Two thirds of men will experience male pattern baldness in some form by their 35th birthday, according to the American Hair Loss Association.
It may not be the majority you want to be in, but it’s good to know that you’re not the only one dealing with the beginnings of thinning and receding hair.
Whether you’re older and starting to see more of your scalp than you’d like, or younger and starting to see more hair in the drain each morning, there are effective solutions you can employ to stop and even reverse hair loss.
To understand effective treatment options, first we need to understand why we lose our hair.
There are, on average, around 100,000 hairs on your head, and you’re bound to lose a few of them a day — dozens, in fact. The American Academy of Dermatology says losing as many as 100 a day isn’t even really a reason to worry. But when the numbers creep up above that, it might be time to talk to a medical professional.
Individually, hairs fall out for a lot of reasons, but typically they fall out because that individual follicle has reached the end of its life cycle. You lose hair every day because each hair follicle has an independent life cycle of several years, which can be broken into three phases: the anagen phase, the catagen phase and the telogen phase.
The anagen phase is the multi-year growth phase. The catagen phase comes next. During this phase, the hair follicle is alive, but stops growing. This phase lasts just a few weeks, and is followed by the telogen phase, where the hair follicle is resting as the hair prepares to fall out.
There are several types of hair loss that can affect your hair in different phases, for different reasons, and depending on which type of hair loss you’re experiencing, it will change the suggested treatment options and the likelihood of their success.
Essentially a state in which a large number of hairs in the anagen or growing phase are suddenly forced into the telogen telogen phase, causing a disproportionate amount of your hair follicles to be dormant.
The causes of telogen effluvium can be many, but tends to happen to people who have recently had a shocking or stressful event to the body.
For example, if you’ve recently had a high fever, or an operation, or have given birth, or have lost a significant amount of weight, or have experienced a lot of stress or are recovering from illness, you may be at risk of experiencing telogen effluvium.
Also called traction alopecia, is caused by pulling, burning, or otherwise damaging the hair with hair styles for various reasons — everything from stress to going blonde for the summer can be at play here. It can also be caused by psychological conditions like trichotillomania—literally pulling out one’s own hair.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that attacks your hair follicles, causing damage and eventually stopping growth.
There are three forms of alopecia areata: alopecia areata (which can leave patches of baldness anywhere on your body, such as your scalp eyebrows, beard, armpits, eyelashes and ears), alopecia totalis (which can leave your head bald) and alopecia universalis (which can leave you whole body bald).
Androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss in men. This is your typical male pattern baldness: receding hairlines and thinning crowns. It can develop in men as early as their teens or 20s, though in most cases it will take time for the effects to be visible.
There are a lot of products advertised to regrow hair on the market, and some of them provide more dubious claims of effectiveness than others. In some cases it’s unfair to call them ineffective — the research simply hasn’t been done.
Here’s a list of treatments currently considered effective based on studies:
There are too many lifestyle influences on hair loss to count. Poor diet, stress, stressing hairstyles and others are causes that can be counteracted with basic lifestyle changes.
If you suspect diet may be the cause of your hair loss, consider reducing your intake of processed foods and increasing your vitamin intake — particularly vitamin A, vitamin D and biotin.
For more information on the best vitamins for hair growth, check out our Essential Vitamins for a Healthy Head of Hair guide.
And if you’re wearing a tight man bun, consider stopping. *cough cough*
If the factors seem more psychological — you’re stressed — talk to someone and look for ways to eliminate chronic stress from your lifestyle.
If you’re pulling your own hair out, consult your healthcare provider who will be able to direct or refer you to a mental health professional for help with compulsions and habits.
Effective medications mostly include oral and topical products like finasteride and minoxidil respectively.
Finasteride reduces the levels of the hormone DHT (the hormone that causes hair loss in androgenic alopecia).
Taking finasteride on a daily basis has been shown to reduce DHT levels by about 70 percent, which is enough to either stop or slow down the effects of male pattern baldness.
The exact ways in which topical minoxidil treats hair loss are not fully understood but studies show that use of minoxidil over a 48 week period results in a 12.7 percent to 18.6 percent increase in total hair count.
If you have thinning hair, the extra thickness provided by minoxidil can make a big visual difference.
A popular supplement, saw palmetto, also helps fight DHT levels and may be an effective way to treat hair loss, especially when used alongside a medication like finasteride.
Saw palmetto may also be an ingredient in certain shampoos, which might also include things like biotin and other essential compounds.
Our What to Look For in a Men’s Hair Loss Shampoo guide contains a full list of the ingredients you should check for in a shampoo.
There are limited results available for a variety of other tools for regrowing hair.
Mechanical instruments — electric scalp massagers, laser combs and helmets — have had limited studies, but some have shown some modest potential.
Likewise, products like pumpkin seed oil and rosemary oil have shown limited and inconclusive results.
Still, these treatments are far from proven, and typically won’t be recommended by a healthcare professional until after — or concurrently — with other treatment options.
Like more severe options including hair transplants, these should be considered only after proven medications and lifestyle changes have been tried and eliminated as possible solutions.
Besides, “laser combs” sound fun in science fiction, but a little scary when your own head is involved.
If you’re reading this, we assume that losing your hair is something you consider a negative, but there are plenty of men walking around without hair, and they look great.
Here’s a bold suggestion — maybe you don’t need hair.
Baldness hasn’t stopped Jeff Bezos from being wildly successful, and plenty of male leading actors (these days, too many to mention) get starring roles without a single hair on their head.
Maybe it’s a look you can pull off — maybe it’s a look you’re already pulling off. In either case, baldness may be a better solution for you, and that’s something you have to decide for yourself.
Whether you’re comfortable with your look or wanting to take back control in the follicle fight, educating yourself on what’s going on up top is an important next step for your health.
After all, while hair loss is often the result of natural processes like aging, it can also be the sign of other health concerns beginning to get out of control.
If you’ve noticed other changes or your hair loss has been sudden, consult a medical professional.
Want to learn more about male pattern baldness? Our guides to DHT and male hair loss, what you should know about using finasteride and how minoxidil and finasteride can work together to stop hair loss cover the treatment aspects of male pattern baldness in more detail.