Male pattern baldness - what is it, and is there a cure?
Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss in men, with two-thirds of all men affected by it at some stage in life.
Think you’re experiencing initial signs? Want to know what you can do about it or if there’s a male pattern baldness cure? We’ll explain all options available.
What is male pattern baldness?
Pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is a specific type of hair loss in men, caused by a combination of genetics and hormones.
It affects all ages, with one-fifth of men experiencing male pattern baldness by the age of 20. This increases to 30 per cent by age 30, 40 per cent by age 40, and so on.
It’s usually diagnosed based on the pattern of hair loss, where the hairline gradually recedes over time to create an “M” shape, with a bald spot on the crown of the head followed by thinning around the temples.
While it’s often thought baldness is inherited from the mother’s side, it’s actually down to a unique combination from both parents, as there are around 200 different genes for hair-growth regulation.
Male baldness is also caused by an increase in hormones known as androgens – specifically the male sex hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High levels of DHT can shrink hair follicles and shorten the hair growth cycle causing hair to thin.
Is there a cure for male pattern baldness?
There isn’t a male pattern baldness cure but there are a range of short-term tips and long-term solutions to help slow down or reverse the process.
Pigmented hair spray that blends into your natural hair can help disguise thin patches. These are an extremely temporary solution, as the colour tends to wash out if hair gets wet, so sweat or adverse weather conditions should be avoided.
There are a couple of licensed treatments for male pattern baldness:
Minoxidil – this topical medication can be applied directly to the scalp in the form of a liquid or foam. It slows down loss and encourages new hair growth but needs to be taken consistently for at least six months for visible results. Don’t be alarmed if you experience hair fall out in the first few weeks. This is a normal side-effect of the treatment that should stop once new hair grows.
Finasteride – this oral medication reduces the levels of DHT and slows hair loss. It’s more successful than minoxidil, though it can cause side-effects, such as decreased libido or impotence.
These treatments only tend to work for as long as they are being used, so aren’t considered a permanent solution.
“Platelet-Rich Plasma” therapy – more commonly known as PRP – is a treatment that uses blood plasma to promote hair follicle regeneration in the targeted area. With sessions typically carried out in less than an hour, it can help stimulate hair growth and increase hair thickness.
You may want to consider cosmetic surgery, such as a hair transplant.
Types of transplant methods:
Follicular unit transplantation (FUT): During a FUT procedure, the surgeon cuts a strip of skin from the back or side of the scalp and divides it into smaller grafts. Using a needle, small holes are made in the scalp for the extracted hair follicles to be transferred.
Follicular unit extraction (FUE): For FUE surgery, the surgeon removes individual hairs directly from the scalp rather than taking a strip of skin. They then create the holes, as with FUT, and graft the hair follicles into them. This method leaves less scarring and tends to have a more natural look.
You can discuss which method is best in an initial consultation with a surgeon.
What else do I need to know about male pattern baldness?
How is male pattern baldness diagnosed?
If you think your hair is thinning, book an appointment with a doctor. They will look at the pattern of loss – specifically at the front and top of the scalp – and check for a receding hairline in the characteristic “M” shape.
Is treatment painful?
Oral and topical treatments – such as minoxidil and finasteride – can cause certain side-effects that may be painful, including irritation to the scalp, swelling of the face, testicular pain, and decreased libido.
For more invasive surgical treatments like a transplant, the surgeon will use a local anaesthetic on the scalp, so you don’t feel any pain. Following the procedure, you may feel a slight tenderness for the next few days, but this can be treated with prescribed pain relief.
How long will treatment take to work?
Each treatment is different, and people can experience different levels of results over a period of time. Minoxidil can take anywhere between four months and one year to work, while you need to be on finasteride for at least three months to see any results.
With any type of oral or topical hair loss treatment, it’s likely that the hair loss will return the moment you stop taking them. So, it’s important to remember that these are not long-term fixes.
When it comes to transplants, you can expect anywhere between 10 per cent and 80 per cent of the transplanted hair to fully grow back within three to four months.
How much does treatment cost?
The cost of transplants varies depending on several factors including:
- Number of grafts required.
- Type of surgery – FUT or FUE.
- Experience of the surgeon.
- Location of the clinic.
On average, each singular graft tends to cost between 7 SAR and 15 SAR, with the full transplant ranging from 10,000 SAR to 25,000 SAR in Saudi Arabia for 2,000 hair grafts. This cost may be spread over several sittings, depending on the total grafts required.
Remember to choose a clinician with the relevant qualifications and plenty of experience, even if it does cost slightly more. Ask to see their recent portfolio, so you know what to expect.
Male pattern baldness facts
- 50 per cent of your hair may have fallen out before it becomes noticeable. This is because male pattern baldness is a progressive condition, so it’s best to see a doctor as soon as you notice any change to your hairline or crown of the head.
- Pattern baldness can also affect women. While it’s a lot less common, female pattern baldness is also an inherited condition. It’s thought 50 per cent of women over the age of 65 will have it.
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