Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/2/2022
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 some advantages, the biggest of which is the ability to conceal the appearance of baldness. However, they also have several 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 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 evidence-based treatment options that are available for slowing down, stopping and even reversing hair loss in men.
Male pattern baldness is a common problem that affects around half of all men by the time they reach their 40s. Many men develop premature hair loss during their 20s and 30s, which can cause distress and loss of confidence.
The term toupee refers to a small type of hairpiece, usually made of artificial or human hair, that’s designed to be worn at the top of your scalp to cover areas that are affected by hair loss.
Most toupees for men can look convincing when they’re 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 evidence-based, FDA-approved hair loss medications such as minoxidil and/or finasteride than by using a toupee for men.
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.
In fact, toupees have been in use for centuries. During the 18th century, toupees evolved from realistic hairpieces to exaggerated devices that featured padding, cushions and wire frames to create the appearance of incredible hair volume.
The term “toupee” comes from the French toupet, which refers to a tuft of hair. Today, toupees are marketed using a variety of different names, including “hair systems” and “non-surgical hair replacement systems.”
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.
Since toupees cover up baldness and, when selected carefully, match your remaining hair, they offer an easy option for hiding diffuse thinning or a bald patch without any need to take hair loss medication or undergo surgery.
This can make wearing a toupee a good choice if you’re interested in hiding your hair loss when you’re in public, but don’t want to commit to using medication.
On the other hand, toupees have several disadvantages. The first of these is that a convincing hair 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 for hair loss, 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.
This can be a time-consuming process, and it may take some time to learn how to fit a toupee so that it looks natural next to your own hair.
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.
Put simply, while a good toupee can look almost identical to your natural hair, a bad toupee can stand out and look worse than using nothing at all to cover up your hair loss.
Finally, when it comes to actually “treating” male pattern baldness, toupees only offer temporary results. Unlike with hair loss medications or surgery, once you remove your toupee, you’ll still be affected by baldness that may become more severe over time.
This means that, in a way, wearing a toupee might cause your hair loss to get worse, as it could delay you from taking action as your hairline recedes more or that bald patch around your crown gets bigger.
In many ways, it’s a Band-Aid solution — while it can cover up baldness in the short term, relying on a toupee could cause you to delay using options such as hair loss medication.
“I tried several different options before but Hims combined approach of all four methods by far created the best results.”
“Hims has been the greatest confidence boost, no more bald jokes! I look and feel so much younger!”
“When I show my barber my progress, he is always in disbelief. I have to recommend Hims to any guy who’s experiencing thinning.”
“Cost effective and affordable. My hair keeps growing thicker, fuller, and at a fast rate.”
“I noticed a huge change in the overall health and fullness of my hairline.”
“Now after 5 months I’m able to style waves first time in 10 years!”
“I decided to jump right in and I'm so glad I did. I definitely feel ten years younger!”
“In just as little over two and half months, I can really see the difference in thickness and in color.”
“4-months strong and my confidence boosted back up to 100% using Hims, future me really does thank me.”
“I’m a 34 year old father of two and have been using Hims for over a year now. My hair is back to what it was in my mid twenties.”
So, what separates a good toupee from a bad one? Bad toupees can stand out in several ways, all of which are negative.
Common signs of a bad toupee include:
Not matching your hair color. If you wear a toupee, it’s important for it to match your natural hair color as closely as possible. Any contrast in hair color can make it obvious where your hair ends and the toupee starts.
Having an artificial texture. High quality toupees are made from human hair. One of the most common signs of a bad toupee is an artificial texture and appearance, which can often occur when a toupee is made using false hair.
Adding too much hair density. If your hair is thinning, wearing a toupee that features very thick hair can cause it to stand out too much. A good quality toupee should look as natural as possible, which means matching your natural level of hair coverage.
Looking “too perfect.” Very few 50 year olds have the natural hairline of a 20 year old man. Bad toupees often provide a perfect Norwood 1 hairline, which can look unnatural if you’re in your 40s, 50s or older.
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 scalp hair count around the crown 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 to a healthcare provider and receive a prescription before you can purchase and use it.
The second medication for treating hair loss is minoxidil. Unlike finasteride, which prevents male pattern baldness at a hormonal level, minoxidil is applied topically and promotes consistent hair growth by causing your hair follicles to enter into their anagen (growth) phase early.
Several studies have found that minoxidil can stimulate hair growth and reduce hair loss. In one study, 84.3 percent of men with male pattern hair loss who used minoxidil for 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. Although 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.
This means that your hair loss might get worse over time, even if it looks better thanks to your toupee.
These medications are backed up by real scientific evidence showing improvements in almost every aspect of your hair health, from growth to overall coverage.
You can also learn more about your options for preventing thinning and maintaining your hair in our detailed guide to the best treatments for thinning hair.