Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/26/2021
Every year, tens of millions of men around the world begin to notice the early symptoms of male pattern baldness, a common form of hair loss.
Contrary to popular belief, hair loss isn’t just something that affects older men. In fact, according to research published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery, 16 percent of men aged 18 to 29 are already affected by moderate to extensive hair loss.
If you’re beginning to lose your hair, you may have looked into hair replacement options such as toupees.
Toupees offer certain advantages. However, they also have major downsides that mean they’re usually less than ideal as a treatment for hair loss.
Below, we’ve explained what toupees are and how they can be used to cover up areas of your scalp that are affected by hair loss. We’ve also looked at the advantages and disadvantages of toupees, from aesthetics to cost, convenience and more.
Finally, we’ve looked at several science-based treatment options that are available for slowing down, stopping and even reversing hair loss in men.
Male pattern baldness is a common issue that affects more than half of all men by the time they reach their 40s.
The term toupee refers to a small type of hairpiece that’s designed to be worn at the top to your scalp to cover areas affected by hair loss.
Toupees can look convincing when fitted properly, but can be costly and inconvenient to deal with on a daily basis.
If you want to treat your hair loss, you’ll likely get better results by using science-based medications such as minoxidil and/or finasteride than by wearing a toupee.
If you have noticeable hair loss, procedures like hair transplant surgery can restore hair to areas of your scalp affected by baldness.
A toupee is a type of small wig, or hairpiece, that’s usually worn to cover up a bald spot on your scalp. Most toupees are worn at the crown of the scalp — an area that’s often prone to hair loss from male pattern baldness.
Toupees are made from either synthetic or artificial hair and typically use an adhesive to stick to your scalp. A good toupee will be designed to blend in with your natural hair and make your hair look like it’s unaffected by male pattern baldness.
Actors, performers, politicians and other public figures have long used toupees to cover up hair loss, either convincingly or otherwise.
A toupee differs from a wig in its size. While the term wig is generally used to refer to hairpieces that cover the whole scalp, the term toupee refers specifically to smaller hairpieces designed for areas affected by thinning hair or total hair loss.
There are also certain design differences between wigs and toupees. While a wig is designed to hold firmly on your scalp and may even have tabs to adjust its fit, a toupee fits more loosely and usually needs to be stuck to your scalp using a temporary adhesive to stay in place.
The biggest, most obvious advantage of wearing a toupee is that it covers up the fact that you’re balding.
Although many people associate toupees and wigs with obvious, unconvincing hairpieces, good quality toupees tend to look quite natural. They’re typically cut and styled to match your hair and designed specifically to provide extra coverage while blending in with their surroundings.
If you’re going bald and don’t like the idea of taking medication or undergoing surgery to restore your hair, a good quality toupee can offer the appearance of a full head of hair.
On the other hand, toupees have several disadvantages. The first of these is that a convincing toupee can be quite expensive, both to purchase and to have fitted professionally.
Toupees can range in price from less than $100 to several thousand dollars. As a general rule, the more convincing a toupee looks, the more likely it is to command a price close to the higher end of this scale.
Unlike wigs, which are often bought off the shelf, a good quality toupee will need to be fitted by a specialist to match your scalp, hair color and hairstyle.
There are also costs involved in maintaining and caring for a toupee. Just like with natural hair, you’ll need to clean and condition your toupee using special care products to keep it looking its best. Over time, this can increase the cost of using a toupee to hide your hair loss.
Beyond costs, toupees have several other disadvantages. There’s the inconvenience factor of having to apply adhesive to your toupee and carefully fit it to your scalp before an event.
There’s also the appearance factor. While some toupees look virtually identical to natural hair, others are less convincing, meaning people may notice that you’re wearing a hairpiece to hide thinning or baldness.
Finally, when it comes to actually “treating” male pattern baldness, toupees provide temporary results. Unlike with hair loss medications or surgery, once you remove your toupee, you’ll still have a noticeable bald patch that may continue to grow larger over time.
If you’re beginning to lose your hair, buying and wearing a toupee is one way to cover it up and create the illusion of a full head of hair.
However, it’s certainly not the only treatment option that’s available to you. From medications to surgical procedures like hair transplantation, there are numerous ways to slow down or reverse hair loss and maintain your hair as you get older.
Several medications are available to treat male pattern baldness. These work by either blocking the hormone that triggers male pattern baldness or by stimulating your hair follicles to grow at a faster, more consistent pace.
The first of these medications is finasteride. It works by blocking dihydrotestosterone, or DHT — an androgenic hormone that can damage your hair follicles and prevent them from creating new hairs.
Our guide to DHT and hair loss goes into more detail about how this hormone is created, as well as the effects it can have on your hair if you’re genetically prone to male pattern baldness.
Numerous studies have found that finasteride is effective at stopping hair loss from male pattern baldness and stimulating hair regrowth.
For example, in one study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, a group of over 1200 men given finasteride experienced a more than 15 percent increase in vertex scalp hair count over the course of two years of treatment.
In a 10-year study of finasteride carried out in Japan, more than 99 percent of men experienced no further hair loss, with 91.5 percent showing noticeable improvements in their hair.
Finasteride is a prescription medication, meaning you’ll need to talk with a healthcare provider before you can purchase and use it. We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a physician who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
The second medication for treating hair loss is minoxidil. Unlike finasteride, which blocks male pattern baldness at a hormonal level, minoxidil is applied topically and stimulates hair growth by causing your hair follicles to enter into their anagen (growth) phase early.
Several studies have found that minoxidil stimulates hair growth and prevents hair loss. In one study, 84.3 percent of men who used minoxidil over the course of 12 months rated it as either very effective, effective or moderately effective at stimulating hair regrowth.
If you have a noticeable bald patch at your crown or an obvious receding hairline that you’d like to fill in with hair, you may want to consider hair transplant surgery.
This type of procedure involves surgically transplanting hair follicles from the back and sides of your scalp (areas that aren’t affected by male pattern baldness) to your hairline, crown or other areas with noticeable thinning.
Several methods are used to perform this procedure, each with different costs, advantages and disadvantages. You can learn more about hair transplants in our guide to hair transplantation as a solution for hair loss.
A good quality toupee can help to disguise thinning hair or a bald spot at your crown, all while maintaining a convincing, natural appearance.
While wearing a toupee offers certain advantages, it isn’t a treatment for hair loss. While it will cover up the fact that you’re balding, wearing a toupee won’t actually cause you to regrow hair or prevent your hair loss from worsening.
If you’d like to take real action against hair loss, you can talk to a licensed healthcare provider online and access proven, science-based medications such as finasteride and minoxidil.
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