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Hair Today, Bare Tomorrow

A look at male baldness, hair transplants and hair removal.

Jim Williams

HealthKey.com contributor

June 7, 2010

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Bald is beautiful. Really? Says who? Obviously, for the millions of men, and in some cases, women, who struggle with " hair issues," bald is not an option.

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.

The Anatomy of Hair Loss

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:

Hair Transplants

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.

Hair Removal

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.

Hair Facts:

There's more to hair that meets the eye (or gets in your eyes). Here are a few hair facts: For more information visit the National Institutes of Health.a