A research study cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in seven men have a genetic risk for baldness. And male pattern baldness is the most common form, affecting about one-third of men by age 45.
Instead of staring at the sink and shouting at the mirror, "Why am I going bald?" it might help to know what's happening up there to cause your baldness. Here's how it works: Each of your hairs sits in a small hole in the skin called a follicle. For most men, that follicle shrinks over time, which causes the hair to become shorter and finer. This results in a tiny follicle with no hair inside. In normal cases, the hair should grow back. But in balding men, the follicle fails to grow a new hair. So what to do about it?
Topical, Oral Treatments
According to the National Institutes of Health, there are two main drugs used to treat male pattern baldness:
- Minoxidil (commonly called Rogaine): This is a topical solution applied directly to the scalp to stimulate the hair follicles. The objective is to slow hair loss, and some men grow new hair. If you cease applying the solution, you will return to the same level of baldness you had originally.
- Finasteride (commonly called Propecia, Proscar): This is an oral prescription pill that inhibits the production of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone. Like minoxidil, you are more likely to have slower hair loss than actual new hair growth. In general, it is somewhat more effective than minoxidil. The previous degree of hair loss returns when you stop taking the drug.
Surgical hair transplantation is one of the most common male cosmetic surgeries in the U.S. In 2009, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported more than 13,000 transplant procedures were performed.
This procedure involves moving hairs and follicles from one area of the head to another. Doctors with Bosley Medical, one of the largest hair restoration centers in North America with 70 locations, have performed more than 200,000 hair transplants since 2004.
The hair follicles, plugs of several hairs, are usually taken from the back of the head and then transplanted to the thinning area of the scalp. According to Medline, the treatment can cause minor scarring in the donor areas and carries a modest risk for skin infection. Also, the procedure usually requires multiple transplantation sessions and may be expensive. However, the success rate is good and results are often permanent.
Of course, for some men, and many women, they have the opposite problem. They have hair in places they'd rather not have. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), unwanted hair growth may appear on many areas of the body including the upper lip, sideburns, chin, ears, chest, back, armpits and legs, which can be frustrating and sometimes embarrassing for both men and women.
The AAD cites several ways to remove unwanted hair including shaving, plucking, electronic tweezers, radiofrequency tweezers, waxing and hair-removal creams. There's also electrolysis, which involves inserting a needle into each hair follicle one at a time followed by an electric spark to burn out the follicle. However, these methods are temporary. Lasers offer the only method for permanent hair reduction. Lasers allow a large area of the skin to be treated at one time, which makes it more cost-effective and faster than other methods.
There's more to hair that meets the eye (or gets in your eyes). Here are a few hair facts:
- The average person has 5 million hairs.
- Hair grows all over your body except on your lips, palms and the soles of your feet.
- It takes about a month for healthy hair to grow a half an inch.
- Most hairs grow for up to six years and then fall out. New hairs grow in their place.
- At any one time, about 85 percent of the hair on your head is in the growing phase; and 15 percent is not.