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Hair Loss (Alopecia) in Men: Causes, Treatments, and Self-Care

By Dr. Veenu Jindal in Dermatology

Oct 23 , 2023 | 5 min read

Hair loss is a common concern for men of all ages. It can affect the scalp and your entire body; moreover, it can be temporary or permanent. Whether you're in your twenties or your fifties, the prospect of losing your hair can be distressing. Before delving into the causes and treatments of hair loss in men, it's crucial to comprehend how hair grows. Hair grows from tiny pockets in the skin called hair follicles. Each hair follicle passes through a cycle of growth, rest, and shedding. This cycle is influenced by various factors, including genetics, hormones, and age.

Common causes of hair loss in men

Some of the major causes of hair loss are-

  • Family History (Heredity): It is one of the most common causes of hair loss. And typically follows a predictable pattern, with men experiencing receding hairlines and balding at the crown
  • Hormonal Changes: Changes that occur during pregnancy, menopause, childbirth, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can contribute to hair loss
  • Medical Conditions: Medical conditions like thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism) and autoimmune diseases (alopecia areata) can lead to hair loss
  • Medications and Supplements: Chemotherapy drugs, blood thinners, retinoids, and high doses of vitamin A may lead to hair loss
  • Radiation Therapy to the Head: Radiation therapy, often used to treat cancer, can damage hair follicles in the targeted area, resulting in hair loss, which can be temporary or permanent
  • A Very Stressful Event: A major emotional or physical stressor, like the loss of a loved one, undergoing significant surgery, or experiencing a traumatic event, can cause a specific form of hair loss known as telogen effluvium. Typically, this hair loss manifests a few months following the stressful event and is often temporary in nature
  • Hairstyles and Treatments: Certain hairstyles, especially those that involve pulling the hair tight (e.g., tight ponytails, braids, and cornrows), can lead to a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. Excessive use of hot styling tools, chemical treatments like perms and relaxers, and hair extensions can also damage hair and cause breakage

Treatments for hair loss

Several options are available to treat hair loss in men, depending on the underlying cause:

Prescription and over-the-counter medication

  • Minoxidil: It is an over-the-counter topical medication that comes in foam or liquid form. It is applied directly to the scalp, and it can stimulate hair follicles, leading to increased hair growth. It is suitable for men with androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness)
  • Finasteride: It is an oral prescription medication that operates by blocking the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone associated with hair loss. It proves to be a useful treatment for androgenetic alopecia, capable of retarding hair loss and fostering the regrowth of hair
  • Combination Minoxidil and Finasteride: Some individuals opt for a combination of minoxidil and finasteride for a more comprehensive approach to hair loss treatment. This combination can potentially provide better results, but it should be used under medical supervision

Hair transplants

  • Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT): Commonly referred to as strip surgery, FUT is a surgical technique that includes the extraction of a strip of scalp skin from the posterior region of the head. This strip is subsequently carefully dissected into individual hair follicular units, which are then transplanted into areas experiencing hair loss. This procedure is known for its capacity to deliver substantial and noticeable improvements in hair restoration
  • Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE): FUE is a minimally invasive hair transplant technique where individual hair follicles are extracted from the donor area (usually the back or sides of the head) and transplanted into balding or thinning areas. It leaves minimal scarring and has a quicker recovery time compared to FUT

Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)

LLLT involves the use of low-energy laser devices or combs that emit red light to stimulate hair follicles. It may help promote hair growth and increase the thickness of existing hair. LLLT can be done at home with over-the-counter devices or in clinical settings.

Scalp Micropigmentation (SMP)

SMP is a non-surgical cosmetic procedure where tiny pigment deposits are tattooed onto the scalp to create the illusion of a closely shaved head or denser hair. It is an effective way to camouflage bald spots and add the appearance of hair density

Self-care strategies for hair health

While medical treatments can be effective, practising good hair care habits is essential to maintaining healthy hair and potentially slowing down hair loss:

Gentle hair washing and conditioning

  • Use a mild, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner suitable for your hair type
  • Avoid washing your hair excessively, as it can strip natural oils and lead to dryness
  • Massage your scalp gently during shampooing to stimulate blood flow to the hair follicles

Avoid hot oil treatments

While some may find hot oil treatments beneficial, excessive use can lead to a greasy scalp and hair. Use them sparingly

Minimise chemical treatments

  • Refrain from at-home colouring, perming, chemical straightening, and relaxing unless you're confident in your skills or consult a professional stylist.
  • If you must use such treatments, ensure they are performed by trained professionals to minimise damage.

Limit heat styling tools

  • Curling irons and flat irons can damage hair when used frequently.
  • Reserve these tools for special occasions and use a heat protectant spray before styling.
  • Use the lowest heat setting to achieve the desired style.

Loosen tight hairstyles

  • Wearing hairstyles that pull the hair tightly, such as tight ponytails, braids, or cornrows, can lead to hair loss due to traction alopecia
  • Opt for looser hairstyles or give your hair a break from tight styles.

Gentle brushing and combing

  • Opt for a wide-toothed comb or a soft-bristle brush to carefully untangle your hair
  • When styling, be gentle while brushing or combing, and do so only as needed to avoid excessive strain that could result in breakage

Regular trimming

  • Schedule regular trims with a hairstylist to remove split ends and maintain healthy hair
  • Trimming can also help prevent split ends from travelling up the hair shaft

Balanced diet and hydration

  • Consume a nutritious diet rich in vitamins and minerals, including biotin, iron, and zinc, which are essential for hair health
  • Stay hydrated to keep your hair and scalp moisturised

Stress management

Chronic stress can contribute to hair loss. Engage in meditation, yoga, or exercise

Protect against sun and environmental damage

Protect your hair by wearing a hat or applying hair products equipped with UV protection. Additionally, take measures to safeguard your hair from severe weather conditions such as extreme cold, strong winds, and pollution.

Whether you choose medication, medical procedures, or self-care strategies, addressing hair loss is possible. Consult a dermatologistto determine the most suitable treatment for your hair loss. Remember that early intervention is often key to achieving the best results in hair loss management.