What 6.5 million men really want to know
By Jamie Carson
Sometimes, hair loss can feel like a lonely journey, with questions relating to the natural process (which affects 50% of men over 50) often being typed into a search engine, rather than asked aloud among friends and family – but it really shouldn’t be like this. Lloyds Pharmacy estimates that 6.5 million men are currently experiencing male pattern baldness in the UK, so whatever your reason for hair loss, your situation is not unique.
In complete contrast, though, how you treat your hair loss (whether you decide to or not) is entirely unique to you, as those who go through it will have a personal emotional response. Some see it as a loss of their identity, others as a sign of their youth fading – and a lucky few will recognise it as a normal part of life. But, as a now-bald man who was obsessed with his then-long blonde hair, I can tell you that there is life after hair. However negative you feel right now, it will change for the better.
Need extra proof that you’re not in it alone? Well, we asked the nice folks over at Google to share with us the most-searched-for hair-loss terms in the UK (which is at an all-time high) and recruited Iain Sallis, consultant trichologist and expert in hair and scalp disorders, to answer them all.
How can you stop hair thinning?
‘Genetic hair loss is by far the most common reason why men lose their hair. This is due to a genetic predisposition (from either side of the family) and it occurs on a spectrum: the hair can thin slightly or the person can go completely bald – it is the same genetic process.
‘One of the treatments for male-pattern hair loss is Minoxidil, a topical treatment that is applied twice a day and which extends the life of the hair. It extends the anagen (growing phase) of the hair, prolonging the life of the hair and thereby preventing miniaturisation by keeping it growing for longer.’
What causes baldness in men?
‘Androgenetic alopecia (hereditary hair loss) affects both men and women equally; it’s just that it usually manifests itself in men at a younger age and it is very easy to spot from the “male pattern” of hair loss it takes – thus the name “male-pattern hair loss”.
‘The problems lie with an enzyme receptor (5-a-Reductase) at the base of some of the hair bulbs at the top of a man’s scalp. These convert testosterone into a more potent version (dihydrotestosterone – DHT for short) and this interaction happens over years (if not decades) to thin the hair by making hairs that grow with each hair cycle thinner and finer each time.’
When do men start balding?
‘Hair loss can start at any age. Usually, if men are going to thin, they will see changes in their twenties. If they get through this stage, it is unlikely that they will suffer from a significant amount of balding in the future, but just about everyone’s hair thins to some degree as we get older.’
How can you make your hair thicker?
‘Thick hair may come from growing more of it or doing something really simple, such as using a thickening/caffeine shampoo to make the hair “feel” fuller.’
Does smoking cause hair loss?
‘Yes, smoking may contribute to hair loss. Anything that is bad for the body is bad for the hair, as it’s on the same cellular network system.
‘The exact mechanism of action isn’t clear, but smoking can constrict blood vessels and create a huge number of free radicals that harm the cellular activity of our body, including the hair.’
What foods promote thick hair?
‘It is a bit of a false analogy because, usually, it’s the deficiency of a food type, vitamin or mineral that causes hair loss and not a special supplement that can prompt hair to grow.
‘There are things the hair needs: iron, sulphur-based amino acids, which can be essential for hair growth if you are low. As long as you have a healthy diet and exercise, you should be fine, but if in doubt, visit a trichologist, who will be able to arrange a blood test and ensure the body has optimum levels of the most essential vitamins and minerals you need.’
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The healthcare professional mentioned in this article does not endorse any medical brands or products