In 30 seconds…
Male pattern baldness (MPB) affects men of all ages and it can, understandably, make a real impact on the self-confidence and mental health of those living with it.
Although many men feel like balding is a sad sign of middle agedness and a decline of their once virile selves, male pattern baldness can actually start at any age from late teens. In fact, research suggests that 20% of men in their 20s and 30% in their 30s will suffer with some degree of MPB.
It is caused by a combination of genetics and hormones. So, while not necessarily a direct result of having a bald father, the causes of male pattern baldness are hereditary.
But can MPB be cured? While “cured” is a strong word, treatments called Finasteride and Minoxidil are available to combat male pattern baldness. These can help to slow, stop, and even reverse any hair loss to encourage hair regrowth.
Introducing Male Pattern Baldness
Going bald can be a tough problem to get your head around. While some men may embrace the naked head, many will want to do anything in their power to stop the process and retain their luscious locks. If the latter sounds like you – we’re here to help.
Many see balding as part of the natural aging process. However, really, there is no need to let nature decide your fate. Male pattern baldness – or MPB, as we call it – is a widespread issue. After all, 50% of men over 50 will suffer from MPB, but many men aren’t aware of the hair loss treatment options available online. Actually, there is no need for awkward conversations with your doctor or pharmacist.
And while no one here at Manual is claiming to have a magic cure, “can male pattern baldness be cured?” is a common question we hear – and there’s definitely ways that we can help.
What is Male Pattern Baldness?
Male pattern baldness is the term given to the specific type of hair loss that affects the hair on men’s heads. In medical terms, the condition is also known as Androgenetic Alopecia – and as the most common type of hair loss, it affects many millions of men worldwide.
As the name suggests, it happens in very defined patterns:
- A receding hairline – usually in the form of a “widow’s peak” or “M”-shaped hairline on the forehead – is one of the primary signs of MPB. The hairline retreats above the temples, leaving bare skin in its wake.
- Other men may see slight hairline recession followed by balding at the crown.
- Whilst some may see overall thinning of the hair and reduction of hair density, it’s the receding hairline that is the most common pattern of MPB. That’s because it’s the follicles above the temples that are most susceptible to the hormonal causes of the condition.
Importantly, though, MPB is never accompanied by a rash, lesions on the scalp, or scarring. If you are losing your hair and you are experiencing these symptoms at the same time, it is not male pattern baldness that you are dealing with – and you should consult a doctor (who may refer you to a dermatologist). The same applies if you suddenly lose your hair, as MPB is a very gradual condition.
There is still a surprising stigma attached to hair loss which can be tough to live through, especially at a younger age. Although it is so common, the mental and emotional load of suffering from, or trying to hide, MPB can be heavy. Your self-esteem can take a hit. And this holds true even if studies suggest that bald men are often perceived as more attractive.
Thankfully, treatments are now available, and support from people like us can guide you through what’s happening. Let’s take a look at how you can best tackle the problem.
What Causes Male Pattern Baldness?
Managing a problem is so much easier when you know what it is you are dealing with. And MPB is a lot easier to understand when you consider that your hairs go through 3 distinct phases: growth, transition and rest.
Individual hairs may grow for anywhere between two and six years before falling out – and the longer the growth period, the longer the hair will grow. The transition phase lasts approximately two weeks, during which time the follicles (the root of each hair in your head) renew themselves. After this, they rest for up to four months before the growth phase starts again.
In men suffering from MPB, the growth phase shortens and the resting phase lengthens. Hairs which do regrow, meanwhile, are thinner, weaker and more brittle, so are quicker to fall out. Ultimately, this means that there is not enough new growth to outweigh the rate of hair loss and your hair will recede.
Male pattern baldness is caused by two related factors. Firstly, your hormones – and specifically one known as dihydrotestosterone or DHT. Secondly, your sensitivity – and the sensitivity of your hair follicles – to this hormone, which is something determined primarily by your genetics. In this way, it is the interaction of DHT and your follicles that causes the condition.
The Role of DHT
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is an androgen, or a male sex hormone. It’s the more active form of its more famous relative, testosterone – and it controls many of your typical male characteristics. DHT is to thank for your deep voice, your muscle mass, the development of your genitals as a child, and, as we mentioned, your hair.
At this point, though, we need to introduce another chemical with a similarly sciency name: 5-alpha-reductase (or 5-AR). This enzyme is crucial in the process that causes MPB, because it is this that converts regular testosterone into the much more powerful DHT.
DHT can be found in your hair follicles. The trouble is that in a lot of men – i.e. all those affected by MPB – these follicles can be sensitive to the hormone. In these cases, DHT actually damages the follicles, by weakening them in a process known as miniaturisation. And, as more and more DHT is produced by the 5-AR, the greater the damage to the follicles. Ultimately, the growth phase shortens and the follicles stop producing hair at all.
Genetics. Thanks Dad (or Mum)
Not every man, however, is sensitive to DHT. Your genes affect the way androgens are activated, and it’s those genes that play a fundamental role in shaping a man’s tendency towards MPB. If DHT is the catalyst for hair loss, then, it’s your particular sensitivity towards it that really matters – and this is a hereditary trait.
If your dad has gone through MPB, it’s likely you will follow suit, although not all sons of bald fathers will lose their hair. It may not even be all his fault at all – German research suggests that the tendency is carried through the maternal X chromosome, so male pattern baldness in your maternal grandfather is actually the one to watch.
That said, there are differing opinions on this. The genetics of hair loss is still an emerging field – and scientists admit that predictions of the possibility of hair loss are still pretty crude.
Whoever’s to blame, male pattern baldness can be treated, so if this sets alarm bells ringing, keep calm and keep reading…
Can Male Pattern Baldness Be Cured?
Although “cured” is a difficult term to corroborate, MPB can be stopped and, in some cases, reversed – and there are two treatments that are most effective in doing this.
With the right treatment plan to tackle thinning hair, most men will see a drastic improvement. However, their MPB isn’t necessarily cured – it’s just being well managed.
The first, and often most effective, treatment for MPB is Finasteride. This is a daily tablet which blocks the activity of the 5-AR enzyme, we mentioned above. As a result, it reduces the amount of DHT in your system and your scalp by as much as two thirds – thus boosting your follicle’s hair growth potential.
Finasteride (sometimes known as Propecia) increases the length of your hair’s growth phase and makes the transitional phase less frequent. This gives you a better hair growth to hair loss ratio, and works to balance hair growth across the scalp. As MPB affects the hairs on the temples first, this is often where the new growth will be most prominent.
Finasteride is an FDA-approved medicine for hair loss – and has been found to show results in tackling MPB in 90% of cases.
However, it does require patience. No medicine will make new hair appear on your head overnight, and you shouldn’t believe the claims of anyone saying it will. So, consider the length of your hair’s normal growth cycle and be prepared for it to take at least six months before you see results.
Works for 9/10 Men
The most effective oral treatment for receding hairlines and balding crowns. Just one pill a day.
Alternatively, there is a treatment called Minoxidil – which tends to go under the brand name, Regaine in the UK and Rogaine in the USA.
As a topical treatment, Minoxidil works by boosting blood flow to the scalp – which is another hair growth factor. By increasing the amount of nutrients and oxygen passing to the scalp, this promotes healthy hair growth and awakens your hair follicles from the resting phase to the growth phase.
This treatment is particularly effective for those men experiencing MPB at the crown of the head, and has been found to work wonders in two-thirds of men.
By the way, Minoxidil can be used together with Finasteride as a combined treatment plan. Whilst it’s still not strictly a “cure” for MPB, as shown in a clinical trial, success rates can reach 95%.
Hair transplantation is an increasingly popular option, but it is far more intrusive and disruptive than taking Finasteride and/or Minoxidil. In fact, the pattern of hair loss is shown to continue after the human hair is transplanted, so you’ll have to use these medications anyway – in order to prevent further hair loss in the months and years after the hair transplant operation.
A Cure in the Future?
Both of these treatments work to stop hair loss. However, there is hope that, in the future, male pattern baldness really can be cured.
A drug called Cyclosporin A, for example, which was originally produced as an immuno-suppressant to help donor organ recipients, was found to have the positive side effect of boosting hair growth in those taking it. And while taking immuno-suppressants as a healthy man isn’t going to be a good idea, scientists are working on a way to make a version of the drug purely as a hair growth treatment.
In this way, perhaps there are exciting times ahead for those with MPB – for those of us who want to treat it, that is.
So, can male pattern baldness be cured? Not exactly. However, there are very effective ways to manage its symptoms – and to encourage hair regrowth, too. Minoxidil and Finasteride are the treatments that are best placed to help you out, before a permanent cure comes along.
If you think you are suffering from male pattern baldness, chatting with one of our accredited clinicians is the right thing to do. Manual treatment packages can easily be ordered online without any need for awkward conversations, and delivered – discreetly – to your door.