Baldness - Male Hair Loss
Male Hair Loss
Male hair patterns
A casual study of male heads will reveal that balding occurs in different ways in different people. There are a number of hair patterns which are genetically controlled (females have different patterns). At puberty as the sex hormones increase changes in hair patterns begin. Secondary sexual hair develops; in the male in the axilla, pubic area, armpits, legs and beard region. In some cases this is more extensive including the chest and back. What is less commonly known is that from puberty onward the density of scalp hair is decreasing in all individuals.
Can't stop those hormones
Why should hair develop in patterns, why does hair increase in density in some areas and simultaneously decrease in others Good questions, but there are few answers. Each hair follicle has a pre-programmed sensitivity of the hormonal environment that determines its response to changes in circulating hormone levels. Generally the hair follicles in the beard region respond to androgens (male hormones) by increasing in size and length of anagen, giving bigger thicker hairs. Follicles in the frontal region of the scalp tend to respond by reducing in size and length of anagen. It is of little comfort to know that castration before puberty prevents baldness and beard growth. Castration post-puberty doesn't prevent baldness. There appears to be a short "window" in time, perhaps a few years in which the hormonal environment "seals the fate" of the follicles.
perception of hair loss depends on 3 main factors; the density of hairs, the diameter of each fibre and the percentage of hairs in the growing phase (anagen). Hair loss in common baldness proceeds by;
- Shortening of the hair cycle - more time resting leads to shorter hairs and less hairs on the head
- A reduction in diameter of the fibre - perceived as thinner, more scalp visible
- Decrease in active follicles - miniaturised follicles leave the hair cycle leading to sparse hair
The net effect is that in affected regions terminal hairs shift to vellus and then leave the hair cycle. This is different to loss in women, where loss is more diffuse. Generally up to 20% of the hair can be lost before the individual notices.
But there must be something to stop it
The short answer is no - nothing. In reality the answer is more complicated. But the bottom line is that there is nothing that will reverse hair loss once it has occurred. The best that can be done is to slow or even halt the degree of loss. There are generally three kinds of male with hair loss; those who wish they could reverse it, those who accept the loss and those who say they accept the loss. The psychology (armchair or otherwise) is very important. All that follows is generality and, as humans, individuals have a broad range of responses, but some points here will be valid for the majority. As hair is important for sexual display and self-image its loss can be traumatic. This can be hard for other people to understand and can be seen as simply vanity, in fact it can be much deeper than that. Loss of hair is seen as an age-related process, most bald men are old men. To lose your hair in your 20's is therefore a very upsetting, though by no means uncommon experience. Sexuality is also important here as balding young people are not generally seen as attractive in our society. Conversely, balding older men can be seen as sexual.
It is the context of the hair loss that is important. An older man can be seen as having qualities not found in the younger male; experience, knowledge or power and status. Here the hair loss can be more a badge of authority than a handicap. Indeed people's attitudes to young versus older males attempting to hide their baldness is enlightening. Older males with "Bobby Charlton syndrome" are seen as rather comedic figures (R.C. Nesbitt take a bow) a younger male with extensive loss is generally seen in a kinder light. Hair loss can be seen as a joke (R.C. Nesbitt take a second bow) but the consequences for the individual can be dramatic. Claire Rayner described the reaction to hair loss as a grieving process. That might sound a little dramatic but if you have ever dealt with people going through the process it is actually a very apt and astutely observed description. Hair loss is genetically programmed, it is a consequence of evolutionary pressures, it is normal. Hair loss occurs in other primates and is linked to social status and rank within the group. So should we even try to reverse the process I would argue that we should not generally, but for the younger male whose loss is inappropriate to his biological age then there is a strong case to provide help. What Natural remedies are available