Male Pattern Baldness

By Steve Watson
February 23, 2021

A receding hairline can be a traumatising experience for many men, but why does it happen? This post begins a series in which we look at the various options available to counter a receding hairline.

“He (Julius Caesar) was embarrassed by his baldness, which was a frequent subject of jokes on the part of his opponents; so much so that he used to comb his straggling locks forward from the back, and of all honours heaped upon him by senate and people, the one he most appreciated was to be able to wear a wreath at all times.” Suetonius

Anguish over a receding hairline is nothing new. Men from all walks of life throughout history have experienced the same harsh reality of the uncontrollable changing of their appearance. I find it fascinating that Julius Caesar, with his vast wealth, power, stature, virility, military might and the ego to harness all of these things in full measure, appreciated above all honours a wreath he could wear to hide his hairline. 

The Psychological Impact

As a barber, I am keenly aware of how self-conscious men can be about their receding hairline. Some men are quite open about it and point out their concerns at the beginning of their haircut. Others skirt around the issue like it’s an anathema, and simply want to grow the top out, no further discussion. 

A receding hairline can have quite a far reaching psychological impact such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sense of embarrassment, self-consciousness, withdrawal from social events etc. Our hair is a huge part of our identity and, by it, we signal to others something about ourselves. If our choice in how we want to wear our hair is lost then we may feel we have lost something of our identity. 

It‘s all too easy to pass off someone’s receding hairline with comments like, “Ah, don’t worry about it” or “Just buzz it all off”, but throwaway comments to a man about his hair can be like firing arrows into him. Don’t do it. 

Who is affected by male pattern baldness?

Statistics show that one-in-three men aged between mid-teens to late 20s will begin the process of male pattern baldness. By the age of 35, two-thirds of men will experience hair loss to some degree. At 50, approximately 85% of men will have experienced significant hair loss.

Why is it called male pattern baldness?

A receding hairline is called ‘male pattern baldness’ because it describes the typical pattern by which hair loss occurs in men. The stages of balding are classified by a chart known as the Norwood Scale, made up of 7 stages.

Stage 1 is the control stage where there is no evidence of the hair receding. Stages 2 to 7 show increasing levels of recession until only the hair on the sides remains. 

What causes male pattern baldness?

Male pattern baldness is in the genes; it is a hereditary condition that cannot be cured. We have no more control over a receding hairline than any other physical attribute. Though not yet fully understood it is known that male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of genetics and an imbalance of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT for short. 

DHT is a hormone produced in the body by converting testosterone, and is responsible for many of the physiological changes that occur during puberty, particularly those pertaining to reproduction. The irony is that the very hormone responsible for causing bodily hair to grow is also responsible for hair loss on the head. High levels of DHT cause the hair follicle (the pocket in which hair grows) to shrink over time, resulting in the hair gradually being replaced by shorter and thinner hairs until they have disappeared entirely. see illustration below.

Medication such as Finasteride help reduce the amount of DHT in the body and can help manage male pattern baldness. I'll cover medication in more detail in a future post.

What options are available?

1) Go short

2) Clean shave 

3) Medication 

4) Transplant

Posts in this series:

1. Male Pattern Baldness

2. Hairstyles That Suit Male Pattern Baldness

3. Treatments for Hair Loss

4. Hair Transplant - The Bald Truth

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Steve Watson
Author and founder of Watson's barber's
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