Hair loss can strike at any age during adulthood. While many men notice the first signs of baldness as early as their teens, others seem to retain their hair into old age. In particular, movie stars and musicians seem abnormally blessed in follicle department; how on earth has Sting managed to avoid total baldness despite thinning for thirty-something years? Is there something they know he knows the rest of us don’t?
The simple answer is, yes.
Baldness is no longer something men need to resign themselves to as part of the ageing process. While there’s nothing wrong with self-assured shedding (Bruce Willis-style), those wishing to keep maintain a youthful head of hair have more options than ever. And it includes plenty of perfectly safe, natural, non-medical solutions to suit even the tightest budget.
In fact, many men have no idea they can get instantly thicker hair in just 30 seconds.
In order to decide which remedy best suits you, it’s important to understand what kind of thinning you are experiencing – and why it is happening.
Human hair goes through three distinct phases – the anagen, catagen and telogen stages.
The anagen phase lasts between 2-5 years and is the growth period for hair follicle. The much shorter catagen phase follows for around 2 weeks, during which the hair follicle is in transition from active growth. The final stage, called the telogen phase, is when the hair essentially “dies”. During this 3-6 week period, the hair follicle “rests” while a new hair shaft grows, pushing out the old hair. This signals a return to the anagen and the whole process starts over again.
So how do these phases help us understand male hair loss?
Essentially, hair loss is a result of an increasing number of hairs shifting either to a shorter anagen (growth) phase or telogen (rest) phase. Different types of hair loss affect these phases differently – understanding which type of loss you are experiencing can help you find the most appropriate remedy.
Androgenic alopecia – commonly referred to as male pattern baldness – is the most common form of male hair loss. It accounts for 95% of hair loss cases in men, affecting around 75% of men at some point in their lives.
MPB is caused by Androgens – the male sex hormones – attaching themselves to hair follicles in increasing quantities. This process miniaturises the hair follicle over time, causing it to gradually produce thinner hairs during the anagen phase. Eventually, the follicles shrink to such an extent that they can no longer produce new hairs.
The process typically begins in hair follicles located near the temples, causing the hairline to recede. It then takes hold in the crown region, causing a thinning effect at the back of the head.
MPB is generally thought to be related to genetics, though there's no universal agreement as to which exact genes are responsible and why. It’s likely that multiple genes contribute to MPB, notably the androgen receptor gene, located on the x chromosome (inherited from the mother). This led to widespread belief that baldness is inherited from the maternal grandfather, though it’s now thought genes from both parents can affect hair loss in their male offspring.
Telogen Effluvium is a thinning of the hair resulting hair follicles transitioning too quickly from the anagen phase (growth stage) into the telogen phase (resting phase). It’s a common cause of temporary hair loss in men and women and is often seen when the body’s hormonal systems are under stress – or as a reaction to medication.
While Telogen Effluvium can become chronic in a small percentage of people, the hair loss is usually temporary and often clears up without the need for medical treatment.
Traction Alopecia is a form of gradual hair loss caused by localised trauma to hair follicles. Men that have their hair in a “man bun” may be concerned to learn that Traction Alopecia is often caused by wearing the hair in particularly tight hair styles. Dreadlocks and extensions can create the same effect, putting stress on follicles. Typically, the effects of Traction Alopecia are reversible if detected early enough.
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease that causes hair to fall out in circular patterns. Often (but not always), it can be a precursor to Alopecia Totalis which causes all of the hair to fall out, leaving the scalp completely bald.
While there is no cure for Alopecia Areata, there are drugs which can help limit or reverse its effects – though the condition is not always permanent and often disappears by itself.
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatories that suppress the immune system. This makes them useful in treating the effects of autoimmune diseases like Alopecia Areata. With succesful treatment, corticosteroids can help stimulate hair growth in Alopecia Areata sufferers.
Corticosteroids can be administered:
Minoxidil is federally-approved in most countries for use as a hair growth stimulant. Applying a topical minoxidil treatment to the scalp promotes regrowth in follicles that have begun the miniaturisation process caused by MPB.
After 12 weeks of twice-daily application, minoxidil has been shown to shift hair follicles from producing small, stubble-like hairs to growing full-length ones.
Products containing minoxidil – like Toppik Men’s Hair Regrowth Treatment – can be bought without the need for a doctor’s prescription.
Many types of hair loss – particularly MPB – can be treated effectively without the need for medical intervention. The advantage is that cosmetic treatments like hair thickening fibres don’t require a doctor’s prescription, are affordable and do not cause unwanted side-effects.
Hair-thickening fibres, the most popular of which is Toppik, are made of keratin protein – the same natural material your hair is made from. They attach to your hair via a static charge, creating an instant, lasting hold that withstands the elements. Because they’re made from natural keratin, the fibres are undetectable and there’s no irritation. Hair fibres are trusted by high profile celebrities like John Cryer (Two and a Half men) and Tron star Bruce Boxleitner.
Masking lotions are exactly what they sound like – topical lotions that mask the effects of hair loss. One of the most popular masking lotions is Couvre which is designed to make thinning less obvious by reducing the contrast between scalp and hair.
Couvre can be applied to the scalp and used in conjunction with hair loss fibres like Toppik. The combined effect is a fuller, thicker-looking head of hair.
Thanks to hair loss remedies like Toppik hair building shampoo, concealing the effects of MPB can become part of your existing morning ritual. Made from keratinised protein, hair thickening shampoos add volume to your thinning hair while you shower. The result is an undetectable thickening of your own hair – with no need to apply any additional product (unless you want an even thicker look – in which case, add Toppik hair building fibres).
Sometimes, MPB is at too advanced a stage to conceal with hair fibres. When this happens, it’s worth considering whether a wig is the right look for you.
Historically, wigs haven’t enjoyed the best reputation as a hair loss concealer. However thanks to advances in design and manufacturing techniques, there’s now an abundance of choice when selecting a wig:
These are the most common wigs that retailers sell. Often, they can be easily detected even at a distance due to their construction from cheap, unnatural-looking materials.
Integration hairpieces can be weaved into your existing hair to add fullness and length. They give a natural look as they have a built-in mesh that allows you to pull your own hair through the gaps. However, they do not offer any real versatility when the hair is parted.
Often featuring real human hair, lace wigs are at the pricier end of wig offerings.
Hair (or sometimes synthetic hair fibres) are hand-tied to a lace base. The lace wig is usually attached with the assistance of glues and/or tapes.
If you’ve got the cash to splash, high definition wigs are a further step up from the traditional lace wigs. While they can set you back up anywhere up to $25,000, a high definition wig typically involves hundreds of man-hours, ensuring a realistic, undetectable look and feel. Celebrities don these wigs in movies and rumour has it that Ben Affleck even wears one in everyday life.
Hair transplants have gained popularity in the past few decades thanks in part to celebrity endorsement. High profile beneficiaries of hair transplant therapy include football superstar Wayne Rooney, AJ McLean (Backstreet Boys) and ex-cricketer Shane Warne.
Due to its cost and surgical nature, hair transplantation is often used when non-medical means cannot conceal the patient’s hair loss.
There are different techniques available, all of which require grafting hair-bearing skin from a part of the scalp that’s hair-covered to one that isn’t.