Men’s Hair Restoration Options
It’s certainly a good thing that society is becoming more accepting of various body types and appearances. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their own skin, after all! However, one large demographic remains mostly fundamentally unhappy and insecure about their condition – men who suffer from hair loss.
And what a gigantic demographic it is. Some two-thirds of American men will have experienced hair loss by the age of 35, and by age fifty, 85% will have experienced major hair thinning. At this time, about 50 million American men are affected by male pattern baldness.
The results of baldness can be psychologically far-reaching. Baldness can lead to severe self-esteem issues, depression, and anecdotally may even cause patients to experience difficulty finding a job.
Here, we take a deep dive into male hair loss, what causes it – and how it can be treated.
Let’s pull back for a second and answer: Just what exactly is hair? And how does it grow?
Hair is made of keratin, the same substance that nails and the outermost skin layer are made of, as well as the claws, horns, and hooves found in animals.
Hair grows from organs called hair follicles, which carry out hair synthesis in three phases.
In anagen, hair follicles are actively growing hair at a rate of about 1 cm per month. Follicles may stay in this phase for several years at a time.
In catagen, which lasts for just 2-3 weeks on average, the follicles are signaled to stop growing hair and shrink, eventually creating a club hair strand that has been cut off from the blood supply. Catagen never affects more than 1% of all the hairs in your body, preventing a sudden drop in hair volume.
In telogen, the hair follicles are resting, a phase that may last for a few months. During this time, up to a hundred club hairs may be shed per day from the scalp.
Types of Baldness
Not all kinds of hair loss are equal, and each may have different underlying causes and treatment methodologies. We’ll break down some of the most common ones here.
Male Pattern Baldness
Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is the cause of the vast majority of hair loss in men. This is an inherited condition and, as we said, millions of men go through it.
Androgenetic alopecia is caused by hair follicles exhibiting increased sensitivity to androgens (male hormones) such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). These androgens are responsible for sexual development and control the release of oil on skin, as well as the extent of hair growth. This is why during puberty, when sex hormones are expressed in great quantities, teenage boys often suddenly sprout pimples and patches of facial and body hair – among other things in great quantities as well, but that’s not quite relevant to the topic of baldness.
However, these androgens have a certain paradoxical effect that occurs when the hair follicles on the scalp, especially around the temples, front hairline, and crown, are too sensitive to them. These androgens transform them from the large, thick follicles that produce the nice, bushy hair on your head, into small follicles that only produce the tiny vellus hairs that are barely visible around your body.
The result is a unique pattern of hair loss that begins with a progression of hair loss that starts from above the temples and crown of the scalp, eventually leaving that signature band of hair to the sides and the back of the head. These follicles are relatively resistant to the effects of DHT, and a fascinating theory indicates that this is because the weight of the scalp puts pressure on the hair follicles on top of it.
Normally, a nice layer of fat cushions these follicles, but as one ages, the fat layer gets thinner, causing the follicles to be strained by weight. This causes a local increase of testosterone – and DHT as a consequence – at the strained areas on top of the scalp. Hair growth is increased, but not sufficiently to overcome the pressure.
Unfortunately, while hair growth is promoted by testosterone and DHT, fat production is thinned by it. The increased DHT levels, therefore, further reduce the fat layer, adding more strain to the follicles until they shrink.
Now some might be tempted to ask a particular question here, so we’re going to go ahead and cut you off there:
We’re sorry to say that packing on the pounds for a bigger fat layer doesn’t result in a slowing of the balding process.
A much smaller cause of baldness, but no less serious than the above, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that affects about 6.8 million Americans. It’s also known as spot baldness because it’s primarily limited to a few small spots scattered around the scalp, although in rare cases it can progress to total hair loss.
Normally, hair follicles have immune privilege, meaning that they aren’t targeted by the immune system. Alopecia areata occurs when the immune system body attacks its own hair follicles, apparently recognizing them as a foreign body. Most of the time, only certain follicles are targeted, resulting in the appearance of patches of baldness.
Alopecia areata has no comprehensive cure and is suggested to be inherited genetically. Neither, however, is it always permanent; while the hair follicles might be attacked, they are not destroyed. Some treatment can return part of hair growth, and in some cases, alopecia areata may simply disappear, hair returning to normal.
Hair naturally thins with age, and many older people will find that they can’t grow their hair as long as they used to be, or that they’re simply losing hair more often. This natural behavior is known as involutional alopecia.
As involutional alopecia progresses, more and more follicles are switching to the telogen phase, and staying in it for longer periods of time.
Treatment Of Hair Loss
The major causes of hair loss have no full-on cure available for the underlying conditions, though there are various treatments that can alleviate the condition to a limited degree.
Various drugs exist that can help reduce the effects of hair loss.
Minoxidil is a drug that was originally used to treat blood pressure, acting as a vasodilator or a compound that causes blood vessels to expand. During its testing stages, it was discovered that minoxidil resulted in extra hair growth.
The mechanism by which this promotion of hair growth occurs is thought to be the increase of blood supply to follicles, encouraging a switch to the anagen phase, though this has not been confirmed.
Topically applied minoxidil is available as a non-prescription drug for hair loss on the central part of the scalp. 40% of patients exhibit renewed hair growth within 3-6 months of application. Minoxidil is only indicated for use with androgenetic alopecia.
Studies indicate that minoxidil does have some effect on sufferers of alopecia areata, but it’s not considered effective when used by itself on these patients.
An oral drug originally designed to treat enlarged prostates, finasteride was discovered to have the side effect of promoting hair growth, yet another dramatic breakthrough that was discovered by accident. As a result, finasteride is approved for use to help treat male pattern baldness.
Finasteride inhibits the production of the androgen DHT, which effectively reduces the levels of that androgen in the scalp and blood. As androgen sensitivity is responsible for the hair follicle shrinkage and hair loss in androgenetic alopecia, reducing these levels helps prevent the shrinkage and reduces hair loss.
Finasteride can reduce DHT levels by as much as 70% and has significant reported effects in as much as 90% of patients who take it. This drug is recommended for use only with patients with androgenetic alopecia.
Fun fact: using drugs like minoxidil and finasteride to treat a condition that’s separate from their original purpose is known as “drug repositioning,” and is often the result of accidentally uncovering beneficial side effects.
One of the best-known examples of this is the legendary sildenafil, more popularly known as Viagra, which was originally a drug designed to reduce blood pressure through vasodilation – just like minoxidil! Its arguably more interesting side effect of helping with erectile dysfunction, however, is what it’s now prescribed for.
If we ever find out that sildenafil, through its vasodilation effects, can help induce erections and reduce hair loss, we might as well have discovered the solution to all of man’s problems.
Like finasteride, dutasteride is designed to treat enlarged prostates, and has a similar mechanism of action in that it reduces the production of DHT, though to a much greater degree than finasteride – as much as 90%, even. As a result, it’s similarly more effective in promoting hair growth.
However, dutasteride has not been approved by the US FDA, and would have to be used in an unapproved manner if used to treat hair loss.
Dutasteride is also used to treat excessive hair growth in women, making it one of those interesting drugs that plays both sides.
Immunosuppressive therapy and corticosteroids
Alopecia areata is hypothesized to be the result of an autoimmune reaction, in which white blood cells attack the body’s own hair follicles. So hypothetically, if you could locally suppress the immune system in areas where alopecia areata is occurring, you could reduce the effects of hair loss.
That’s the rationale behind experimental immunosuppressive treatments being used on alopecia areata patients. Certain immunosuppressive drugs such as corticosteroids have shown promise in restoring hair growth. Drugs that treat rheumatoid arthritis, another autoimmune condition, also have a positive effect.
That said, immunosuppressants have a wide variety of side effects, not least of which is susceptibility to opportunistic infections that take advantage of the weakened immune system. They’re also very expensive. This is why they’re not quite as popular as the other methods.
Aside from pharmaceutical methods, there are also surgical procedures involving hair follicles that offer a more aggressive treatment option.
Hair transplant surgery
As the hair follicles on the sides and back of the head are resistant to DHT, hair transplant surgery was developed to move some of these follicles over to the scalp.
The most common form of hair transplantation is known as strip harvesting. This involves the removal of long strips of skin with hair follicles up to 30 centimeters in length and moving them to sections where hair growth is impaired.
A more expensive and involved procedure is follicular unit extraction, in which individual groups of follicles are extracted and moved to the balding sites. This process leaves smaller scars and creates much more natural results than strip harvesting, but is more time-consuming and difficult to perform.
No new hair follicles are created in either procedure, so the actual overall number of strands of hair on the head doesn’t change – it just creates a more balanced appearance.
Low-level laser therapy
Some low energies of red laser light have been discovered to stimulate hair follicle growth. The current theory is that the specific energies of laser light stimulate stem cells within the outer layer of the skin, placing follicles back into the anagen growth phase.
A device called the “laser comb” can be used to promote hair growth in androgenetic alopecia, using these techniques in a procedure known as low-level laser therapy, or LLLT. This procedure has very little risk involved, is non-invasive, non-surgical, and involves no pharmaceutical products, and has a wide range of price options for consumers.
Baldness is a major area of research for medicine due to the potential for improved quality of life in millions of men around the world. Some experimental treatments are currently being researched that could revolutionize the treatment of hair loss.
Stem cell therapy
Stem cells have the potential to develop into a variety of different cells through a process called differentiation. Scientists have been able to coax stem cells, derived from newborns and grown in-vitro, into differentiating into hair follicles. This leads to the potential for hair follicle transplants that aren’t rejected by the body, and which don’t involve moving follicles from one site to another.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
PRP therapy has been in use for decades to treat various problems, such as torn ligaments and muscles. However, new research indicates that it may be used to treat hair loss as well.
PRP therapy involves drawing blood from a patient, setting it in a centrifuge to separate the different components, and only taking the platelet-rich plasma component and injecting it into the scalp.
Researchers believe that this procedure increases the blood supply to scalp hair follicles, promoting hair growth in the process. Research is still ongoing to prove its efficacy, but early results seem promising.
Gene therapy as an entire body of research is very, very experimental. The very process of deleting or inserting genes is controversial, not to mention not yet approved for human testing. However, a variety of genes that can experimentally cause skin cells to become hair have already been discovered. Another body of genetic research in hair loss aims to treat male pattern baldness patients by treating the factors which cause their follicles’ sensitivity to androgens.
Hair replacement systems
Modern wigs, also known as hair systems, are profoundly realistic, with the best ones composed of real human hair. They can be produced in a variety of styles, lengths, and colors, and can even be shampooed and conditioned. Some are very durable and can be worn even during workouts.
Patients looking for high-quality Jacksonville hair restoration services can turn to Man Hair for hair loss solutions that are tailored to their needs. All-natural human hair products combined with life-proof durability and quality stylist services make Man Hair a viable choice for anyone searching for the most realistic hair look to boost their confidence.
Hair loss is a major problem and has been one for centuries. However, science and technology have marched on, and already there are so many treatments available to patients, with more on the way as time passes. More and more patients who would otherwise have been resigned to their fate, now have treatments and procedures that can restore at least part of their hairline.
It’s important to understand your own form of hair loss, of course, and the kinds of treatments and therapies that would be appropriate for you. Each one comes with its own pros and cons, from complexity to price, from effectiveness to risks. But the promise of a full head of hair may not be so much of a pipe dream anymore, nor a prohibitively expensive one.
Patients looking for high-quality, non-surgical Jacksonville hair restoration services can turn to Man Hair for hair loss solutions that are tailored to their needs. All-natural human hair products combined with life-proof durability and quality stylist services make Man Hair the perfect choice for anyone searching for the most realistic, confident hair look. Call us now to book a free hair discovery call!