Male pattern baldness is likely something we’ve all heard of, and are at least familiar with in some form or another. It’s no surprise that many men will start to bald as they age, but why is this? And is there anything we can do to stop it?

If you’ve been experiencing hair loss, or even if you’re concerned that one day you might, you’ll be glad to know you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got all the answers and all the info, so we’re going invite you to join us on a deep dive into male pattern baldness, including what it is and why does it happen.

What is Male Pattern Baldness Exactly?

Also known as androgenetic or androgenic alopecia, male pattern baldness is the most widespread form of hair loss in men, with around 50% of men over the age of 50 expected to experience at some point in their lives.

So Why does it Happen?

As annoying as it is, male pattern baldness is something of an inevitability for most men, and there are two prevalent reasons why it happens.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the genes we inherit from our parents and grandparents. Androgens—male sex hormones—play a huge part in male pattern baldness, and it’s these hormones that help to regulate hair growth (more on that later).

Every one of our hairs will go through a growth cycle, where a hair grows, falls out, and is replaced. Male pattern baldness however occurs as the growth cycle weakens and the hair follicles shrink, eventually to the point that no new hairs grow to replace the old ones.

There are usually no side effects to male pattern baldness, although in some instances it could have a more serious cause, whether it’s due to medications, anabolic steroids, thyroid conditions, or even certain cancers. If you do start to experience hair loss after starting some medications, or if it comes alongside other health issues, then be sure to get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible.

The other main cause for male pattern baldness comes down to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT for short. This is what we inherit in our genes, and it’s a potent hormone that’s responsible for the development of male characteristics. With enough of it in the system, it can play a huge role in causing our hair loss.

The best way to spot if your hair loss can be attributed to male pattern baldness is to look at the shape of your hairline. If you notice your hair receding around the crown or the temples, then it’s likely male pattern baldness. If your hair seems to be taking on an increasing M looking shape, just remember: that’s M for male pattern baldness.

What Treatments are Available?

There are all sorts of treatments available for male pattern baldness, ranging from simply styling your hair a certain way or getting a wig, all the way up to hair transplant surgery. It’s not always necessary to go as far as surgery though, and perhaps you don’t want to dedicate your life to a certain hairstyle or wearing a wig. In any case, the following are some treatments that are available that can help with hair loss:

Finasteride

Finasteride, often sold under the brand Propecia, is a hair loss treatment that’s taken twice a day orally. The way that it works is it stops the body’s production of DHT, allowing the hair loss to stop and the hair follicles to be rejuvenated. It’s a successful and effective treatment, however the effects will wear off as soon as you stop taking it.

You’ll typically start to see results after around 3 months of taking Finasteride, although there is a chance you could see no real growth after a year. If this is the case, then your doctor will likely recommend you stop taking it and try something else.

Some of the side effects associated with Finasteride, while rare, include:

— Breast growth
— Breast tenderness
— Depression
— Ejaculation pain
— Erectile dysfunction
— Facial swelling
— Itching
— Hives
— Testicle pain

Again, these side effects are rare, and mostly related to Finasteride’s alternative use as a treatment for enlarged prostates.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is the main active ingredient in products like Regaine and Rogaine, which are topical medications that are applied to the scalp each day. Minoxidil is effective when it comes to slowing the effect of DHT on the hair follicles, and in many instances can even start to rejuvenate dead ones.

It can take around 4 months to a year to produce results, and just like with Finasteride, your hair loss will return if and when you stop using the product.

Like Finasteride again, there are a few side effects associated with Minoxidil, which while rare, you should still make sure you’re familiar with. These include:

— Breathing difficulties
— Chest pains
— Heartbeat irregularities
— Laboured respiration
— Swelling of the face, abdomen, hands or ankles
— Weight gain

Hair Transplants

A hair transplant is the most full on but most effective way to treat male pattern baldness. Not all of the hair on our head will be affected by DHT, and by taking hair from these areas and transplanting them into areas where the hair is balding, growth can continue to flourish where it couldn’t before.

It’s usually best to wait until the balding is fully established before undergoing hair transplant surgery however, as there’s no real way to tell what areas may start to shed at a later date.

Are There any Ways to Prevent Male Pattern Baldness?

Unfortunately, because it’s related to the genes we inherit from our parents, there’s no real way to prevent male pattern baldness. There are a few things we can do to avoid other types of baldness however, and these include:

— Avoid being too harsh on your hair, especially when brushing
— Tight hair styles like braids or cornrows can damage hair, so try to stick to other styles
— Avoid smoking, as this could contribute to thinning hair
— Try and keep your hair protected from sunlight and ultraviolet light
— See if you can wear a cooling cap while undergoing chemotherapy
— Double check with your doctor to see if any medications you may be taking could cause hair loss.