in Taiwan shared a similar finding of a higher prevalence of hair loss among men who smoked.
How Can Men Slow or Stop Hair Loss?
Hair loss is inevitable for a majority of men, but prioritizing self-care can help delay an early onset, slow the speed of balding, and reduce its severity.
An important fact to note is that while there are several products on the market that can help to prevent further thinning, early intervention is key. It’s easier to keep the hair follicles you have than to put old ones back into grow mode. This increases the urgency with which you need to make a decision.
Women often wear extensions to thicken or lengthen their hair, and men can do the same. Professionals can create these hair fillers and treat the scalp so that the final result looks natural. Hair transplants are expensive, but they provide a more permanent solution.
Men are lucky about one thing when it comes to hair loss: finastereide is the only oral medication approved by the FDA for hair loss, and it’s only for men. Finasteride 1 mg daily, originally available as branded Propecia, is one of the most effective hair loss solutions out there. It works by inhibiting the production of the 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme that turns testosterone into DHT. As DHT is a key hormone in androgenic alopecia, reducing it in the body can aid in thicker hair and even new hair growth. Finasteride can reduce DHT in the body by over 60%.
Finasteride is available by prescription only. Shapiro MD can help you get finasteride online, if appropriate.
Minoxidil is another effective option for most guys. Patients who used minoxidil to manage hypertension in the 1960s noticed rapid hair growth. Researchers pivoted and eventually developed a topical formulation that helped men keep and grow thicker hair. Minoxidil 2% and 5% are both effective for men.
It was eventually approved by the FDA and today is available without a prescription from providers like Shapiro MD. It’s easy to use, applied to the scalp just twice daily, and it can work in as little as 120 days.
Antifungal and Antibiotic Treatments
If hair loss is caused by fungal growth such as ringworm, antifungal treatments can resolve the issue. Most men regrow their full head of hair once the fungal infection has been taken care of. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat other related conditions that cause hair loss.
Shampoos, Conditioners, and Haircare Formulations
Some shampoos and conditioners have been formulated specifically for hair loss. These often contain ingredients like ketoconazole, saw palmetto extract, caffeine, coconut oil, certain mint extracts, and green tea extracts. Saw palmetto and EGCG (an extract of green tea), are both DHT suppressors, while ingredients like caffeine and mint extracts can invigorate blood flow at the scalp.
How Shapiro MD Can Help
At Shapiro MD, we help you find the right solution for your situation.
Looking for natural solutions? We have that. Ready for powerful prescriptions? We have that too.
Our licensed clinicians work closely with you to create a personalized prescription formulation, if appropriate, and our patented shampoos and beauty products are some of the most effective on the market. It’s all shipped right to your door.