Male hair loss isn’t “just” a little embarrassing. When men lose their hair, it can cause serious damage to their self-esteem and self-confidence. Although the phrase “male pattern baldness” is the most commonly known, there are other types of hair loss. Some are found in both men and women. When searching for hair loss treatments for men, it’s important to understand the type of hair loss, how treatments work, and what possible side effects and results to expect.
The technical term for hair loss is “alopecia” and it encompasses a variety of hair loss. Sometimes you’ll find types of hair loss with alopecia in the name, such as scarring alopecia. Almost anything from genetics to the environment can cause alopecia. However, androgenetic alopecia (AGA) is the most common type of hair loss and it’s found in both men and women.
Androgenetic alopecia is sometimes called pattern alopecia, and although it is caused by genetics it can be exacerbated by stress or environmental factors. Symptoms include a slow “thinning” of the hair caused by terminal hairs turning indeterminate and finally into vellus. Most people have terminal hairs in their youth, which grow long, thick, and pigmented. Indeterminate hairs are finer, may not grow as long, and start to lose pigment. Vellus hairs don’t grow very long, are very fine, and may lose pigment altogether. Androgenetic alopecia is common, but there are treatments.
Male Hair Loss Types
Signs of androgenetic alopecia include an increase in shedding as well as hair that becomes finer and less pigmented. In men, the typical recession is along the front hairline near the temples. Another common area is the crown. Doctors get to a diagnosis using a physical exam, taking a history of the patient, and looking at lab tests to see if an iron deficiency, testosterone levels or thyrotropin levels might be an underlying cause. Biopsies may be ordered, but they’re rare.
Hair loss can also be caused by alopecia areata, which happens quickly and presents with patches of hair loss. It’s most common in children and young adults. Total baldness, or alopecia totalis, may result. However, the vast majority of children who are diagnosed with alopecia areata enjoy full hair return after a few years. It’s caused by an autoimmune disorder which attacks hair follicles. There’s also alopecia universalis, in which all hair on the body falls out, not just on the head. This includes eyebrows, pubic hair, and eyelashes. It’s a form of alopecia areata. Scarring alopecia is permanent and caused by a variety of inflammatory skin disorders such as acne or cellulitis. Some types of lupus can also cause it. Hair can’t grow where there’s scarring.
Male Hair Loss Cause and Effect
In addition to genetics, scarring, and autoimmune diseases, hormones play a big role in hair loss. Androgen levels can impact hair shedding and thinning. Stress can cause temporary hair loss, as can certain drugs such as blood thinners, birth control pills, chemotherapy drugs, and beta blockers. Too much shampooing, tight braids, or aggressive brushing can cause hair loss and breakage, too. Diet also plays a role. Severe calorie restriction or lack of protein can lead to hair loss.
Fortunately, there are many ways to treat hair loss, but there are no guarantees. The most common approach is minoxidil, the active ingredient in Rogaine. It stimulates hair growth by allowing more blood to get to the hair follicle, giving it more nutrients and causing healthier, thicker hair. Finasteride is another active ingredient in such products, featuring a 5-alpha reductase type-2 inhibitor. These topical options might be in a liquid or mousse form.
Laser therapy, such as a capillus hat or comb, might stimulate hair growth by energising the follicles. Serious and permanent solutions like hair transplants may be suitable for some patients. Talk to your dermatologist about your concerns and start working towards a solution.