What is Baldness or Hair Loss or Androgenic alopecia?
Hairs are seen growing everywhere on human skin except on hand palms and feet soles. Hair is made of a protein named keratin. It is produced in hair follicles in skin’s outer layer. As new hair cells are produced, old cells are pushed through skin surface. They are pushed approximately at a rate of six inches a year. The hair which we see is actually a long string of dead keratin cells. On an average, the head of a human adult has about one million hairs and simultaneously loses about 100 of them a day.
About 90% of males face major hair thinning by the age of 50 while some lose theirs before they turn 22. Baldness mainly refers to excessive hair loss from your scalp. Hereditary hair loss with age is the most common cause of baldness. Premature baldness in men is turning out to be more common than rarity and the main reason is our lifestyle rather than genes or mere bad luck. It can be a result of heredity, hormonal change and even medications.
Mostly, premature balding begins with the hair becoming thin. One can notice that the hair strands left on hairbrush are finer than they actually were, and also more scalp is visible through hair. This is the correct time for its treatment and get it reversed. If a male in 20s losing a serious amount of hair, he is prematurely balding.
According to a group of hair specialists, stress, pollution and poor nutrition are the main reason of premature baldness in men. One more reason is an increased production of testosterone after puberty, which is broken into the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) when it comes in contact with an enzyme found in skin. This DHT hinders the follicle’s ability to produce new hair. Simple change in lifestyle like, getting proper seven hours of sleep, having a glass of water every hour and eating protein-rich foods can bring drastic change in hair fall problem.
Baldness as a whole is incurable. But by spotting early signs, it is possible to slow the process. There are loads of products available in the market that can help your premature baldness through hair thickening, scalp coloring and growth stimulation.
Symptoms of Premature Baldness in Men
Hair loss can appear in several ways, depending on its cause. It can come on suddenly or gradually. Symptoms of premature baldness includes:
- Hair Thinning - This is the most common type of hair loss affecting men. In men, hair often begins to recede from the forehead in a line that resembles the letter M.
- Loosening hair suddenly – A shock, physical or emotional, can result to premature baldness in men. Handfuls of hair may come out while combing or washing your hair or even after gentle tugging. This causes overall hair thinning.
- Patchy bald spots - Some young men experience coin-sized bald spots. This type of hair loss mostly affects the scalp, but it many a time also occurs in beards or eyebrows. Sometimes your skin may become itchy or painful before the hair falls out.
- Patches of scaling spreading over the scalp - This is a sign of ringworm. It may be accompanied by broken hair, redness, swelling and, at times, oozing.
- Hair loss seen in complete body – Mostly the medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, can result in the hair loss all over your body. In this case, the hair usually grows back.
- Change in hairline – Try witnessing the change in your hairline that can be easily seen in photographs. Baldness mostly starts with the hairline, the mild receded hairline you had is now turned into more clear V-shaped hairline.
- Itchy scalp – It is caused by dry skin or irritated skin. They don’t result to long term hair loss. The moment the problem of itchiness is solved, scalp gets back to normal and we see hair growing in that area.
- Hairs on pillow – It can be normal but can act as an indicator that you’re losing an abnormal amount of hair.
Causes of Premature Baldness in Men
Baldness mainly occurs when the cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.
Baldness or hair loss is related to the following factors:
- Heredity - Common cause of hair loss is a hereditary condition called male-pattern baldness. It usually occurs gradually with aging and in predictable patterns but these days it is even seen as a premature baldness. Here, a receding hairline and bald spots in men is clearly visible.
- Radiation therapy on head – In this situation, the hair may not grow back in a similar way as it was earlier.
- Medications - Baldness can also be a side effect of certain drugs, mainly those which are used for cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems and high blood pressure.
- Stress - Many a times one experience a thinning of hair even several months after a physical or emotional shock. This type of hair loss is temporary. Reduce your stress by participating in activities like walking, listening calm music and indulge in the activities you feel more relaxed and enjoy.
- Certain hairstyles - Hairstyles that pull your hair tight can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. Even hot oil hair treatments and permanents can cause inflammation of hair follicles that leads to hair loss. Baldness could be permanent if scarring occurs.
- Hormonal change - Hormonal changes due to thyroid problems can also result to baldness. Alopecia areata is a medical condition which causes patchy hair loss, scalp infections such as ringworm and a hair-pulling disorder called trichotillomania. Even abnormal levels of androgens leads to premature baldness in men.
- Injuries, burns and X-rays – Injuries, burns and X-rays can also cause a temporary baldness in men. In such cases, normal hair growth usually reverts back once the injury heals unless a scar is produced. Later, the hair will never regrow normally.
- Autoimmune disease can be one of the cause of baldness i.e. alopecia areata. Here, the immune system gets disrupted for the reasons not known yet and finally affects the hair follicles. In most people having alopecia areata, the hair grows back normally. New hair grown can be very fine and may be light in color.
- Cosmetics – Shampooing quite often, perms, hair dyeing, bleaching, all these also contribute to premature baldness in men. Tight braiding, use of roller, tight hair bands can also damage or break the hair. Mostly, in such conditions, hair grows back normally if the source of problem is removed. Still, excess damage to scalp also result to permanent baldness.
- Medical conditions – Diseases or illness like lupus, thyroid, anemia, diabetes and wrong eating pattern can cause hair loss. When these condition is treated, the hair will start growing unless there is scarring. Scarring is seen in some forms of lichen planus, lupus or follicular disorders
- Wrong diet – Low protein diet or extreme calorie restricted diet can result to badness.
- Baldness can also be due to too much of vitamin A, or not enough protein in your diet. Even, Illness or stress can lead to sudden, heavy shedding called telogen effluvium.
- High fever
- Excessive use of styling products, such as perms, dyes, gels and relaxers.
- Fast food is harmful for loads of reasons - it elevates carbohydrates, makes your hair greasy, doesn't provide nutrition that lasts long, and clogs up the pores of hair follicles making you wash your hair frequently.
Preventive steps for Premature Baldness in Men
In most cases, premature baldness in men is caused by genetics. This type of hair loss is incurable.
Following steps can help you avoid curable types of baldness:
- Avoid twisting, rubbing and pulling your hair.
- Avoid hairstyles like buns, braids and even poly-tails.
- Handle your hair gently while washing and brushing.
- Use wide toothed comb to prevent pulling.
- Stop using hot rollers, hot oil treatment and permanent.
- Try avoiding medicine or supplements that could cause hair loss.
- Protect your hair from sunlight. Use cap to avoid exposure of ultraviolet rays.
- Quit smoking and avoid drinking alcohol.
- If treated with chemotherapy, consult your doctor for the use of cooling cap. This cap can reduce the risk of hair loss.
- Avoid drinking diet soda or any sweeteners, as they can cause hair loss.
Treatment for Premature Baldness in Men
- Apply egg yolk on your scalp and rinse with shampoo to provide extra protein to your hair.
- Jojoba and castor oil replenish dead ends and protect your hair from pollution.
- Make a paste of carom seeds and apply it on your scalp. It will help in renewing hair follicles.
- Heat coconut oil and slowly massage on your scalp. It enhances the blood flow to the hair follicles, make hair root stronger and also conditions your scalp.
- Make your meal protein rich. Include spinach, almonds, tofu, milk, cottage cheese, walnuts etc. in your diet.
- Include tuna, paneer, strawberries, yogurt, meat, broccoli, beans and oats too in your diet.
- Meditation and regular exercise – As we discussed, stress and anxiety essentially outs hair follicles in a resting stage, so they no longer grow. This could speed up the balding process. Try managing stress and anxiety through meditation. Meditations and exercise are proved to help in improving stress and anxiety levels. Also, it is free of cost and requires only few minutes daily. One can also try for gym if not willing for exercise.
- Rogaine or Minoxidil – Rogaine treatment won’t restore your hair loss but can save what you are left with. It increases the blood flow and delivers excess oxygen and other nutrients to hair follicles.
You only need to rub it in the morning into your scalp and similarly at night for most benefit.
- Laser treatment – Laser treatment is the FDA approved treatment. This devices use low levels of light. iGrow, a helmet used for treatment, needs to be worn for about 25 minutes daily. Yet, these products are semi experimental and are not proven to work.
- Hair Transplant – In this treatment, doctor will move your healthy hair from the back and side of your head to the thinning or balding areas of your scalp. This process is expensive and you may need to do few times before it start working. After one or two months, your head will shed most of what your doctor moved but in their place, new strands will grow back. It will start looking normal within 6 months of the treatment. The advantage of a hair transplant are that it looks more natural and it is permanent.
- 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor finasteride – It is designed to stop hair loss. Start using this as early as possible to preserve your hair from hair loss.
Premature balding in men is an insecurity that will not get over until it can be permanently fixed with a great appearance. According to me, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Balding happens naturally, to anyone and it is just slightly unfortunate. There are many more sufferers around you, socially and medically.