Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, DNP, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/21/2021
Just about every guy loses hair at some point in life, with research showing that 16 percent of men aged 18 to 29 and 53 percent of men in their 40s already display moderate to extensive male pattern hair loss.
If you’ve started to lose hair, you may have looked into options such as wigs or hair pieces to cover up balding and create the appearance of a full head of hair.
Despite the stereotypes, men’s wigs for baldness — or hair systems, as they’re often called — can help disguise hair loss and, when correctly matched to your natural hair color, add real volume and thickness to areas of your scalp with thinning hair.
With this said, wigs also have some downsides you should be aware of before thinking of them as a hair loss fix.
Here’s the lowdown on men’s wigs for baldness, from what they are to how they’re typically used.
Below you’ll also find the advantages and disadvantages of a wig for hair loss along with a few science-backed treatments you can use to slow, stop or even reverse hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.
A wig is a hair accessory that’s worn on your scalp, either to change the look of your hair or to cover up hair loss.
Men’s wigs for baldness are sometimes referred to as toupees, hairpieces, hair prostheses or non-surgical hair replacement systems.
Wigs can vary in price, quality and appearance. Many affordable wigs are made from synthetic hair, while high-end wigs often use real hair and are custom fitted to sit naturally on the wearer’s scalp.
Modern wigs are available to suit just about every hair type, with options available in an array of colors, textures and sizes.
While a lot of us might associate the word “wig” with hair that looks obviously fake, the reality is that many of the higher quality wigs available today look very natural.
Many are hand-crafted using natural hair and designed to work for years before they need to be replaced.
Some wigs feature silicon or polyurethane bases that stick to the scalp, while others use a lace-based system that covers the wearer’s natural hair.
Chances are you’ve probably seen high-end wigs in use on the big screen (many actors wear them to cover bald patches) and in other settings.
This guide to men’s hair replacement systems goes into more detail about the technology used in many wigs today.
Wigs offer certain unique advantages when dealing with hair loss, but they also have a few significant disadvantages.
Let’s start with the strengths. Unlike hair loss medications, wigs offer immediate improvements in your hair’s appearance.
After you’ve been fitted for a wig (or if you buy one off the rack), you can immediately use it to cover up bald patches and create the look of a full head of hair.
Provided you’re willing to invest in a high-quality product, wigs can look very natural, too, especially if you choose a style that’s a good match for your face and natural hair.
There’s also no need to take tablets every day or apply medications like minoxidil to your scalp to maintain your “results.”
Now, let’s look at the disadvantages when it comes to wigs for men’s baldness. Arguably the biggest weakness of wearing a wig to “treat” hair loss is that it doesn’t really change anything.
It won’t stop your hair loss, nor will it result in any regrowth of your real hair.
If you’re partially bald, it’s very likely you’ll continue to lose hair while using a wig, although your hair loss won’t necessarily be visible to other people.
The other disadvantages of relying on a wig are the costs and practicality. Good quality wigs are far from cheap.
In fact, a custom, professionally-fitted hair replacement system that’s made from real human hair will usually run several hundred dollars.
Since you’ll usually need to replace your wig every few months, the costs of hiding hair loss this way can add up quickly.
As for the convenience factor, most high-quality men’s wigs are designed to be fitted and cut by a professional stylist — a service that can take between 30 minutes and an hour.
While wearing a wig is a quick and simple way to cover up hair loss, it isn’t really a treatment for male pattern baldness.
Luckily, there are plenty of science-backed hair loss treatments available, including hair loss medications that can slow, stop or even reverse the effects of male pattern baldness.
Finasteride is a prescription medication for male pattern baldness. It works by preventing the body from producing dihydrotestosterone, or DHT — a hormone that can attach to receptors in the scalp, damage your hair follicles and cause permanent hair loss.
Several large studies have found that finasteride is effective at slowing and stopping hair loss in men. For many men, it even contributes to hair regrowth.
In a large-scale study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, men who used finasteride experienced a 15 percent increase in hair count around the vertex scalp, an area typically affected by male pattern baldness.
A longer-term study carried out in Japan found that more than 90 percent of balding men who used finasteride over a period of 10 years experienced improvements in hair growth.
You can purchase finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Minoxidil is a topical hair loss medication that’s available as a liquid or foam.
Instead of targeting hair loss by reducing DHT levels, minoxidil treats hair loss by stimulating blood flow to the scalp and shifting hair follicles into the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle.
Like finasteride, minoxidil has been studied extensively as a treatment for hair loss, with a large amount of research showing that it can stop hair loss and stimulate hair growth.
In one study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 84.3 percent of men with hair loss who used minoxidil for 12 months rated it as either very effective, effective or moderately effective at promoting hair growth.
If you already have a noticeable receding hairline or bald patch, hair transplant surgery may be an option worth considering.
Hair transplant surgery involves extracting and moving DHT-resistant hair follicles from the back and sides of your scalp to areas affected by male pattern baldness, such as your hairline.
Although hair transplant surgery can often be costly, the final results can look very natural when this type of procedure is performed by a skilled surgeon.
Wearing a wig is a quick and easy way to create the appearance of a full head of hair, making it an appealing option if you’re affected by male pattern baldness.
However, while a wig can cover up baldness, it won’t slow hair loss or have any impact on the health, thickness, or density of your natural hair.
That might seem obvious, but it’s worth considering if seeing your thinning hair makes you feel sad or discouraged, or anything less than good.
It’s also helpful to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the cause of your hair loss, and to help find the best solution for you.
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