Men’s hair loss is a widespread occurrence: by the age of 35, two-thirds of American men will experience some degree of appreciable hair loss. By the age of 50, approximately 85% of men have significantly thinning hair. The majority of this hair loss is due to androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. As the name suggests, the biggest factor is genetics. Other causes of hair loss include serious disease, reaction to certain medications, or the body’s reactions to very stressful events.
What male pattern baldness sufferers are actually inheriting are hair follicles with a genetic sensitivity to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). These follicles will miniaturize in response to DHT, which shortens the lifespan of the follicle. Eventually the follicles stop producing hair altogether. DHT is a by-product of testosterone. An enzyme in the sebaceous glands of a hair follicle converts testosterone into DHT. While the entire genetic process of male pattern baldness is not completely understood, scientists do know that DHT shrinks hair follicles, and that when DHT is suppressed, hair follicles continue to thrive. With proper intervention this miniaturization process can be slowed or even stopped if caught early enough.
Diagnosis of male pattern baldness is relatively simple. A combination of assessing the appearance and pattern of the hair loss, plus an evaluation of your family history of hair loss will tell your hair care specialist what type of hair loss you are experiencing and what stage you are at – both important factors in determining a course of treatment.
Treatment of hair loss can be via a topical cream or gel or through an oral supplement or pill. Only several of these have been approved by the FDA.
Finasteride (propecia) is considered to be the first line of attack for all men interested in treating their male pattern baldness, but it does not work for everyone. Approved by the FDA in 1997, this was the first pill in history to effectively treat male pattern baldness in the majority of patients. Propecia inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT, which can lower DHT levels by up to 60%.
Minoxidil (loniten) was the first drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of male pattern baldness. For many years, minoxidil, in pill form, was widely used to treat high blood pressure. Researchers discovered a very interesting side effect of the drug – those taking the medication were growing hair in unexpected places. This led them to try the route of applying minoxidil directly to the scalp. While this treatment is very effective for many men, it does not address the hormonal factor by lowering DHT.
Consult your hair care specialist to discuss whether a professional treatment such as Hair Botox or an at-home treatment containing Minoxidil is the right course of treatment for your type and stage of hair loss.