Male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, may result from genetics or a scalp infection or skin disorder. There are various treatment options available to slow hair loss or stimulate hair growth. A person should discuss these treatments with their doctor.
Hair loss prevention and treatment
Prevention is often one of the best approaches to managing a health condition. In some cases, it may be possible to prevent — or at least slow down — hair loss. Though this will depend on the underlying cause.
Some of the best prevention methods include:
- eating a balanced diet
- using combs with wider spaces between the bristles
- avoiding harsh treatments and hair styles
- switching medications to avoid the side effect of hair loss, if possible
- avoiding pulling or twisting hair
It is important to remember that not all types of hair loss can be slowed or prevented. In these cases, men can try to combat hair loss through active treatment.
Some methods men can use to treat hair loss include the following:
There are over-the-counter medications available that may help treat hair loss. These include foams and ointments.
The two most common medications are minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia).
Scientists originally developed minoxidil Trusted Source to treat high blood pressure. Its developers found that it had the side effect of excessive, unwanted hair growth. This effect gave drug companies reason to consider it for male baldness.
Researchers do not know exactly how minoxidil works. The drug appears to widen the hair follicle, which causes a thicker strand of hair to grow.
In addition, minoxidil appears to prolong the growth period of hair, which results in longer hair and a higher number of hair strands. When used properly, minoxidil has been shown to be safe and effective.
It is more effective in individuals who are under 40 years of age.
A 2019 reviewTrusted Source notes that topical minoxidil is only approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in males and females. However, minoxidil is used off-label for other hair disorders, such as alopecia areata, scarring alopecia, and hair shaft disorders.
The FDATrusted Source notes that the term “off-label” refers to approved medications that doctors prescribe for unapproved uses.
Minoxidil can cause some side effects, includingTrusted Source:
- hair shedding
- skin irritation and redness
- itchy, yellow, or white scales on the scalp
- allergic contact dermatitis
- excessive hair growth over the body, including on the face in some females
Minoxidil is also not suitable for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for those who have a hypersensitivity to the ingredients in this medication.
FinasterideTrusted Source is a treatment for male pattern baldness, which appears at the crown and middle of the scalp.
This drug carries several warnings about its use. It is only suitable for adults and is not suitable for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for children.
Scientists originally created finasteride to fight prostate cancer. It works by decreasing the amount of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the scalp. DHT appears to cause hair follicles in the scalp to become thinner, so reducing DHT levels may promote hair regrowth and slow hair loss.
Unlike minoxidil, finasteride does not affect hair growth on other parts of the body.
Finasteride is available in both topical and oral forms. A 2020 review states that the topical formulation of this drug is less likely to cause severe side effects than the oral version.
Some side effects of finasteride include:
- erectile dyfunction
- decreased libido
- decreased ejaculate volume
Individuals who take finasteride to treat male pattern hair loss may have to wait 3 months until they see noticeable results.
Therapies for hair loss often involve a combination of drugs, ointments, creams, and shampoos, which a dermatologist may prescribe.
Other therapies involve meeting with specialists. Several companies specialize in hair treatments for men. They typically offer services to help work out the best course of action and tailor treatments to the individual’s needs.
The only surgery available for hair loss is hair transplant surgery.
Hair transplantation works for men with male pattern baldness. A hair transplant involves removing hair follicles from the back of the head, where they are resistant to DHT, and placing them on the scalp.
As with any surgery, hair transplants carry the risk of complications. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons states that the risks of hair transplant surgery include excessive bleeding and wide scars. Additionally, there is a chance the skin plugs may die, which requires further surgery to fix.
Laser combs are a newer form of hair loss treatment. Advocates claim these devices promote hair growth by using concentrated light to stimulate hair follicles.
This treatment has mixed results and may work best when combined with other forms of treatment.
A 2014 studyTrusted Source reviewed the effects of low-level laser therapy in 32 men and women with androgenetic alopecia. The researchers found that laser combs used in combination with minoxidil and finasteride may help stimulate hair growth.
Wigs and hair pieces
In some cases, hair loss may be permanent or long term. Other men might prefer a nonmedical approach to treating hair loss. Wigs and hairpieces offer a means of disguising hair loss.
Wigs and hairpieces have advanced enormously in recent years. If the baldness is caused by a medical condition, the cost of a wig may also be covered by a person’s insurance provider. It is important to check insurance coverage before purchasing a wig.
Causes of hair loss in men
Men can experience baldness or hair loss for different reasons.
While there are many causes of hair loss, the most likely cause is genetics. Finding out whether hair loss is due to genetics or another factor can help a doctor determine the best course of treatment.
Male pattern baldnessTrusted Source is a hereditary condition and the most common cause of male baldness. It can start as early as puberty or develop much later in life. It often occurs gradually and in predictable patterns, affecting the temples and the front of the middle of the scalp.
Most often, a man will be left with a horseshoe pattern of hair. Heredity affects how fast, at what age, and to what extent someone will experience baldness.
Men with male pattern baldness inherit hair that is sensitive to DHT, the hormone that can shorten the lifespan of the individual hair follicles.
Some of the other more common causes of hair loss for men include:
Infections such as ringworm can invade the hair and skin of the scalp. When this happens, it can lead to scaly patches and hair loss.
Hormonal changes and imbalances can cause temporary hair loss. For men, the thyroid gland is the most likely cause of hair loss due to hormonal changes.
Patchy hair loss
Also known as alopecia areata, patchy hair loss occurs when the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles. The attack causes sudden and rapid hair loss that leaves smooth, often round bald patches on the skin.
Diseases such as eczema, severe seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, and lupus may result in permanent hair loss in the scarred areas.
Hair-pulling disorder causes people to have an irresistible urge to pull out their hair. The person will pull from the scalp, the eyebrows, or other areas of the body.
Certain medications may cause a side effect of hair loss.
Some less common causes of hair loss include:
If a man receives any sort of radiation treatment near the scalp, the hair may fall out and grow back in a different way than before.
Hairstyles or treatments
Wearing hair in ways that pull it excessively or treating it with oils and color can cause permanent hair loss.
Stress, childbirth, fever, surgery, or extreme trauma may result in loss of hair. Often, the thinning will reverse when the triggering event is over.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does hair grow back after hair loss?
Whether a person’s hair grows back depends on the type of hair loss a person experiences.
For example, most people who undergo cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, will experience hair growth after their treatment ends.
However, other causes of hair loss, such as male pattern baldness, are typically permanent. Doctors may prescribe or recommend certain treatments to help prevent further thinning of the hair.
If a person experiences hair loss as a result of a scarring process, the hair is less likely to grow back. It is important for a person to seek advice and treatment from a dermatologist as soon as they notice hair loss. Early intervention can help prevent scarring hair loss from spreading.
Do hair loss treatments work?
As mentioned previously, there is evidence that treatments such as minoxidil and finasteride can reduce the amount of hair a person loses. However, results may vary between individuals.
It can take several months before a person sees results from hair loss treatments. A person should work with a healthcare professional to find a treatment that suits their situation.
Does insurance cover hair loss treatment?
A person should check with their insurance provider to see if their plan covers hair loss treatments. People should always check with their insurer before seeking treatment.