While not all of us can grow viking beards and moustache à la Burt Reynolds, or even sport hairy chests peeking through unbuttoned Oxford shirts, we’re still very protective of the hair we have on our heads. But how many of us take good care of it? Would we notice if we gradually come to having less hair?
Even if only 10% of young guys in their twenties are affected by hair loss, that number jumps to 40% when they are in their thirties and over 60% for those over 60. These are some truly scary stats. Although hair loss doesn’t have any adverse effects on our physical performance, we tend to psychologically associate it with aging, loss of confidence and even defeat. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s explore what balding actually is and how we might spot the early signs of balding to try and fix it.
Why Guys Go Bald
On average, at any given time we have around 100,000–150,000 hairs on our head and lose about 100 of them every day. At the same time, 90% of the hair is actively growing, although each follicle is in its own stage of the life cycle:
First: Anagen — actual hair growth that lasts a few years.
Then: Catagen — transitional growth that lasts a few weeks.
And then: Telogen — the dying phase that lasts a few months.
After the Telogen phase, the cycle repeats. But as guys age, the growth starts to slow down and hair stays on the head for shorter and shorter periods of time.
There are quite a few types of hair loss, from temporary and spotty (alopecia areata) to permanent and universal (alopecia universalis). The most common found in guys are involutional alopecia (natural hair thinning) and androgenic alopecia, which is also known as male pattern baldness, can start even in the early 20s and is characterized by receding hairline and loss of hair from the crown and forehead.
Most of pattern hair loss in guys is caused by hormones, when free testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is highly concentrated in the scalp and, while contributing to hair growth in the early stages of life, suppresses hair growth as we age.
The good news is we can slow down, stop and, in some cases, even reverse hair loss if we spot it in time (the earlier the better). But how do we do that?
Notice your hairline receding
One of the most common signs of balding is a receding hairline, gradually pulling away from your temples and forehead. However, this process tends to be very slow. And while it might be obvious to a friend whom you haven’t seen in two years, it’s much harder to spot when you look at yourself in the mirror every day.
What’s a good way to spot the receding hairline? Simply take pictures of yourself in front of the bathroom mirror every month or so (make sure to capture the back of the head too) and compare when you have any doubts. Also, ask your partner — they might have a different perspective and can help you detect changes faster.
Note: Having a V-shaped point in your hairline is not a sign of hair loss. This is called a widow’s peak and is simply a hair growth pattern that is quite common among guys.
Track your hair thinning
It’s a given that your hair becomes thinner with age, since fewer hairs are growing, the growth rate slows down and the duration of growth decreases.
Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize hair thinning as early as possible to have more options to deal with it effectively. The difficulty is that hair thinning is even harder to notice than your hairline receding, but the trick is the same — take pictures often and examine your head for any bald spots that weren’t there before.
Be wary of excessive shedding
Since you’re now on guard for any hair loss, make sure to not stress too much if you see some hair on your pillow or in the shower. As stated above, losing up to 100 hairs a day is perfectly natural and they will grow back again.
Even if you lose a chunk of hair at once, it might be completely normal. Called telogen effluvium, this effect is a result of lots of hair shifting to the telogen (dying) phase at once, which might look like shedding, but is just part of the natural cycle.
What you should watch out for is excessive hair loss over a prolonged period of time. If you see an abnormal number of hairs on your brush or hands during styling, for example, and it lasts for over a month — you should seek out some professional help. Luckily, spotting a change in your hair falling out is usually quite easy.
How to deal with hair loss
The best time to start thinking about how to reverse the early signs of balding is as soon as you see them. Setting surgical methods aside, the only tested way to slow down hair loss is by taking proper medicine.
Note: Don’t trust sources that tell you it’s possible to reliably stop balding by massaging the scalp or incorporating certain foods (although low-protein and calorie-restricted diets might cause temporary hair loss).
Your first option is minoxidil, which is a topical solution (e.g. spray or liquid) applied to your scalp. Minoxidil works as a vasodilator, widening your blood vessels to improve blood circulation in your hair follicles, thus promoting their growth. In this sense, minoxidil doesn’t stop hair loss, but rather makes a better use of the hair growth potential you already have.
If you’re looking for a proven way to prevent hair loss, you need finasteride, which is an anti-androgen (thus used to treat androgenic alopecia). Finasteride works by decreasing the levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the scalp. So it reverses the miniaturization of the hair follicle and maintains the amount of hairs in their anagen stage.
So what’s the most important factor in seeing the early signs of balding? Being aware of the possibility of hair loss and take pre-emptive actions (e.g. photographs) to compare facts to facts. And when you notice that hair loss is real, consult with a physician as soon as you can. At Upguys we strive to make your life easier by providing effective meds and connecting you with licensed physicians in Canada at any time. First step towards dealing with guys’ issues — get Upguys updates via our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest research and other ways that might help you. Up your game!