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What is Male Pattern Baldness? Symptoms & Treatment

If you are experiencing male pattern baldness, welcome to the club! I started noticing the dreaded horseshoe pattern forming on my head in my 40s. This was no surprise for me since both of my grandfathers were bald, and my dad was bald.

Hair loss can be a daunting experience, but understanding the science behind it can empower you to take control.

Join me as we explore the causes, stages, diagnosis, and treatment options, as well as debunk some popular myths. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of this hair loss phenomenon and feel better equipped to manage it.

Understanding Male Pattern Baldness

A close-up of a human scalp showing hair follicles

I didn't know anything about male pattern hair loss, so I watched hours of videos and read endless articles because I wanted to find the Holy Grail cure for baldness, which I realized didn't exist!

Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, affects millions of men worldwide. Nearly two-thirds of American men will experience noticeable hair loss by the age of 35. Hair loss occurs when hair follicles in the scalp shrink over time, causing individual hairs to become thinner and shorter, ultimately leading to hair loss. While male pattern baldness is generally a gradual process, its progression can vary from person to person.

My hair thinning started gradually, but before I knew it, people started to notice the McDonald's logo on my head. What made things easier to accept was knowing that I was not alone and that there was nothing wrong with me.

What is Male Pattern Baldness?

A receding hairline and thinning hair on the crown of the head characterize male pattern baldness. It is a form of androgenetic alopecia, a type of hair loss linked to genetics and male sex hormones. Typically, the hair loss begins at the hairline, forming an “M” shape, and progresses to thinning at the temples and crown.

The Stages of Male Pattern Baldness

An image showing the different stages of male pattern baldness in men.

The severity of male pattern baldness is classified using the Hamilton-Norwood scale, which divides the progression into seven stages, ranging from minimal hair loss to complete baldness. The hair loss pattern typically begins with a receding hairline and thinning at the crown, and as it progresses, the hairline continues to recede, and the balding area on the crown enlarges.

Acquainting yourself with these stages will assist in identifying the progression of your hair thinning and pursuing suitable treatment.

During the early stage of my hair loss, I always wore a baseball cap whenever I went out to hide my hair thinning. When hair thinning occurs, many men like me start to become experts in choosing hats to cover male pattern baldness.

Causes and risk factors

Genetics and male sex hormones, such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), play a significant role in male pattern hair loss. The condition is more common among Caucasian men, with 1 in 5 men in their 20s, 1 in 3 men in their 30s, and nearly half of all men in their 40s experiencing it.

Other population groups, such as Japanese and Chinese men, are usually less affected, and if they do experience it, the pattern of hair loss tends to be milder.

The role of hormones in hair loss

Male hormones, particularly DHT, contribute to hair loss by causing hair follicle shrinkage. DHT is produced in the body and can have detrimental effects on hair growth by making hair follicles more susceptible to damage, ultimately leading to hair loss. Interestingly, androgens stimulate hair growth in some cases, and it's called androgenic alopecia.

I tried one hair growth product that promised to reduce DHT production. I noticed improvement after a few months of using it, noticing new hair growth, but deep down, I knew that I was delaying the inevitable. I stopped the treatment since it was expensive to maintain. I grew some baby hair on some areas of my head, but this wasn't the solution I was looking for. The product slows hair loss, sure, but as far as curing male baldness, it fails like the rest.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

A person with thinning hair on the top of their head

Bald people are often the butt of jokes, and this can lead to loss of self-confidence and emotional stress. Society can be hard on us, but nowadays, more and more bald men and women are embracing their baldness with confidence.

Hair loss patterns

The typical pattern of male pattern baldness starts with a receding hairline and thinning at the temples and crown. As the condition progresses, the hairline continues to recede, and the thinning at the crown becomes more pronounced.

This pattern is distinct from other types of hair loss, such as alopecia areata, which typically results in patchy hair loss across the scalp.

Horseshoe pattern and bald patches

In advanced stages of male pattern baldness, hair loss may result in:

  • A horseshoe pattern of hair growth around the back and sides of the head

  • A bald area on the back

  • Bald patches on the scalp, where hair has been lost entirely or has significantly thinned.

Emotional and psychological effects

The emotional and psychological effects of hair loss can be profound. It can lead to feelings of insecurity, depression, and low self-esteem, as well as social anxiety and difficulty forming relationships. Acceptance of these emotional impacts is key to obtaining emotional support and adopting coping strategies like counseling or therapy, finding coping mechanisms, and participating in online communities or support groups.

Not accepting baldness can take its toll on a person. We have to realize that we need to shift our focus from hair loss to self-acceptance and building confidence. Hair doesn't define us as an individual. Being proud of who we are no matter how we look is a key to living a fulfilling life.

I understand that male pattern baldness can be a sensitive topic for many, but why not embrace it with humor, acceptance, and confidence?

A simple change in perspective on hair loss can go a long way in breaking free from the stigma of male pattern baldness.

Diagnosing Male Pattern Baldness

A doctor examining a patient's scalp

Diagnosing male pattern baldness typically involves a physical exam, a thorough medical history, and an assessment of the pattern and appearance of hair loss.

Consultation and examination

During the consultation and examination process, a doctor will ask about your health and hair loss history and examine your scalp to diagnose male pattern baldness. The physical exam involves assessing the scalp and hair loss pattern, as well as discussing your medical history, including family history of hair loss, medications, and other medical conditions.

Diagnostic tools and tests

In some cases, additional diagnostic tools and tests may be required to confirm the diagnosis of male pattern baldness or rule out other causes of hair loss. These may include dermoscopy or a skin biopsy to examine the hair follicles and scalp tissue more closely. Blood tests may also be performed to check for underlying medical conditions that could be causing hair loss, such as thyroid issues or nutritional deficiencies.

Ruling out other conditions

Conditions such as alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, and anagen effluvium can also cause hair loss and may require different treatment approaches.

Blood tests and skin biopsies can help determine the cause of hair loss and ensure that you receive the most appropriate treatment for your specific situation.

Treatment Options for Male Pattern Baldness

A person with a receding hairline

Several options are available to treat male pattern baldness. Keep in mind that although some treatments may offer promising results, none of them can fully reverse the hair loss process. Additionally, not all treatments will work for everyone, and your doctor can help you decide which option may be best for you and inform you of potential side effects or risks associated with different treatments.

Topical treatments: Minoxidil (Rogaine)

man with thinning hair ready to apply Minoxidil directly on his scalp

Minoxidil (Rogaine) is a topical solution or foam that can be applied directly to the scalp to help stimulate hair growth in individuals experiencing hereditary hair loss or male pattern baldness. While Minoxidil can slow hair loss and stimulate hair growth, it may cause side effects such as:

  • scalp irritation

  • dryness

  • burning

  • scaling

It usually takes some time to see the effects of Minoxidil. Usually, it ranges from 4 months to one year.

I didn't try Minoxidil because I preferred hair growth products that had natural ingredients. I have a friend who also experienced rapid hair loss and tried this treatment, but after years of spending tons of money and observing that he continued to lose hair, he gave up.

Oral medications: Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar)

Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) is an oral medication that can help slow hair loss in some men by blocking the production of the male hormone responsible for hair loss. The success rate of Finasteride is generally higher than that of Minoxidil. It typically takes three months to a year of taking Finasteride to see results. However, Finasteride may cause rare side effects, such as breast cancer, breast pain or lumps, and lower-than-normal readings in PSA tests used to screen for prostate cancer.

I thought about this type of treatment to prevent male pattern baldness, but the side effects that could come with it weren't worth the risk. Besides, I came to a point where I decided to accept my male-pattern baldness and start rocking my bald head in style. Shaving my head was the best solution for me, which we will talk more about later.

Surgical procedures: Hair transplants

Hair transplant surgery is a more invasive and expensive treatment option for male pattern baldness. The procedure involves removing hair from areas with active growth and transplanting it to thinning or balding areas. Hair transplants can offer a more natural and permanent solution to hair loss, but the procedure carries some risks, such as scarring and infection.

If oral treatments that had potential side effects scared me, imagine how I felt with invasive procedures. Even if it were given for free, a hair transplant was never an option for me. I only had one surgery in my life, and it was for a ruptured appendix.

Alternative therapies: Low-level laser therapy, Platelet-rich plasma

Low-level laser therapy and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) are emerging treatments for hair loss. Low-level laser therapy uses low-intensity laser light to stimulate healing and reduce pain in a range of conditions. PRP is a treatment that uses a patient’s own blood to stimulate healing and hair growth.

While these treatments show promise, their effectiveness and safety are still being studied, and they may not be suitable for everyone.

If you haven't embraced your baldness yet, laser treatment or platelet-rich plasma injections may be a good option to treat male pattern baldness.

Lifestyle Changes and Coping Strategies

In addition to medical treatments, adopting lifestyle changes and coping strategies can help you manage the emotional and psychological impacts of male pattern baldness.

These strategies can not only improve your overall well-being but also help you feel more in control of your hair loss journey.

Healthy hair care habits

Taking good care of your scalp can help keep your hair healthy and minimize further hair loss. Here are some tips to follow:

  • Regularly wash and condition your hair

  • Use a wide-toothed comb to prevent hair breakage

  • Avoid tight hairstyles that can pull on your hair

  • Steer clear of harsh chemicals, such as bleach or excessive heat styling

Adopting these habits in your daily routine may slow down your hair loss progression and preserve the health of your existing hair.

Sun protection for the scalp

Protecting your scalp from sun damage is essential, especially for those with male pattern baldness, as thinning hair provides less protection from harmful UV rays. When outdoors, wear a hat or scarf to shield your scalp from the sun and reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

You can check out our recommendations on how to choose the best hat for bald men.

Emotional support and counseling

Seeking emotional support and counseling can help you cope with the psychological effects of hair loss. Reach out to friends, family, or mental health professionals for guidance and support. Online communities and support groups can also provide valuable resources and connections with others who understand your experiences.

What works for me is being around fellow baldies and those who support me. Don't waste your time with people who judge you for how you look.

Debunking Myths and Misconceptions

A person with a horseshoe pattern of hair loss

In the quest for effective hair loss treatments for male pattern baldness, it’s important to separate fact from fiction.

Can Male Pattern Baldness be Prevented?

Male pattern baldness is genetically determined and cannot be prevented. It is not something that can be avoided through lifestyle changes. However, early treatment may help slow the progression of hair loss and maintain the health of existing hair, although it cannot completely prevent male pattern baldness.

Addressing hair loss as soon as it is noticed may boost the success rate of treatment and aid in managing the condition more effectively.

I wish I learned this fact about male pattern hair loss being irreversible sooner. I wouldn't have spent so much on hair treatments that weren't going to work anyway.

The Role of Diet and Exercise

While a healthy diet and regular exercise contribute to overall health and well-being, they cannot prevent or reverse male pattern baldness. Although maintaining a balanced diet and staying active can positively impact your general health, they will not directly affect the progression of hair loss caused by genetic factors.

Unproven or Ineffective Treatments

Some advertised treatments for male pattern baldness lack scientific evidence and may be expensive or ineffective. Unproven remedies such as herbal supplements, scalp massage, and certain shampoos should be approached with caution.

Rather, concentrate on FDA-approved treatments and seek your doctor’s advice on the most suitable and effective options for your unique hair loss situation.

The Best Solution to Male Pattern Baldness: Shaving Your Head

a bald man enjoying shaving his head while showering

Do you want to know the best solution to male pattern hair loss? Acceptance and shaving your head. A hair transplant is expensive and painful. Hair growth products, supplements, oral medications, and alternative remedies can't beat the undefeated champ: Male pattern baldness.

Looking back, I wish I had decided to shave my head sooner.

If you're still on the fence about head shaving, it's time for you to break free from embarrassing comb-overs, hair weaves, and wearing hats and bandanas to hide your male pattern hair loss.

When your hair follicle shrinks, choosing the best head shaver is your best move!

Summary

Male pattern baldness is a common and complex condition, but understanding its causes, stages, and treatments can empower you to take control of your hair disorders. By recognizing the signs and symptoms, diagnosing hair loss, exploring treatment options, and adopting lifestyle changes and coping strategies, you can better manage your hair loss and improve your overall well-being.

Did you know that women also have female pattern hair loss? It's not as common as men, but if you're a female dealing with hair loss, know that you are not alone.

Remember, we are all together in this journey, and with the right information and support, you can navigate the challenges of hair loss with confidence. So what are you waiting for?

Whenever I walk into a room, I keep my head high and embrace the unique characteristic that sets me apart from others in the room: My smoothly shaved head!

I don't mind if I look like Saitama from One Punch Man.

Check out our other comprehensive guides on how to care for your bald head, choosing between a razor vs. an electric shaver, or how to choose the best winter for baldies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can male pattern baldness be reversed?

Male pattern baldness is usually permanent, but some men may see limited hair regrowth from medications. However, once a hair follicle has been made dormant and unproductive for long enough, it cannot be reversed.

What is male pattern baldness caused by?

Male pattern baldness is an inherited condition that is related to genes and male sex hormones. These hormones cause hair follicles to shrink, resulting in finer, thinner, and shorter hair growth. As the hair follicles become smaller, a receding hairline and thinning of the crown are usually seen.

Is baldness hereditary from the mother or father?

Baldness is hereditary from both the mother's and father's side of the family, although the factor is more dominant on the mother's side. The male pattern baldness gene is polygenic, meaning it is caused by more than one gene. I got the genes from both sides, so lucky me.

How common is male pattern baldness in the 20s?

By age 20, 20% of men have visible hair loss due to male pattern baldness. If hair loss occurs in your 20s, there's no need to panic. Treatments are available to slow down the process, or if you experience male pattern baldness that rapidly progresses, you can always shave your head.

How is male pattern baldness diagnosed?

Male pattern baldness is diagnosed through a physical exam, assessment of hair loss patterns, and a medical history. Blood tests or skin biopsy may be done if needed to check for other causes of hair loss.

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