Close to 80 percent of Caucasian men will have started losing hair by their 50s, while for Africans and Asians it’s about 50 percent. This phenomenon is called male pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia). For the most part, it’s caused by genetic factors, although the timing of its onset and the speed of progression partially depend on external influences (lifestyle, diseases, exposure to chemicals, medications, and radiation, etc.).
Stress can cause temporary hair loss and a few rare autoimmune disorders can cause permanent baldness, but some 95 percent of baldness in men — especially past age 40 — is caused by pattern hair loss.
Since it’s a fate determined by your genes, it’s not easy to escape. The exact mechanisms of how and when one’s nascent potential for pattern hair loss is triggered isn’t yet well understood. It thus is impossible to guarantee that a certain lifestyle or shampoo will stop or delay the onset of androgenic alopecia.
Once pattern hair loss has started to take its course, the only thing that can effectively stop baldness in its tracks and even spur some hair to regrow are medications. Read more about this in the last section below.
While there are no guarantees that it will help you with preventing pattern hair loss, lifestyle changes are worth giving 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 food rich in vitamins and particularly anti-oxidants. Oxidative stress may lead to chronic inflammations on the scalp and elsewhere, which, among a host of other damage it causes your body, may spur pattern hair loss. Research on this issue has not come to a conclusive verdict yet, but a diet rich in antioxidants (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, carotene, melatonin, to name the most famous ones) will counteract oxidative stress and protect your body. Studies show that pattern baldness tends to coincide with lower blood levels of Vitamin E. Boosting your vitamin levels thus may be a good idea, but make sure to first see a doctor to have your current blood vitamin levels checked.
Moreover, to reduce the chances of oxidative stress happening in the first place, avoid sugary and oily food, as well as alcohol and smoking. A healthy sleep regime of a minimum of 7 hours a day with an ideal bedtime of 10-11 pm will also be beneficial in the fight against oxidative stress.
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 sprays that are applied directly to the scalp. It’s branded as Rogaine, but there also are generic versions. Minoxidil doesn’t inhibit or slow the process of balding but it speeds up hair growth by enlarging the scalp’s blood vessels. Faster hair growth can offset some of the androgenic alopecia related hair loss.
Minoxidil often is prescribed 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 problem.