Male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, is a prevalent form of hair loss, affecting over six million men in the UK alone. While the age at which the condition strikes is variable, around two-thirds of men experience some degree of hair loss by the time they reach the age of 35.
The cause of male pattern baldness
A hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a by-product of testosterone, fuels male pattern baldness. When men produce too much DHT, their sensitive hair follicles respond by shrinking in size. As the hair follicles shrink, the hair strands that they produce become thinner and finer than previous strands. Eventually, the follicles shrink to such an extent that they produce stumpy hair strands that cannot grow out of the surface of the scalp. This causes the hairline to gradually move backwards, forming a characteristic widows peak. Eventually the hair continues to become shorter and thinner, creating a "U" shape pattern of hair around the sides of the head. In some men, this rim of hair also thins, eventually leaving the scalp completely bald.
Treatments for male pattern baldness
Claire, who helps run Hair Ink, believes that "Contrary to societal belief, most men find the effects of male pattern baldness to be highly distressing, particularly if they occur early on in life. However, it is possible for men to prevent further hair loss and, in some cases, recover some of their lost hair strands."
Two of the most effective treatment options for male pattern baldness are medications called finasteride and minoxidil. Finasteride is an oral medication that blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT. It therefore grants the hair follicles the chance to return to their normal state. Around two in three men who use finasteride daily experience some hair regrowth, so there is a good chance that men who choose to take this medication will benefit from its effects. Minoxidil, on the other hand, is a rub-on lotion that allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach the hair follicles. Around half of all men who regularly use minoxidil are able to delay further balding, and around 15 in 100 men experience some hair regrowth. Once men start on a course of finasteride or minoxidil, they must use their chosen treatment indefinitely. If they fail to do so, they risk losing their new hair growth.