Hair Goals: How To Handle Losing Your Hair
I’ve written a fair bit about hair loss and male pattern baldness over the years and I’ve had guys approach me to discuss these topics many, many times. A lot of the time the eyes of the person I’m speaking to are drawn upwards and I can see that they’re wondering if the hair on my head is my own. It is, swear down. There is a reason, however, why I’m so well-versed on all things balding, other than simply having researched it to write these blogs and articles: at one point in my life, my hair started falling out. My hair loss was directly related to stress, as it happened shortly after my mother became seriously ill. It was a condition called telogen effluvium (where significant stress pushes large numbers of follicles into a resting phase and the hair in the affected area falls out suddenly) and the result was waking up to clumps of hair on my pillow every morning. I consulted my GP who recommended counselling as opposed to medication, but being the image-conscious person that I was and still am, I was extremely concerned that my hair would not grow back, so I started to look into what options I had.
As a young man, the thought that I was losing my beloved locks was very distressing. Given that my father and brother both had full heads of thick hair, I felt like God was singling me out and punishing me. I know how dramatic that might read to some, but I’m also sure there are plenty of gentlemen reading this that can absolutely relate. As I’d come to learn though, male pattern baldness has nothing to do with what you did or didn’t say in confession, but rather it comes down to genetics and a chemical imbalance of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
The main function of DHT is to develop and maintain sexual characteristics in men, as well as inhibiting an enzyme called aromatase (linked to estrogen levels). While DHT plays a key role in the development of facial hair, it is ironically also one of the key contributory factors of baldness in men. The DHT hormone attaches itself to the root of the follicle and, as a result, the growth stage becomes shorter and shorter until the hairs stop growing altogether. The fallout (!) of all this is receding, thinning hair and bald patches.
So, my existential crisis wasn’t warranted after all, but while I’m on the subject, here are a few more old wives' tales when it comes to losing your hair that I will now dispel. Your maternal grandfather’s hair isn't an indicator of your follicle fate. While there is a key gene for hair loss carried in the X chromosome, it can appear on either side of family, so don’t blame poor old Gaga for this one. While on the subject of grandparents, my granny used to always warn me that I would go bald if I didn’t stop wearing my favourite baseball cap. My cheeky answer was that if I always wore my hat then no one would know if I was bald! Turns out I was right and she was wrong; wearing a cap or hat won’t directly cause hair loss. Your only danger is that a dirty hat can lead to a scalp infection, which could in turn lead to hair loss. There’s also nothing to the belief that if you shave your head your hair will grow back thicker. While this might have worked with your bum-fluff beard when you were 16 (yes, I had one), shaving hair has no bearing on its thickness. It might feel that way at first, but only because the regrowth is slightly more coarse due to it having a blunt tip.
Thankfully, my hair did eventfully grow back, save for a couple of areas which are slightly thinner than the rest, but I’ll never forget the psychological toll that hair loss caused, especially at such a young age. My hair was, and still is, such a big part of my identity and, as wrong as it is to say, I doubt that I would have had the success that I have in areas like modelling and social media if I had lost my hair at that point in time. This isn't solely because of the image-obsessed society we now live in, but because there’s no way I’d have had the confidence to put myself out there in the ways which I since have. I was lucky in a lot of ways, not just because my hair grew back, but also because I listened to the advice of my GP and went to talk to a counsellor. As men, we can be very slow to seek help if we’re experiencing problems with our moods or how we’re feeling, but if something is really bothering you then you should try talking about it; there’s absolutely no need to be embarrassed about it and if that something is hair loss then speak to your GP because there are ways to fight it and fix it.
Being honest, there’s no easy fix (at least not yet), but there are meds that can combat the onset of male pattern baldness. Minoxidil (Rogaine) and Finasteride (Propecia) have been proven to be effective in preserving existing hair, but cannot help to regrow hair which has already been lost. It’s really important to talk to your GP before taking either of these because there can be side effects. One of the most common side effects of Propecia is a loss of libido, so you may need to weigh up your options on that one. There’s also a financial commitment to consider, because if you stop using these meds, your hair loss will resume.
If money isn’t going to be an issue, then I would recommend looking into the surgical route. When Wayne Rooney posted photos of his hair transplant on Twitter in 2011, he changed the game and changed the public perception of hair restoration surgery forever. We’ve come a long way from the days of plugs. Modern hair restoration works by taking fuctioning follicles from a donor area (usually the back of the head) and implanting them into the area being restored. Once implanted, the follicles continue to grow in the same way that they did before they were removed from the donor site, resulting in new growth in an area that was previously thinning or bald. While it is a permanent solution, it will still require some maintenance as you’ll need to use the medication to maintain your existing hair and prevent non-transplanted hair from thinning (unless you're rich enough to keep having surgery). I will freely admit that if I do start to lose my hair again then this is the route that I would go down. There was a time when you would have needed to be Wayne Rooney (or earning his wages) to go down this route, but it is now as affordable as most other kinds of cosmetic surgery.
If you don’t fancy forking out for a hair transplant or you don’t like the idea of taking medication, then you have two other options. Option one is a hairpiece. Granted, there’s a certain comic stigma associated with wigs, but the days of having to avoid strong gusts of wind are long gone. You’ve probably seen the video of the blonde guy going swimming on Facebook (and tagged a follicly challenged friend just to be a d*ck) and while I’m sure he’s very proud of his breaststroke, he’s also getting paid to advertise non-surgical hair replacement. This type of hair replacement involves attaching real hair to your head with a strong adhesive, ensuring that it stays firmly in place. You can wash it and style it as if it was your own hair, but it will need to be replaced every few years. If you are looking into this option then do your research on the company in question. There are some sharks (with Aussie accents) in these waters, so read some online reviews and shop around.
Your other option is to embrace the bald. I freely admit that this is something I would struggle with, but not all guys are as image-conscious as I am. I know guys who shave their thick hair down to a zero blade. In truth, it’s the simplest, fastest and cheapest option. Shaving it off is definitely preferable to a wispy comb-over or a topknot. A lot guys who rock the shaved look will tell you how much better they felt after they shaved their hair off. It can be very liberating and lead to a huge boost in confidence. You’ll save time getting ready for stuff, you’ll save money on haircuts if you master the clippers yourself and you’ll feel like a badass on nights out because people will assume you’re twice as tough as you really are.
So, far from being a punishment from the Lord himself, going bald is just a natural thing that will happen to almost all of us at some point. If you’re cool with it, then more power to you, I wish I had your confidence. If you’re not, then you have options, but the main thing is not to let what's going on on top of your head get inside your head.