Male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, may result from genetics or a scalp infection or skin disorder. There are various treatment options available to slow hair loss or stimulate hair growth. A person should discuss these treatments with their doctor.
In this article, we explore some ways to help prevent and treat hair loss, causes of hair loss, and when to contact a doctor.
Prevention is often one of the best approaches to managing a health condition. In some cases, it may be possible to prevent — or at least slow down — hair loss. Though this will depend on the underlying cause.
Some of the best prevention methods include:
- eating a balanced diet
- using combs with wider spaces between the bristles
- avoiding harsh treatments and hair styles
- switching medications to avoid the side effect of hair loss, if possible
- avoiding pulling or twisting hair
It is important to remember that not all types of hair loss can be slowed or prevented. In these cases, men can try to combat hair loss through active treatment.
Some methods men can use to treat hair loss include the following:
There are over-the-counter medications available that may help treat hair loss. These include foams and ointments.
The two most common medications are minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia).
Scientists originally developed
Researchers do not know exactly how minoxidil works. The drug appears to widen the hair follicle, which causes a thicker strand of hair to grow.
In addition, minoxidil appears to prolong the growth period of hair, which results in longer hair and a higher number of hair strands. When used properly, minoxidil has been shown to be safe and effective.
It is more effective in individuals who are under 40 years of age.
Minoxidil can cause some side effects,
- hair shedding
- skin irritation and redness
- itchy, yellow, or white scales on the scalp
- allergic contact dermatitis
- excessive hair growth over the body, including on the face in some females
Minoxidil is also not suitable for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for those who have a hypersensitivity to the ingredients in this medication.
This drug carries several warnings about its use. It is only suitable for adults and is not suitable for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for children.
Scientists originally created finasteride to fight prostate cancer. It works by decreasing the amount of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the scalp. DHT appears to cause hair follicles in the scalp to become thinner, so reducing DHT levels may promote hair regrowth and slow hair loss.
Unlike minoxidil, finasteride does not affect hair growth on other parts of the body.
Finasteride is available in both topical and oral forms. A 2020 review states that the topical formulation of this drug is less likely to cause severe side effects than the oral version.
Some side effects of finasteride include:
Individuals who take finasteride to treat male pattern hair loss may have to wait 3 months until they see noticeable results.
Therapies for hair loss often involve a combination of drugs, ointments, creams, and shampoos, which a dermatologist may prescribe.
Other therapies involve meeting with specialists. Several companies specialize in hair treatments for men. They typically offer services to help work out the best course of action and tailor treatments to the individual’s needs.
The only surgery available for hair loss is hair transplant surgery.
Hair transplantation works for men with male pattern baldness. A hair transplant involves removing hair follicles from the back of the head, where they are resistant to DHT, and placing them on the scalp.
As with any surgery, hair transplants carry the risk of complications. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons states that the risks of hair transplant surgery include excessive bleeding and wide scars. Additionally, there is a chance the skin plugs may die, which requires further surgery to fix.
Laser combs are a newer form of hair loss treatment. Advocates claim these devices promote hair growth by using concentrated light to stimulate hair follicles.
This treatment has mixed results and may work best when combined with other forms of treatment.
Wigs and hair pieces
In some cases, hair loss may be permanent or long term. Other men might prefer a nonmedical approach to treating hair loss. Wigs and hairpieces offer a means of disguising hair loss.
Wigs and hairpieces have advanced enormously in recent years. If the baldness is caused by a medical condition, the cost of a wig may also be covered by a person’s insurance provider. It is important to check insurance coverage before purchasing a wig.
Men can experience baldness or hair loss for different reasons.
While there are many causes of hair loss, the most likely cause is genetics. Finding out whether hair loss is due to genetics or another factor can help a doctor determine the best course of treatment.
Most often, a man will be left with a horseshoe pattern of hair. Heredity affects how fast, at what age, and to what extent someone will experience baldness.
Men with male pattern baldness inherit hair that is sensitive to DHT, the hormone that can shorten the lifespan of the individual hair follicles.
Some of the other more common causes of hair loss for men include:
- Scalp Infections: Infections such as ringworm can invade the hair and skin of the scalp. When this happens, it can lead to scaly patches and hair loss.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes and imbalances can cause temporary hair loss. For men, the thyroid gland is the most likely cause of hair loss due to hormonal changes.
- Patchy hair loss: Also known as alopecia areata, patchy hair loss occurs when the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles. The attack causes sudden and rapid hair loss that leaves smooth, often round bald patches on the skin.
- Skin disorders: Diseases such as eczema, severe seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, and lupus may result in permanent hair loss in the scarred areas.
- Hair-pulling disorder: Hair-pulling disorder causes people to have an irresistible urge to pull out their hair. The person will pull from the scalp, the eyebrows, or other areas of the body.
- Medication: Certain medications may cause a side effect of hair loss.
Some less common causes of hair loss include:
- Radiation treatment: If a man receives any sort of radiation treatment near the scalp, the hair may fall out and grow back in a different way than before.
- Hairstyles or treatments: Wearing hair in ways that pull it excessively or treating it with oils and color can cause permanent hair loss.
- Natural triggers: Stress, childbirth, fever, surgery, or extreme trauma may result in loss of hair. Often, the thinning will reverse when the triggering event is over.
The emotional impact of hair loss will vary greatly from person to person.
Some people may wish to seek counseling services as part of their treatment. Others may choose a hairstyle that embraces hair loss, such as a shaved head.
Hair loss may affect a person’s self-esteem and lead to depression and reduced quality of life.
If a person notices a decline in their quality of life after the onset of hair loss, they should seek support from a medical professional.
People should contact a doctor if they experience any of the following:
- sudden hair loss
- hair falling out in clumps
- itching or burning scalp
People should also contact a healthcare professional if they are worried about their hair loss.
A healthcare professional may ask questions or perform tests to investigate whether the hair loss is a result of:
- an illness
- weight loss
- iron deficiency
The following are some frequently asked questions about hair loss:
Does hair grow back after hair loss?
Whether a person’s hair grows back depends on the type of hair loss a person experiences.
For example, most people who undergo cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, will experience hair growth after their treatment ends.
However, other causes of hair loss, such as male pattern baldness, are typically permanent. Doctors may prescribe or recommend certain treatments to help prevent further thinning of the hair.
If a person experiences hair loss as a result of a scarring process, the hair is less likely to grow back. It is important for a person to seek advice and treatment from a dermatologist as soon as they notice hair loss. Early intervention can help prevent scarring hair loss from spreading.
Do hair loss treatments work?
As mentioned previously, there is evidence that treatments such as minoxidil and finasteride can reduce the amount of hair a person loses. However, results may vary between individuals.
It can take several months before a person sees results from hair loss treatments. A person should work with a healthcare professional to find a treatment that suits their situation.
Does insurance cover hair loss treatment?
A person should check with their insurance provider to see if their plan covers hair loss treatments. People should always check with their insurer before seeking treatment.
There are many causes of hair loss, including genetics and skin and scalp disorders. While it is not always possible to prevent hair loss, people can slow or stop further hair loss by taking medication such as minoxidil and finasteride, as well as using over-the-counter products such as laser combs.
People should contact a healthcare professional if they are worried about their hair loss, or if the hair loss is sudden. A doctor may order several tests and ask questions to find out the cause of the hair loss.