Over 50 percent of men will start losing their hair by the time they reach age 50. This phenomenon is called male-pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia). For the most part, it’s a genetic condition, but it can also be affected by external factors (lifestyle, disease, exposure to chemicals, medications, radiation, etc.).
Stress can cause temporary hair loss, and some autoimmune disorders can also lead to permanent baldness. Still, 95 percent of hair loss in men — especially past age 40 — is caused by genetically-acquired, male-pattern hair loss.
The exact mechanisms of how when a predisposition for male-pattern hair loss is triggered, isn’t yet well understood. It is therefore not impossible to guarantee that a certain lifestyle intervention or product such as shampoo, will stop or delay the onset of androgenic alopecia.
Once hair loss has started to take its course, the only thing that can effectively help stop baldness and even spur some hair to regrow is medication.
Read more about this below.
While there are no guarantees that they will help you with preventing hair loss, lifestyle changes are worth a try. After all, a healthier lifestyle will benefit you in many other ways as well.
The most critical aspect of this is your diet. Make sure to eat foods rich in vitamins and particularly anti-oxidants. Oxidative stress may lead to chronic inflammation. While research on this issue is thus far inconclusive, a diet rich in antioxidants (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, carotene, melatonin, to name the most famous ones) will counteract oxidative stress and may reduce inflammation. Studies have shown that male-pattern baldness tends to coincide with lower blood levels of B7 (or biotin). Taking a biotin supplement may be a good idea and is unlikely to hurt at modrate doses.
Avoiding sugar, saturated fats, alcohol and smoking are all good ways to reduce oxidative stress. A good night's sleep - minimum of 7 hours - may also be beneficial.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any natural remedies against androgenic alopecia, regardless of what many sellers of alternative medicines may promise you. Scalp hygiene is important but doesn’t require special tonics or shampoos. Regular (not excessive) washing with a mild shampoo, plenty of fresh air and some sunlight are enough. Dandruff, which often is caused by fungal infections, should be dealt with right away (through a medicated shampoo), as long-term dandruff and the associated itching can worsen ongoing pattern baldness.
No matter how healthy your life is, your genes with all likelihood will eventually kick in — maybe not at age 40 or 50 but the day will come sooner or later when you’ll start noticing a receding hairline. Then, only medication will prevent further balding. In the United States, there are two FDA approved drugs that treat androgenic alopecia.
The most popular is finasteride, which is sold by Merck as Propecia. It’s a prescription drug and has been around since 1997. Generic versions of finasteride are widely available and it’s taken as a 1mg tablet orally once a day. Long-term clinical trials of up to 10 years have shown that finasteride is effective and well-tolerated. For some 85 percent of users, the balding will stop and about 65 percent of them will find that some hair regrows.
Dutasteride, which is another drug and functions very similar to finasteride, has also shown good results in clinical trials. However, Dutasteride hasn’t yet been approved by the FDA for pattern hair loss treatment. This may change in the future, though, as more research on the drug and its effects becomes available.
The second FDA-approved treatment option for male pattern baldness is minoxidil, which is a topical medication sold as liquid or spray that is applied directly to the scalp. It’s branded as Rogaine, but there several generic versions. Minoxidil doesn’t inhibit or slow the process of balding, but it does speed up hair growth by dilating the scalp’s blood vessels. Faster hair growth can offset some of the androgenic alopecia-related hair loss.
Minoxidil is often recommended in combination with finasteride, as the two drugs complement each other well. Speak to a dermatologist or your usual doctor to find out more about finasteride and minoxidil and whether these are suitable choices for treating your hair loss.