By: Christophe Farber
So you are losing your hair. Relax, and find solace in the words of Antipholus of Syracuse, who famously noted that many men have more hair than wit. At least you still have your charm and humor, right? Pardon? Ah. Sorry. Antipholus of Syracuse is a character in “The Comedy of Errors,” penned by the immortal, yet quite dead, William Shakespeare. Okay. Let’s focus on the hair.
Take comfort. You are not alone. Indeed, by age 35, more than 60% of men will suffer from some level of hair loss, and by age 50, that number shoots up past 80%. Most of these men suffer from androgenetic alopecia, or common pattern baldness. AGA is thought to be a side effect of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a by-product of testosterone that contributes to the development of many secondary male traits including facial hair and voice deepening. Sadly, despite being the hormonal equivalent of a bar mitzvah, DHT also causes the miniaturization of genetically predisposed hair follicles. To simplify, DHT turns your manly hair follicles back into itty-bitty baby follicles. These immature follicles cannot grow hair, or they grow hair that is weak, thin, and falls out really easily. Thus your seemingly inevitable chrome dome.
Never fear. There are ways to handle your retreating hairline, each with their pros and cons.
Sean Connery, Bruce Willis, Chris Martin, Michael Jordan, even the main guy from “The Hangover.” What do they have in common? That’s right. They’ve been with many, many more women than you. Fleeing (or surrendered) hairlines have not stopped them from commanding the love of the fairer sex or the respect of their fellow man. To go back to Antipholus of Syracuse’s point, there are many more important qualities than hairiness. So, accept your reality, and don’t let it stop you from loving yourself or anyone else.
Cons: You are not Sean Connery, Bruce Willis, Chris Martin, Michael Jordan, or even the main guy from “The Hangover.” You probably do not have extraordinary skills, gobs of cash, or a really skilled publicist. So this solution, while admirable, is perhaps easier said than done.
Grab some shoe polish, spray paint, or whatever kind of paint happens to be congealing in your garage or basement.Put some on your forehead. Maybe dust some onto the rest of your hair so it blends better. Call it a day.
Pros: Also fairly cheap. Maybe you get some self-esteem from the DIY nature of the solution, like you did from making your own bookcase in college.
Cons: Looks terrible and is quite possibly toxic or flammable. Also, smelly.
This is pretty old school. All you have to do is shave your head or trim what’s left, and then buy a head of fake hair. Pull it on. Roll out.
Pros: There are many, many styles to choose from. Not all wigs have to scream “retro theme party.” Though, if it’s close to Halloween, the fact that some do scream that may be another positive; it’s what salon professionals call “synthetic tress multi-tasking.” Or they would call it that if Mademan.com had not just trademarked the term. Cha-ching!
Cons: It’s a rug. We know it. You know it. The blind guy across the street knows it.
Eat Right and Exercise
Yup, these two bastards again. Much like everything else associated with your body, two ways to improve what you’ve got or to lessen the evils of what you’ve got coming are to eat smarter and do some cardiovascular activity (don’t do a ton of weights alone, this will increase testosterone and DHT, and may actually cause more hair loss). And, no, eating better and exercising won’t stop your hairline in its tracks, nor will they put hair back on your head. But stress is a factor in hair loss, and exercise is a great way to calm down, chill out, and generally improve your body’s performance. All of which may slow the forehead drift.
As for nutrition, some studies have shown that Japanese men, who are not as genetically predisposed to balding as, for instance, Caucasian men, have actually begun to lose more hair as their diets have westernized. The more fatty foods and red meat they consume, the more they seem to be losing their normally implacable manes. So, conversely, the more eastern a diet you achieve, the more you may slow down your own curly departure.
Pros: Good for you for every reason.
Cons: Not obviously effective. More of a preventive than a real fix to your soon-to-be Homer Simpson-esque coif.
Despite the wild claims of your know-it-all neighbor, Mr. Creepy, and everyone’s know-it-all roommate, the internet, there are only two Federal Drug Administration approved drugs to help with hair loss. One is Finasteride, more often sold as Propecia or the disturbingly named Proscar. The other is Minoxidil, sold in the United States as Rogaine or Avacor.
Finasteride, sold in pill form, inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that turns testosterone into DHT. By significantly lowering DHT, Finsateride prevents the miniaturization of hair follicles, so what you’ve got stays, and what stays stays strong. Sometimes, follicles that have begun to deteriorate even recover, thus causing “new” hair to grow back.
Minoxidil, in its cream form, is applied once or twice a day to affected areas (more generally the top of the head than the hairline). Basically, Minoxidil is thought to promote the flow of oxygen and blood to hair follicles, causing them to strengthen, survive, and sometimes, to rejuvenate.
Pros: They just might work.
Cons: They may not. And they are not cheap. And they are chemicals, so there are potential dangers and side effects. Finesteride can cause impotence and other unfortunate sexual problems. It can also cause birth defects in unborn babies, and so is a serious danger to pregnant women or, as they say, women who are about to become pregnant. Minoxidil can cause “itchy scalp”, dandruff, and, paradoxically, hair loss (strands that are hopefully replaced with better hair, quickly). Minoxidil is a heart pressure medication in its pill form, and even the cream can cause some heart risk if over used. Also, Minoxidil is apparently extremely toxic to cats.
Go Under The Knife
There are essentially three surgical options available to a man who wishes to dramatically up the stakes in his war against skin creep. The first, and most reasonable, is hair grafting. This is when follicles, often in groups of 1 to 4, are moved from the back of the head or other healthy area, and patched into the newly bare area. The scarring and pain of this process depends on the style and size of the harvesting. Needless to say, this is a big deal.
But perhaps not as big a deal as scalp reduction, in which portions of the head where hair has stopped growing are cut out and the remaining skin is pulled over the area and sewn into place. Frightening. But an option, albeit an incredibly severe one.
And perhaps still not as frightening an option as the third surgery: castration. Obviously the removal of the testicles drops a man’s testosterone and, subsequently, his DHT levels, eliminating the degeneration of hair follicles. Castration will not give you back the hair you have lost, but it sure as heck should stop you from losing any more. Of course, it will also have other impacts on your body, depending on your age and physical maturity. There is no joke funny enough to be appropriate here.
Pros: Plugs can be incredibly effective. So can the other options.
Cons: Cost. In every way.