Was your father’s hairline already receding by the time he was in his 20s?
Did your maternal grandfather have a rather sparse head of hair?
Yup, baldness is mostly hereditary.
Can you do anything about it?
Well, not really.
In 95% of cases, hair loss in men (a.k.a. male pattern baldness) is known as androgenetic. In plain English, it’s caused by male hormones and heredity. The culprit: a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), or rather, its receptors, which are located on hair follicles. In fact, this same hormone is also responsible for enlargement of the prostate. What we inherit from our parents is a follicular sensitivity to DHT. Given that DHT is derived from testosterone, women are rarely affected by this type of alopecia.
If you’re losing your hair but aren’t sure whether you’ve inherited this sensitivity, a dermatologist can probably tell by examining your scalp. In the case of androgenetic alopecia, DHT on the scalp stimulates the follicles and accelerates the aging process to the point that the follicles can no longer produce hair. DHT receptors are concentrated along the temple hairline and the top of the head, which explains classic hair loss patterns.
Male pattern baldness affects around one third of men aged 30, and in 25% of them, it began before they turned 21. In other words, these men began losing their hair before they could legally drink beer in the United States, which is saying something. By the time men celebrate their 50th birthday, 85% of them are at least partly bald.
While male pattern baldness tends to follow a fairly predictable path, it is possible to control some of the factors affecting the speed at which it develops.
Chronic anxiety and stress are two aggravating factors whose physiological impact can be lessened. A proper diet, daily exercise and certain supplements can help you manage stress.
The other influencing factor is diet. When yours is deficient, it can affect your hair’s lifespan. Nutrients considered essential to your hair are protein, iron, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins. Foods rich in refined sugars and starches are best avoided. Examples include white bread, pasta, pizza, white rice, desserts, soft drinks and so on. When you can, opt for whole grains, brown rice, fruits and vegetables, pulses and fish.
Apparently, the eunuchs and castrati of the distant past were able to hang on to a healthy head of hair (if nothing else), but it’s safe to say that most men wouldn’t take such a radical approach.
A more realistic option would be to try saw palmetto, known for inhibiting the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to DHT. It is partly by means of this mechanism that saw palmetto relieves the symptoms of prostate enlargement. By slowing the production of DHT, this plant might also keep follicles from degenerating. Given the length of a single hair’s life cycle, don’t expect immediate results; instead, think of it as a long-term solution.
While the effects of saw palmetto have been studied extensively in clinical trials and its mode of action is well known, few scientific studies have examined the plant’s effects on male pattern baldness.
Although hormones can cause hair loss, there are other ways to style what’s left of your mane,especially without resorting to the infamous comb-over.
Pub Med: 12006122