Male-pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is caused by the interaction of genetics, age, and hormones. As hormone levels change over time, the tiny cavities in the skin at the base of hair, called scalp hair follicles, gradually shrink, leading to the growth of shorter and finer hair until new hair ceases to grow.
Age and genetic makeup determine the degree of baldness in most white men, with up to 50% of them affected by the age of 50 and 80% affected by the age of 70. In contrast, other ethnic groups like Chinese and Japanese have a lower incidence of male-pattern baldness. Men with a family history of baldness are more likely to experience hair loss themselves.
Hair loss is a common issue that affects many men. Although it is often associated with genetics and aging, it can also be an indicator of underlying health problems. According to experts, hair loss in men has been linked to several health conditions, including prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. These conditions can cause hormonal changes in the body, which can affect the growth cycle of hair follicles and lead to hair loss.
Apart from health conditions, hair loss can also occur as a result of various other factors. For instance, it can be a reaction to stress or after an illness or major surgery. Certain medications such as anticoagulants or blood thinners, and vitamin A supplements can also cause hair loss. Other possible causes of hair loss include iron deficiency, malnutrition, fungal infections, thyroid problems, and telogen effluvium, which is a disturbance of the hair growth cycle.
In addition to the above, several genetic changes have been linked to male pattern baldness. However, only the androgen receptor (AR) gene has been confirmed by research to contribute to male pattern baldness. Other research has suggested that an abnormal quantity of a protein called prostaglandin D2 in the scalps of some men could also link to hair loss.
What Are The Causes Of Hair Loss In Men?
Hair loss in men can be caused by various factors. Here are some of the most common causes:
- Androgenetic alopecia: This is the most common cause of hair loss in men. It is also known as male pattern baldness, and it is usually hereditary. It is caused by a genetic predisposition to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes the hair follicles to shrink over time, leading to hair thinning and eventual hair loss.
- Telogen effluvium: This is a type of hair loss that is caused by stress, illness, surgery, or changes in hormones. It occurs when the hair follicles enter the resting phase prematurely, causing hair to fall out more than usual.
- Alopecia areata: This is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the hair follicles, leading to hair loss in patches.
- Medications: Certain medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, blood thinners, and antidepressants, can cause hair loss as a side effect.
- Nutritional deficiencies: Deficiencies in certain nutrients, such as iron, zinc, and vitamin D, can cause hair loss.
- Scalp infections: Infections of the scalp, such as ringworm, can cause hair loss.
- Trauma: Trauma to the scalp, such as from burns, injuries, or surgery, can cause hair loss.
- Hairstyles: Wearing hairstyles that pull the hair tightly, such as braids, cornrows, or ponytails, can cause hair loss over time. This is known as traction alopecia.
Hair Loss Treatments
Hair loss affects a lot of men, and while some may view it as a natural part of aging, it can have negative psychological effects, including depression and low self-esteem. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available that can help reduce hair loss.
Medication is one option for treating hair loss. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of drug treatment for male pattern baldness. Minoxidil, or Rogaine, is a topical treatment that is applied to the scalp. It is available over the counter (OTC) at pharmacies, usually as a lotion or foam, and is reported to work best on the crown of the head. Finasteride, or Propecia, is an oral treatment available only by prescription. It is a 5-Alpha Reductase Inhibitor that blocks the formation of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male hormone that plays a role in shrinking the scalp hair follicles. Finasteride slows the progression of baldness related to DHT.
Shampoo treatments are also available for male pattern baldness. Two popular options include Ketoconazole 2 percent, also known as Nizoral, and Pyrithione zinc 1 percent, or Head and Shoulders. However, these shampoos are likely to be less effective than finasteride and minoxidil.
Hair transplantation is another option for treating hair loss. This procedure involves taking hair from elsewhere on the body and grafting it onto the scalp. Hairs from the lower part of the back of the scalp are often used in surgical transplants because they are more resistant to androgens, which are male hormones that contribute to hair loss. The hair that is transplanted onto balding areas remains resistant to the male hormones. Hair transplantation surgery can involve taking a strip of skin from another part of the head, complete with hair, to graft it onto the bald area, or transplanting individual hairs to avoid scarring. However, hair transplantation procedures are expensive and unlikely to be covered by most insurance providers.
Laser and Light Treatment
Laser and light therapies are another option for treating hair loss. These treatments are popular, but they have not been shown to slow or prevent male pattern baldness, and the FDA has not approved them for efficacy. A course of laser therapy may last from 6 to 12 months.
It is important to note that not all men opt for hair loss treatment or expect their hair to continue to grow naturally. Some men may choose to wear a hairpiece or wig, while others may change their hairstyle, shave their head, or increase their facial hair. A good hairdresser can advise on the best options for a smart new look.
While no vitamins or supplements have been confirmed as safe or effective by the FDA for treating hair loss, following a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise, and avoiding excessive alcohol intake may help reduce the risk of hair loss.