Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about male pattern baldness: Understanding hair loss in men

Samantha | 12 April 2018
Male pattern baldness

We take an in-depth look at the causes, symptoms and signs of male pattern baldness.

In a progressively grooming-obsessed world, having fewer hairs than your contemporaries may be a cause of concern for some. And while it may seem like it’s only a downward spiral, knowing the ins and outs of male pattern baldness can provide some answers…

Did you know that approximately 20% of men will suffer from significant hair loss at 20 years old and 30% at 30? And by 50 years old about 50% of men suffer from male pattern hair loss – so you’re not exactly alone.

Yet in order to understand how and why men’s hair loss occurs, we’re diving into the biology behind shedding, how your hair cycle comes into play and how to deal with male pattern hair loss from A-Z.

Key points:

  • There is no one cause. Male pattern baldness is a combination of genetics and age.
  • The right hairstyle can disguise baldness. Choosing a style that works with your current level of balding and hair type can help lessen the visibility of baldness.
  • We naturally shed hair every day. We normally shed 50-150 hairs a day, but this can also be more.

 



Male pattern baldness: Hair loss in men



 

male pattern hair loss man with bald head walking in street
Men’s hair loss: the facts. Credit: indigitalimages.com

What causes male pattern baldness?

First and foremost, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of what causes this problem. According to Peter Bailey, Unilever’s Global Technical Manager, Hair Care, male pattern baldness can be determined by both your genetics and age.

“Baldness is much more common in men than women primarily due to a difference in genetic coding” – Peter Bailey.

 

As such, dealing with issues like thinning and hair loss in men can be unavoidable – and unexpected.

Man with beared and sunglasses and slicked back bald hair look
Signs of male pattern baldness revealed. Credit: indigitalimages.com

What are early signs of male pattern baldness

Most men experience hair loss or frontal baldness on the top and front of their heads first, especially around the crown area. But with any hair loss, all balding patterns can be different from person to person.

Excessive shedding (more than normal) can be another sign that your natural hair cycle is shifting. “Normal shedding can be around 50-150 hairs per day,” confirms Peter, “but we have seen some people shedding up to 600 hairs a day with no problem in terms of baldness. So for each individual, their normal amount of hair shedding will be different.”

Other signs of balding or permanent hair loss include a visibly receding hairline around the front, back, and sides of your head or patches of hair loss.

Bald man with beard and glasses
Going bald? Here are the facts. Credit: indigitalimages.com

How to stop male pattern baldness: What you need to know

Now, we’re sure this is the question on all your lips. According to Peter, male baldness and hair loss in men are determined mostly by your genes, but that’s not to say that the matter is completely out of your hands…

As age and biology factor into the causes of male pattern baldness, it’s not possible to stop the process entirely. There are, however, treatments like Rogaine (which uses minoxidil as an active ingredient) or Propecia (finasteride) that can help to slow down hair loss.

“Minoxidil has clinical efficacy data and is approved by the US FDA” confirms Peter, “it is sold as a hair loss product in the United States.”

 



How to tackle hair loss in men



 

Male pattern baldness man looking in mirror with hand in hair
How to deal with hair loss in men.

Work with what hair you have

Whether you’ve experienced accelerated hair loss or are just starting to notice a slight amount of thinning, tackle male hair loss or almost bald hair with a custom style.

Generally, shorter styles work best to disguise hair that is thinning. You can to go for a contemporary comb over, go all out and get a buzz cut or pair a close-shaved head with a full beard – it’s all about facial hair right now, anyway!

But if you’re particularly determined to keep hold of your locks, a short crop could be the route. Typically the same length all the way around, this shorter look still allows you a little length to play around with, building texture with the right styling products.

Asian man with bald hair
Go on, show off your bald head in all its glory. Credit: indigitalimages.com

Assess your options

Whatever style you decide on, think about what suits your face shape best and how an updated hair routine fits into your everyday lifestyle.

If you used to have a low-maintenance cut but now want to switch to a thin-hair-hiding style, make sure you’re clued up on the best products and techniques to do so.

Your first step? Head to our dedicated ATH men’s section for some ground-level inspo.

male pattern baldness grey man in blue shirt
Think about how you will tackle male baldness in the future.

Think about future maintenance

Less hair doesn’t necessarily equal less grooming responsibilities. It’s still important to make sure you’re washing your scalp as needed and looking after your hair as usual, and you’ll find that you’ll still need to adapt your routine to suit your changing hair needs.

If you have any obvious bald spots, also make sure to apply an SPF to them before going out in the sun or covering up with a hat to protect any exposed scalp skin.

 



The hair cycle: An overview



 

Now we come to the technical side of this issue. Hair loss, thinning and male pattern baldness are visibly caused by a change in the hair’s natural growth cycle, so to understand how this happens, you first need to know about the four stages of hair growth and shedding.

 

First phase = Anagen (growing) lasts two to seven years and determines the length of our hair.

Second phase = Catagen (transition) lasts about ten days. The hair follicle shrinks and detaches from the dermal papilla in this stage.

Third phase = Telogen (resting) lasts around three months. Around 10-15 percent of hairs are in this phase and while the old hair is resting, a new hair begins the growth phase.

Fourth phase = Exogen (shedding) which is part of the resting phase where the old hair sheds approximately 50 to 150 hairs daily. After the Exogen stage, the follicle then goes back into the Anagen phase and the new hair starts to grow.

 

Male pattern baldness is caused due to a shortening of the whole cycle (manly in the Anagen phase). Each time a follicle goes through a cycle, it reduces in size, leading to thinner fibres.

“Eventually, a terminal hair will become a vellus hair with no pigment. Ultimately, the hair will then stop growing completely,” confirms Peter.

In men, the overriding mechanism behind hair loss is testosterone derived. Peter explains, “testosterone is metabolised to dihydrotestosterone, if an individual has the receptor for DHT, then the Anagen phase gets shorter with each cycle and eventually the man goes bald.”

Translation: it’s a genetic disruption in the hair’s natural cycle that causes hair loss in men.

 

And there you have it, fellas, male pattern baldness decoded. Remember, you’re not the only one dealing with this issue and there are things you can do to tackle it – but nothing is better than rocking your look with confidence.

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