Hair loss and balding in middle life

Is hair loss really a problem?

Hair loss in middle life
Middle life crisis through changing image

Hair loss seems to bother a number of men, it seems to be a part of middle life crisis for men as a sign of aging. Whilst it is apparently uncool to be losing hair, although most of opinion comes from the Internet and advertising boards (mostly set up by hair restoration clinics) and since the issue is so widespread, surely the balding men outnumber the woolly ones. So is it really a problem? What causes it and how to treat it.

Different sources cite different figures but one must take caution when analyzing unreferenced views and statistics, hair loss recovery clinics tend to overstate figures to manipulate the figures on their websites and in their brochures, statistics like "most men would rather have no sex than no hair on the head" are somewhat unreliable (and ,frankly, worrying). We will break down the causes, the effects of baldness, known treatments and practical solutions.

Male middle life crisis and hair loss
Male problem of hair loss is very common

It has been studied that a significant percentage of the male population starts to lose hair by the age of 35, some clinics claim that 40% of men have noticeable hair loss by the age of 35, whilst NHS (National Health Service, UK) claims that roughly 1/3 of men start to lose hair by the age of 45. Despite the differences in figures and statistics, it is clear that hair loss seems to be a widespread condition for men and a far rarer problem for women. It is perhaps a poor choice of words to call it a "problem".

Like many physical changes in post-adolescence such as putting on weight, increasing fatigue and changing sleeping patterns - hair loss is usually a sign of age. Other sources tend to over complicate the subject, so in brief - what exactly causes hair loss?

Physiology of hair loss:

Male middle life crisis and hair loss
DHT - the hormone behind hair loss

The majority of hair thinning in men (up to 95% of cases) is caused by androgenic alopecia. It typically begins with a receding hairline from the lateral sides of the forehead whilst combining with a thinning frown, at the top of the head, eventually they meet (occasionally leaving an island at the tip of the front of the head) to produce a curved horse-shoe shape kind of shape of remaining hair.

Dihydrotestosterone, also known as DHT is a sex hormone, responsible for head, body and facial hair as well as having some effect on the prostate. When testosterone (main male hormone) is converted into dihydrotestosterone, although it is not yet fully researched how DHT works and how it causes baldness but it is thought that certain people's hair follicles are more sensible to DHT, which causes the process of follicular miniaturization (a follicle is the organ responsible for the hair production), which leads to hair's detriment. The growth phase of hair is shortened and the hair struggles to develop and to mature. After a while the hair becomes thinner, rarer and its volume reduces and eventually the hair follicles become unable to produce hair, remaining dormant.

Genes influence on thinning hair:

There is not much one can do about it if it caused by genes, some studies have demonstrated that men who's fathers have had experienced hair loss were up to 250% as likely to experience hair loss themselves, regardless of mother's genes. However mother's genes play a significant part in the process as well, and previously it was widely believed that maternal grandfather had the most effect on the process of baldness. Currently genes that are thought to be responsible for hair loss have been identified and when it comes to practical terms there is a 4 in 7 chance of receiving the baldness gene.

Known treatments for hair loss and hair growth recovery

Male hair loss treatment
Minoxodil - a treatment for hair loss

Considering the information above especially the genes bit it is important to look at treatments. Although some treatments can postpone or slow down the hair loss process, there is no cure for male baldness. The two well known and approved treatments for male baldness are "minoxidil" and "finasteride".

Minoxidil is applied topically directly to the scalp to assist the hair follicles as a solution a gel or a foam. Taking two weeks to start working, for many men it has slowed down hair loss and for some others it had reversed hair loss, helping the hair follicles.

Finasteride is taken in form of pills that block testosterone to be converted into DHT, which slows down hair loss (incidentally, since DHT contributes to prostate growth, these pills are used to treat enlarged prostate and may even decrease the risk of prostate cancer). Takes up to three months to see an effect. If the treatments are stopped, the recovery is also stopped.

Some advise to combine two of these treatments for maximum effect. But please check with your doctor to find out more. These two treatments have shown to work and are available with UK National Health Service, for example, with prescription )

Other treatments for baldness include transplants and laser operations. But instead of going for treatment are there any benefits or advantages of having a bald head?

How are men with thinning hair and bald head are perceived in comparison to those with full head of hair.

Bald male - wisdom
Bald head as a sign of wisdom in mid life

There appears to be a lot of misunderstanding regarding how bald men are perceived.
Dr. Thomas Cash of Old Dominion University, based in Virginia conducted a study which showed that bald men were seen to be "more intelligent". This can be attributed to cultural icons such as British Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart (better known as Dr. Charles Xavier from X-men and Capt. Jean Luc Picard from Star Trek), Ghandi, Bhuddist leaders. Noticeable politicians such as William Hague, Vladimir Putin and powerful men from the past such as Khrushchev, Gorbachev ,Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower. It is well known that Julius Ceasar was bald in fact many powerful Romans and Greeks have been bald. Didn't stop them from running very powerful states.

Balding royalty - masculinity
Bald head common among royalty

Most male royalty in Europe right now is either bald or with thinning hair, even the younger examples of Princes William and Harry. So it is worth noting that Julius Ceasar worn a headpiece to cover (or to highlight) his balding head, that eventually gave rise to crowns.

Other studies find that bald men come visually across as possessing greater leadership skills.

If we look at the world of business and corporate dealings, many bald or balding men have risen all the way to the top, think of Steve Jobs for a start.

Bald male - leader
Bald headed men make better leaders?

University of Pennsylvania's Albert Mannes conducted a study to see how perception of a person changes depending on the hairline. The test asked participants to look at the images of men whose hair had been removed graphically and it was found that that bald men were perceived to be more dominant, taller, stronger and more powerful, partly because the look has appeared to be "hypermasculine", as culturally soldiers and action flicks heroes like Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Vin Diesel, Rock are masculine and coincidentally bald. Bruce Willis had shaved his hair prior to starring in Pulp Fiction and has stayed with the look since.

Bald male - masculinity
Bald head is associated with masculinity

Another study showed that men with shaven heads were even perceived as an inch taller and about 13% stronger than those with hair. Men with shaven heads appear more athletic.

Athletes also tend to cut their hair short, for a few reasons, sprinters, swimmers and footballers in particular benefit from improved thermodynamics and even more so from heat dissipation through uncovered heads which allows quicker recovery and better physical performance.
Famous examples in football (aka Soccer in some countries) are Zinedine Zidane, Freddie Ljungberg, Henry, Theo Walcott who had shaven their heads completely and have not lost confidence, written themselves into records books. Whilst Wayne Rooney since restoring his hair, seems to have lost the touch and ability. Middle life hair loss in sportsmen is very common and they don't seem to go through a crisis.

Balding athletes
Thinning hair is common among athletes

To highlight however, men with shaved heads were rated lower in attractiveness, however still more attractive than men with thinning hair who were ranked most unattractive. So if your hair is thinning, perhaps a solution would be to shave your head.

Pros and cons of being bald and losing hair or the balance in middle life crisis

Pros

Screams confidence
Makes one appear more dominant, mature, masculine, stronger, taller, powerful
Makes one seem to appear to have better leadership skills
Save a lot of funds, time and effort looking after hair, no shampoo, conditioner, haircuts or gels.
Practical
Healthy - allows the body to dissipate heat quicker, and if it is cold you can always wear a hat
Some women do actually prefer bald men
No bad hair days
Prevail when substance is needed over style
Makes one take the effort to look better

Cons

Attempt to cover thinning hair
Middle life crisis - hiding your age

No hair
Makes one appear less friendly, less attractive
Makes ears stick out

Conclusion

When it comes to attractiveness, from the female point of view, what is important is confidence in men and whilst the loss of hair is noticeable it is not as noticeable or as important as the loss of confidence. Middle life crisis is perhaps to a part accepting your age, or even embracing it. Hair loss is a very minor part of it. If you think about it more than twice a week, just get rid of it you will be glad of it, besides you're not fooling anybody by trying to style it any differently (and it's actually rather insulting that you think anybody would be so stupid as to be taken in by it).

Attempt to shave thinning hair
Middle life opportunity - embracing hair loss

Being bald is absolutely fine; trying desperately to hide the fact that you are bald (or balding) is not. Feeble attempts just scream a lack of self-confidence and demonstrate an array of complexes. One study in mid 80-ies analysed men who were losing their hair. They described themselves as filled with self-consciousness, helplessness, and envy of men with full heads of hair.

Do hair loss clinics provide solution to non-existent problems?

The times have changed and so have the perceptions, frankly speaking hair loss is no longer relevant, and although it may appear to be slightly, SLIGHTLY! Less attractive, one can compensate for it by working out more, picking better things to wear and most important of all - confidence. This article is rightly put into the style section since, medically speaking, hair loss is not a issue of physical health. More of a mental problem that is easy to overcome. Unfortunately the media and the hair loss attempts to make a big fuss about hair. In reality it is not much of an issue. Embrace the fact that if you're losing hair you might ooze cool and authority.