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What is male pattern baldness?

Men's hairloss, also known as male pattern baldness, is usually characterized by a receeding hairline, hair thinning or falling out from the crown or both. It is also known as androgenetic alopecia and is accountable for more than 95% of hairloss in men. 

How common is male pattern baldness?

It is estimated that around 6.5 million men in the UK suffer with baldness. It is thought that 40% of men will experience noticeable baldness by the age of 35, with this figure increasing to 50% by the time they reach 50 and 65% by the age of 60. Some men are affected at an earlier age than others, experiencing signs of baldness in their late teens or early twenties, whilst others are affected later on in life. 

What causes hair loss in men?

Male pattern baldness takes place as the hair follicles (tiny sacs from which hair grows), shrink over time. This results in hair getting shorter and thinner. Each follicle is capable of producing on average 2-5 units of hair. After a while, the follicle stops producing new hair, causing baldness. Despite not growing new hair, the follicles remain alive, advocating that there is still a possibility to grow new hair. 
One of the main reasons for this process, is your genetics. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a byproduct of the hormone testosterone. In males, it is responsible for stimulating the development of male charecteristics such as genetelia, deeper voice, increased muscle mass, bodily and pubic hair. If you are genetically more vunerable to hair loss, DHT attaches to receptors in your hair follicles. This causes them to diminish in size to a point where they will not produce anymore hair. 
Whilst in a majority of cases, mens hairloss is genetic, there are other factors that may contribute to male pattern baldness:

  • As you age, your body doesn't function as it once did. Hair follicles can loose the ability to function as they once did. Factors such as hormone changes that happen with age can also play a part. 

  • Stress and anxiety can also play a part in male pattern baldness. When our body is under stress, it can cause hair follicles to stop growing prematurely. The hairs stay in what is known as the resting (telogen) phase, for a few months, before they fall out. This is usually temporary and hair grows back. This type of hair loss is known as 

  • A poor diet can also contribute to male pattern baldness. As with the case with all bodily functions, good hair growth requires healthy levels of certain vitamins and minerals. A good source iron is required as it transports oxygen around the body. A lack of iron will result in a lack of oxygen being transported around the body. In an effort to preserve the bodys oxygen, it shuts down non-essential functions and often the first process to affected is hair loss. Zinc plays an important role in building healthy cells and regulating hormones. Zinc helps to ensure strong and healthy growth and reproduction of hair follicle cells. B vitamins are important in regulating bodily functions. It has been suggested that they play an important role in helping to maintain a healthy and strong hair growth.

  • Male hairloss may also be caused as a result of skin and scalp conditions. Psoriasis and Seborrheic dermatitis can cause temporary hairloss due to inflammation or overproduction of skin cells. It is important to get treated for the skin conditions in order to see a regrowth of hair. 

Can male pattern baldness be cured?

Whilst there is no cure for balding, it can most certainly be treated with safe, effective and proven treatments. Treatments for male patterned baldness have been in use for a number of years and their popularity is increasing. 

How is male pattern baldness treated?

Finasteride (Propecia)
Finasteride also known by its brand name Propecia, is the most effective treatment for male pattern baldness. Finasteride works by blocking DHT (the hormone responsible for damaging hair follicles and causing baldness), reducing its levels in the body. This protects the hair follicles responsible for hair growth. This treatment has been shown to stop and reverse balding. Finasteride is available as a generic (unbranded) version which is cheaper that its branded counterpart, Propecia. They both contain the same active ingredient (Finasteride) and both work in the same way. 

Minoxidil (Regaine)
Minoxidil is the active ingredient contained in a product called Regaine. It is used to stimulate hair growth. Unlike Finasteride, Minoxidil (Regaine), is available as a lotion, liquid or foam, can be used by both men and women and does not require a prescription. The mechanism of action of Minoxidil is unknown, however it is thought to work by widening the blood vessels around the hair follicles, causing them to increase in size, stimulating and prolonging hair growth. 

Should I be worried?

The average head has around 100,00 to 150,000 hairs and loses up to an average of 100 hairs a day. A few stray hairs on your pillow or hairbrush are not necessarily a cause for concern, as it is part of the body's natural process. If you feel that your hairline is receding and you are experiencing hair loss or hair thinning around the crown of your head, it may be worth your while looking into treatment options. 

When to see a doctor?

Inherited male pattern baldness is nothing to worry about. Treatment has been and is currently being used by many men, who find the treatment to be effective for them. 
It is important however, to see a doctor if your hair loss is does not gradually follow a pattern of a receding hairline accompanied or followed by thinning and hair loss on the crown, or if you experience: 

  • ​Bald patches

  • Sudden unexplained hairloss

  • Hair shedding in large amounts or clumps

  • Any skin changes around your head such as itchiness, rash, burning, scaly texture

  • Hair loss after having started a new medication or therapy (such as chemotherapy)

Hair loss which is characterised by any of the above can be indicative of an underlying health condition and your doctor may need to carry out an assessment. However, this is unlikely and over 95% of hair loss in men can be attributed to genetic male pattern baldness.