Male pattern baldness (MPB) is a common occurrence amongst men as they age. It’s thought 50% of men will start to lose their hair before the age of 50.

When men experience hair loss between the ages of 25-45 the cause is often male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia. In some cases it can take less than five years for a man to go bald.

In MPB, hair will typically recede on the temples first followed by thinning on the crown. A bald patch often appears in the centre of the crown, which eventually joins with the receding temples. Remaining hair at the front will eventually fall out, leaving the entire crown bald. Hair will often remain over the ears and back of the scalp leaving a rim of hair, which resembles a horseshoe. This is the traditional pattern of MPB. A visual indication usually used to monitor the progression of MPH, is the Norwood Scale.

Norwood scale
Source: American Hair Loss Association

How is it different from other types of baldness?

Male pattern baldness is different from other types of hair loss as it follows the above pattern. A doctor can confirm the diagnosis. It’s advisable to speak to a doctor about baldness as it could be a symptom of an underlying illness.
There are a number of different types of hair loss, which cause different symptoms and causes. Here are some other types of baldness:

  • Alopecia areata

This type of hair loss causes patches of hair to fall out. These patches are usually the size of a coin and can occur in any body hair. Young adults are most affected by this type.
Hair will often grow back within a few months, but when it returns it may be thin and white. Over time hair will regain its former colour. Alopecia areata is caused by immune system problems and often present in those who have an over-active thyroid or diabetes. Sometimes the condition will result in:

  •  Alopecia Totalis – no scalp hair.
  •  Alopecia universalis – no hair anywhere on the body.

Scarring alopecia – This occurs when the hair follicle is damaged and hair is unable to re-grow. It can affect men and women and accounts for about 7% of hair loss cases. Conditions that cause scarring alopecia are:

  •  Scleroderma – when the connectives tissues become hard, itchy and puffy.
  • Discoid lupus – an autoimmune disease that attacks the skin.
  • Lichen planus – a rash that can affect skin anywhere on the body.

Anagen effluvium – This is hair loss caused by medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It’s usually a temporary baldness as hair grows back when treatment has finished. Some people are able to retain their hair by using a special cap to keep their scalp cool during treatment.

  •  Telogen effluvium – This is hair thinning rather than hair loss and bald patches. It can be cause by hormones, emotional stress, intense physical stress, infections, operations, high blood pressure, crash dieting and some medications such as beta-blockers and anti-coagulants.

The Causes of Male Pattern Baldness

In male pattern baldness hair follicles become smaller so that each new hair re-grows thinner than previously. Growing hairs also live for much less time. Usually hair will remain in place for three years before falling out, but with MPB it can be a matter of months.

How DHT affects hair follicles
Source: euroClinix

Eventually the smaller hair follicles produce only a short thin hair that does not grow. This is caused by:

  • Hormones

MPB is not caused by a fall in testosterone levels. Instead the scalp cells turn testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. It’s not fully understood but hair follicles shrink in reaction to the dihydrotestosterone. It’s not known why this only happens on the head and why it follows the traditional pattern.

  • Genetics

MPB is genetic. Men whose fathers experienced male pattern baldness are more likely to experience the same.

  • Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is sometimes linked to male pattern baldness. Obesity, higher blood pressure and higher levels of cholesterol can increase the risk. When men develop MPB at a young age the association with metabolic syndrome is higher.

The Effects of Male Pattern Baldness

Men experiencing male pattern baldness can suffer psychosocially, suggests new research. Men with male pattern baldness can feel unhappy with their appearance. Research shows they can feel unattractive or old before their time, and this can in turn lead to stress and depression. Men who feel anxious about their hair loss should seek treatment. A doctor can suggest ways to manage hair loss and help support him with psychological issues.

MPB can also cause secondary issues such as sunburn. Hair provides a thermal layer to keep in heat as well as shielding scalp skin from the sun. Too much sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer. Men with MPB should apply sun cream and wear a hat in periods of hot weather.

How to Prevent and Treat Male Pattern Baldness

Wigs

Wigs are a traditional method of covering male pattern baldness. They can be expensive and uncomfortable, but provide a quick solution.

Scalp surgery

Hair transplants are gaining in popularity as new techniques make them more successful. It can be expensive and MPB is often not covered by insurance plans or the NHS.

A healthy diet

A balanced diet that includes all food groups can help support hair loss.Dieting can cut out sufficient minerals and vitamins, so it’s important to ensure a steady supply of healthy foods. Junk food and high fat and salt foods do not proved sufficient nutrition. Men affected by baldness should ensure they eat well as this may slow down the rate of balding.

Include beans, fish, soya, cheese and nuts as they contain protein which is used to make hair follicles.

Include sufficient calcium as this can improve the thickness and strength of hair. Yogurts, milk, some cereals and other dairy contain plenty of calcium.

Avoid harsh hair care regimes

Harsh shampoos and conditioners can damage your hair very quickly. It’s best to use organic, gentle shampoo that moisturises instead.

Massage

Stimulating the hair follicles may promote hair growth. It’s important to ensure this is not rough on the hair but stimulating to the scalp’s blood flow. Indian head massage for example may help promote healthy hair growth.

Hair treatments

Male pattern baldness is notoriously difficult to treat because the root cause is often genetics. Still, there are several treatments available that can help men tackle hair loss. Minoxidil lotion is probably the best-known treatment that is available over the counter. Rather than treating baldness, it slows down the rate of hair loss. As well as preventing hair loss, in some cases the treatment has also encouraged new hair growth. Finasteride is the only prescription medication approved by the FDA. It has shown to halt MPB, by treating the crown and middle front area of the scalp. Many men live with male pattern baldness and are not affected by it, simply choosing to shave their remaining hair. Others are affected psychologically. These men should seek some support before their mental health is damaged. This may take the form of coming to terms with hair loss, or trying treatments stimulate growth.

You can find out more about man hair loss at Groom+Style.

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