To commemorate Prince William’s 40th birthday on June 21, the Royal Mint has unveiled a new £5 coin, complete with a suitably regal image of the Duke of Cambridge, albeit with significantly more hair than he actually has. While the design is based on a 2018 picture of the Prince, it’s a reminder that he’s long been afflicted with early onset male pattern baldness, not that he needs reminding.
He’s not alone. Around a third of men over 30 in the United Kingdom will already be losing their hair, a figure that rises to around 80% by the time they reach 70. For many men, it’s a stressful and embarrassing condition, especially if you’re still young. Indeed, a recent employment tribunal ruled that calling a man ‘bald’ is sex-related harassment, akin to commenting on the size of a woman’s breasts.
Another survey, meanwhile, suggests men fear losing their hair more than they fear not finding a long-term partner or even going bankrupt.
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For the most part, it’s down to a condition called androgenetic alopecia, or what’s more commonly called male pattern baldness.
“Androgenic alopecia is caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors and you’re more likely to be affected if you have a close relative who was affected and this can be inherited from one or both of your parents,” explains Dr Christos Tziotzios, Consultant Dermatologist from Chiswick Medical Centre at The Lister Hospital (part of HCA Healthcare UK).
“This happens because a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) causes changes in the hair follicles of the scalp. The affected follicle produces smaller, shorter and lighter hairs until the follicle no longer produces any hairs at all.”
According to the American Hair Loss Association, up to 95% of hair loss in men is caused by this largely hereditary complaint, although there are a range of other reasons it might happen…
1. Alopecia Areata
Hair loss, in both men and women, can also be caused by alopecia areata, a condition that prompts your immune system to attack healthy hair follicles. There are approximately 100,000 sufferers of alopecia areata in the UK and it can cause rapid hair loss.
Recently, however, a US drugs company, Concert Pharmaceuticals, have trialled a new drug to treat it and the results have been encouraging with four in 10 patients being able to regrow a full head of hair within six months of taking it.
2. Nutritional deficiency
If you’re lacking in vitamin D then you might be prone to hair loss. That’s because one of the roles vitamin D plays is in stimulating hair follicles, both old and new and when there’s isn’t enough of it, it can prevent normal hair growth. Deficiencies in riboflavin, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12 have also been linked with hair loss.
You may find that taking particular kinds of medication can also cause you hair to fall out, especially if you’re having chemotherapy treatment. Other medications, such as blood pressure drugs and antidepressants can also cause premature hair loss, although often this is temporary with the hair returning once the treatment concludes.
4. Stress and anxiety
The average person loses 50-100 hairs each day, usually without even noticing. But if you find that you’re losing more then it might be down to your stress levels, or what’s called telogen effluvium. Having anxiety or stress can force your hair follicles into a resting phase, meaning that new hair isn’t generated to replace the hair you lose naturally.
If your diet is poor too, which often happens when stress levels are high, the problem can be exacerbated. Male pattern hair loss can occur any time after puberty, and the earlier the onset of symptoms the quicker the progression,” adds Dr Tziotzios. “This can cause a large amount of psychological distress which can worsen the hair loss.”
What can you do about it?
First, the bad news. There is no cure for male pattern baldness – but there are treatments to help slow it down. For men, that means over the counter products that you apply to your scalp that contain finasteride (a pill) and minoxidil (a topical lotion/shampoo) but be warned they won’t work for everyone and if they do you’ll have to keep using them in perpetuity. Typically, they’re also not available through the NHS and can also be very expensive.
Hair transplants are increasingly popular, and no longer realistic, too. From the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, to music legend Elton John, from Lewis Hamilton to David Beckham, they all rumoured to have had a little work done on their thinning hair.
“Surgical treatment can lead to excellent outcome and the most common one is hair transplantation where follicles are removed from the back and side of your scalp and transplanted into the areas affected,” says Dr Tziotzios. “Just make sure you choose a reputable clinic and that the surgeon you see is fully registered with the British Association of Plastic Reconstruction and Aesthetic Surgeons. “
But they don’t always work. Former Take That singer Robbie Williams had a hair transplant in 2013 and was going to have another in 2020 but was told that his hair was now too thin for it to work.
Similarly, football star Wayne Rooney has also undergone several transplants, none of which have really worked successfully. They’re costly too and you can expect to pay anywhere from £2,000 right up to £30,000, depending on the amount and type of work required.
Laser therapy is also common. It uses lasers or red light to boost circulation and stimulate the follicles to grow new hair. While it’s not cheap, it is painless and not as invasive as a hair transplant.
You can find out more about hair transplants on the HCA website.
Watch: What is alopecia?