Understanding Men’s Hair Loss: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments 

A deep dive into what causes men's hair loss and how to beat it.

four friends sitting on a hill

Introduction to Men’s Hair Loss

Hair loss is a condition in which the hair follicles cannot produce hair. Although hair loss is common for both men and women, it, unfortunately, is more common with men than women. 

According to Men’s Health Forum, two-thirds of all men will eventually be affected by male pattern baldness — in the UK, this means that 7.4 million men are losing their hair at any one time (source). Men can start to notice hair loss at any age. However, the average age of hair loss for men is around 25. With balding, some men can start losing hair as early as their teenage years. Hair loss can be temporary or permanent; the follicles may have stopped producing hair only for a certain period of time or permanently lost their ability to produce hair.

In this article, we will look at some of the causes and symptoms of male hair loss along with its treatments.

Common Types of Male Hair Loss

Male Pattern Baldness

Male pattern baldness, also named Androgenetic Alopecia, is the most common form of hair loss for men. It is caused by a genetic predisposition that makes the hair follicles more sensitive to DHT. DHT binds to receptors on the follicles, shrinking them and eventually causing them to shrink so much into a miniaturised hair shaft that falls out, resulting in thinning or receding hairline and eventual total baldness.

Male pattern baldness is gradual (source). It may start quite early on in a man’s teen years, progress for years and only show itself at the age of 50 with noticeable hair thinning, balding and a receding hairline (source).

How Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) Causes Male Pattern Baldness

DHT is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal gland. It is converted from testosterone in the body. Male pattern baldness occurs when a man has inherited genes that make hair follicles sensitive to DHT (source). It’s important to understand that this sensitivity is not caused by having “too much testosterone”, which increases DHT, but rather by a gene which makes hair follicles more sensitive to DHT (source).

The DHT-sensitive hair follicles, when exposed to DHT, react by miniaturising (reducing in size), and their lifespan shortens on each of the follicles affected by the sensitivity. This results in hair follicles that are incapable of growing healthy hair and incapable of growing out of the scalp, which causes balding (source). However, before balding miniaturised hair follicles produce thinner and finer hairs (source).

DHT-resistant hair follicles are typically found on the sides of the head and at the back (source). These hairs are usually used in hair transplantation. DHT-sensitive hair follicles are typically found on the front or top of the scalp (source). The front or top of the head is usually where the hair loss is seen caused by Male Pattern Baldness.

Can hair follicle miniaturisation be stopped or reversed?

In some cases, such as the early stages of Male Pattern Baldness where the scalp is not completely bald hair follicle miniaturisation can be reversed (source). In the case where hair has completely stopped growing and the scalp is bald, hair follicle miniaturisation cannot be reversed (source).

In cases which can be reversed, using medication such as Finasteride and Minoxidil can help those in the early stages of Male Pattern Baldness regain their hair (source). However, in more severe cases where there is complete baldness, the only treatment to regain hair may be a surgical hair transplant of DHT-resistant hair (source).

Symptoms of Male Pattern Baldness

The signs of male pattern baldness can differ. The following are some of the most common symptoms (source):

  • Thinning hair at the temples
  • Hairline receding from the forehead
  • Hairline that is higher than before
  • Widening part in the front of the scalp
  • Loss of hair on the crown (vertex)
  • Increased number of hairs that are short and thin on the top, back, and sides of the head

Treatments for Male Pattern Baldness

Treatment for this type of hair loss helps by reducing the rate at which hair is being lost, and in some cases, treatment can help to regrow hair (source). To get the best results with treatment is important for you to catch it early on and treat it as soon as possible.

Currently, at the time of writing this article, there are only two products named Finasteride and Minoxidil that are FDA approved and proven to treat Male Pattern Baldness (source).

However, men can choose to use surgical doctors for hair transplants, among other medical surgical treatments offered. Hair transplants can be effective against hair follicle miniaturisation effects because the doctor will be transplanting healthy and DHT-resistant follicles (source). Finasteride stops testosterone (a sex hormone) from turning into DHT which then stops and possibly even reverses the effects of hair follicle miniaturisation.

Minoxidil works by widening the blood vessels in the scalp, which leads to more blood flowing through the scalp (source). This can help reduce hair loss and stimulate hair growth (source).

While both products can work well as treatments, it's important to discuss the side effects with a medical professional to determine if they are the right choice for you.

Stress-Related Hair Loss

Stress is a common cause of hair loss (source). Studies show that when people are stressed, the hormone cortisol is released into the bloodstream and suppresses the immune system (source). This suppression can lead to hair loss and other health problems (source).

Stress-related hair loss is seen with Telogen Effluvium and Alopecia Areata. Unfortunately, both can be chronic, meaning hair loss may occur during period of stress. If this is something you experience you may need more of a long-term treatment plan beyond hair loss products. 

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen Effluvium is a temporary type of hair shedding and hair thinning (source). It happens when the hair follicles enter a resting phase of the hair growth cycle (source).  This resting phase is triggered by the body's response to emotional or physical stress (source). In simple terms, the hair follicles stop growing out of the scalp and instead remain beneath the scalp. If they do grow out, they are short and stunted in growth.

It’s important to note that this kind of hair loss does not start to happen immediately after a stressful event but can take 6 weeks to 3 months (source). This can make it challenging to pin hair loss to stress, but it’s best to look back to see if any event that’s stressful took place recently.

Symptoms of Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss

The most common symptoms of Telogen Effluvium are (source):

  • Sudden and dramatic hair loss that starts at the scalp
  • Hair loss that spreads to other areas of the body over time.
  • Shedding of hair in clumps or patches.
  • Scalp irritation.Hairline recedes and widens. 
  • Hair becomes thinner and finer in texture.

Treatments for Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss

In most cases, treatment may not be needed as hair grows back on its own after the stressful event has ended. However, in some cases, especially in cases where stress is prolonged, treatment may be the only option. Minoxidil can be used as an effective treatment with Telogen Effluvium as it increases blood flow to the hair follicles and stimulates hair growth (source).

Alopecia Areata 

Alopecia Areata is a type of hair loss which is caused by an autoimmune disorder (source). The disorder attacks the hair follicles directly (source). Although it usually affects hair on the scalp, it can cause hair loss in other parts of the body and the face (source).

What happens is that the immune system mistakes the hair follicle as a foreign object and starts attacking them, causing inflammation and eventual damage to the follicle cells (source). This leads to patches of baldness in different parts of the body and can be very distressing for those who suffer from it (source). In most cases, the hair loss is not permanent but temporary (source). Hair loss can begin to show weeks after the initial stressful event (source).

Symptoms of Alopecia Areata Hair Loss

You may or may not experience all these symptoms all at once (source):

  • Hair starts to fall out in clumps
  • Hairs become thinner and thinner over time
  • The scalp may become red or sore
  • Hairline recedes and widens. 
  • The hairline recedes slowly
  • Hair that breaks easily
  • Bald patches on your scalp. In some cases, the eyebrows and eyelashes also start to thin out.

Treatments of Alopecia Areata Hair Loss

Treatments for Alopecia Areata can be categorised into two:

Treatments that stop it from happening again
This type includes medications that suppress your immune system or help your body accept its hair as normal tissue again.

Treatments that help regrow lost hair
This type typically includes medication to stimulate new hair growth.

The various types of treatments for alopecia areata include topical steroids, injections with corticosteroids, immunosuppressant drugs and biologics, phototherapy, and intralesional steroid injections (source).

How to Prevent Stress Related Hair Loss

One of the best ways to prevent stress-related hair loss is to manage stress in your life. At times we cannot eradicate stress, therefore, doing things each day habitually to keep your cortisol levels healthy can make a difference.

If you suffer from hair loss due to a stressful lifestyle, below are some things you can do to make it less stressful.

Get enough sleep: chronic sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in cortisol levels (source).

Do not skip breakfast: skipping breakfast can cause an increase in cortisol in your body (source).

Exercise regularly: exercise is a natural way to relieve stress and anxiety, and it can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle (source).

Eat healthy food: healthy eating can decrease cortisol levels and reduce the stress hormone (source).

Practice yoga or meditation: yoga and meditation can decrease your cortisol levels by helping you learn how to balance your body's natural circadian rhythms with the demands of modern life (source).

Drink plenty of water: staying hydrated can positively affect your cortisol levels (source).

Take a much-needed break: go on vacation, rest and take time off any stressful activities, as this can help lower and better manage stress (source).

bald man

Chronic Tension Hair Loss

Chronic tension hair loss, also called Traction Alopecia, is a condition where the hair follicles are constantly under stress due to chronic tension (source). This constant tugging of the hair can lead to inflammation, breakage and, ultimately, baldness.

The condition is often caused by excessive use of tight hairstyles, such as braids or cornrows. It can also be caused by wearing tight headgear such as a headband or hat for long periods of time.

Symptoms of Chronic Tension Hair Loss

The following symptoms can be seen where the hair was tugged or pulled, or tied to cause the hair loss:

  • Thinning in the area where the traction occurred
  • Complete baldness in the area where there was traction
  • Thin and brittle hair where there is traction

Treatments for Chronic Tension Hair Loss

The most effective treatment for Chronic Tension Hair Loss or Traction Alopecia is to stop pulling on the hair (source). But some other treatments might help, such as using Minoxidil to stimulate hair growth in the affected areas. If braiding or how you tie your hair is the cause of hair loss, it's important to speak with a stylist to help you achieve the style you want without damaging your hair. You may also need to completely stop styling your hair in a way that harms your hair if no alterations to the style help.

Common Symptoms of Male Hair Loss

Below are some common things to look out for that may signal hair loss and help you take action and possibly prevent it from worsening. Note that the symptoms listed here are not exhaustive and that there may be others. 

Thinning Hair

This is the most common symptom of male hair loss. The hair may start to thin or recede at the temples and along the part line in a "widow's peak". The hair follicles are no longer able to produce the same amount of hair as they did in the past. This could be temporary or may progress too far more severe hair loss. Although thinning hair is not severe hair loss, it can cause a man's confidence to decrease. This is one of the reasons why some men will purchase hair products that volumise hair or mask the problem. The cause for hair thinning can be due to diet, health conditions, medications, stress, and more (source).

Complete Loss of Hair or Balding 

This is a rare but serious symptom of complete baldness on the head, eyebrows and eyelashes disappear, and even scalp hair starts to thin out. In balding, hair follicles shrink and produce less hair, which causes the scalp to become more visible. Sometimes balding can be caused by health conditions that may need to be checked by a medical professional. Therefore, do not simply ignore it when it happens, it does not hurt to confirm whether it’s normal, okay or if something is seriously wrong..

Receding Hairline 

This is when a gradual hair recession starts at the temples, leading to baldness on the top of the head or near the front hairline in some men. The hairline is the most visible part of the scalp. It's a good indicator of how much hair you have and how it's distributed. When you have a receding hairline, it means that your hair is thinning on top, and you may need to take action.

There are many reasons for this type of hair loss, such as genetics, age, stress and even medications. However, if your receding hairline is due to genetics or age, then some steps can be taken to slow down or stop the process. If your receding hairline is caused by medications, then you should consult with a doctor about changing them or stopping them altogether. Stress can also be relieved by taking time out for yourself each day in order to reduce stress levels in your life.

Unhealthy or Dry Scalp 

This is when a gradual hair recession starts at the temples, leading to baldness on the top of the head or near the front hairline in some men. A dry scalp, infected scalp or any other concerning abnormality can indicate that hair is not growing well or there is hair thinning or shedding due to an unhealthy scalp. Usually, scalp problems are a warning sign of incoming hair loss or hair growth problems. The moment you find yourself experiencing scalp problems, especially infections, it's important to get the right medical professional to check it out for the best treatment to avoid or prevent hair loss. You may be prescribed treatments such as shampoos, conditioners or ointments with medicinal properties and, in some cases, antibiotics to handle infections. .

Scalp Folliculitis Decalvans 

Although rare, this is a chronic condition that causes inflammation on the scalp, and it affects hair follicles. This can cause scarring on the scalp and cause the hair to fall out or not grow properly (source). Unfortunately, this type of hair loss tends to be permanent (source).

Male Hair Loss Myths

As two-thirds of men are to experience some form of hair loss in their lives, it is unsurprising that balding myths arise.

Myth 1: Shampoo causes hair loss
This is an old wives’ tale that has been around for decades. It claims that the shampoo we use to clean our hair will cause it to fall out. This is not true and is not backed by science (source). Instead, clean hair is healthy hair which also means better hair growth. It’s also normal to lose up to 100 hair strands a day (source).

Myth 2: Everyone goes bald by 50
Hair loss is indeed a natural part of ageing, and most people do lose some hair as they age. The myth, however, is that everyone goes bald by 50. It's not true for all men and women - some will continue to have a full head of hair well into their 80s.

Myth 3: Elevated levels of testosterone are the enemy
This myth comes from the fact that some men have DHT sensitive hair follicles. It’s not increased levels of testosterone that cause hair loss but the gene which causes your hair follicles to be DHT sensitive (source). If you don’t have this gene, DHT will not affect you in the same way it does someone that has DHT sensitivity.

Myth 4: Diet does not affect hair loss
Your hair needs important vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc, to grow healthy. In some cases, if you consistently consume a diet that completely lacks these important nutrients, your hair growth cycle can be affected, and this can cause hair loss (source). This is why gastric bypass patients are also prescribed extra nutrients to ensure they lack none, as this can cause health problems, including hair loss. 

The first step in receiving the correct and effective treatment for hair loss is first obtaining a proper diagnosis. The diagnosis will guide you to the right treatment, and it can also help you avoid unnecessary treatments that may only waste your time and money. Therefore, do not overlook getting your hair loss checked by the right medical professional. Especially when the hair loss is severe.

Different Treatments for Male Hair Loss

The first step in receiving the correct and effective treatment for hair loss is first obtaining a proper diagnosis. The diagnosis will guide you to the right treatment, and it can also help you avoid unnecessary treatments that may only waste your time and money. Therefore, do not overlook getting your hair loss checked by the right medical professional. Especially when the hair loss is severe.

There are many different treatments, which vary in their effectiveness, price and safety. In this section, we will discuss some common treatments that have been proven to work well on male hair loss.

DHT Blocking Shampoo

DHT causes hair follicles to shrink and eventually leads to thinning or loss of hair. DHT blocking shampoos are formulated with ingredients that block this hormone from reaching the scalp, slowing the shrinking process caused due to DHT and preventing further damage. These types of shampoos are designed to help slow down the production of DHT too. While these products may not regrow lost hair, they can help prevent further hair loss (source).

Although many ingredients used in DHT blocking shampoos are supported by scientific evidence, none should be considered an alternative or substitute for FDA-approved hair loss medications (source). However, you can and probably should use DHT blocking shampoos along with other proven hair medications. Consult a dermatologist or hair loss professional to double-check if all products used together will not be harmful to you. 

Common DHT Blocking Shampoo Ingredients

Here are two popular DHT-blocking shampoo ingredients proven to be beneficial for hair loss:

Saw Palmetto
Saw Palmetto is a plant, and its berries are used for multiple medicinal purposes (source). The extract of Saw Palmetto is an ingredient found in many hair loss shampoos, and it has been shown to block DHT (source).

Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seed oil has been used for centuries in various cultures. It was mostly used as an ingredient in cooking, but now it has become popular for its health benefits (source). It can help block the DHT hormone, thus fighting hair loss (source). It’s also been shown to help stimulate hair growth (source).

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is an FDA-approved treatment and one of the most popular treatments for hair loss in men, and it has been proven to be effective in some cases. It may not work for everyone, and it may not work for all hair loss cases (source). It's an over-the-counter product that you apply directly on your scalp twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, for as long as you want to keep using it. With this treatment, you can expect results to peak after several months of consistent use (source). 

How Minoxidil Works

The process of how Minoxidil works is not fully understood by scientists (source). However, Minoxidil is a vasodilator, and it is believed that it helps the blood vessels to relax and widen (source). When this happens, more blood is able to flow through the veins and reach the scalp (source). This leads to an increased supply of oxygen, which stimulates hair follicles and promotes hair growth (source).

The Benefits of Minoxidil 

  • Helps to stop the progress of hereditary baldness
  • Increases blood flow to the scalp
  • Reduces shedding from follicles
  • Slows down or stops hair thinning

Finasteride

Finasteride is a prescription drug that's used to treat hair loss in men. It’s available as an oral tablet and can be found at your local pharmacy (source). It works by preventing the conversion of testosterone into DHT (source). It’s another FDA-approved treatment for hair loss (source). Just like Minoxidil, Finasteride may not work for everyone and it depends on your specific condition.

How Finasteride Works

Finasteride works by blocking the production of DHT (source). DHT is the hormone that causes hair follicles in your scalp to shrink, which leads to hair loss. By blocking DHT's production, Finasteride prevents hair follicles from shrinking and reduces hair loss.

The Benefits of Finasteride 

  • Slows down hair loss
  • Promotes new hair growth in men with Male Pattern Baldness
  • Targets the root cause of Male Pattern Baldness by blocking the relationship between DHT and DHT-sensitive hair follicles

Hair Transplants

Hair transplant surgery is another effective treatment option for men who experience hair loss, especially severe balding. It is a surgical procedure that involves removing hair from a donor area or other parts of the body and implanting it in the bald or thinning areas of the scalp (source).

Hair transplant surgery can be done on any body part where there is enough hair to harvest. The harvested hair can be used to add volume to the bald or thinning area of your scalp. The best candidates for this procedure are those who have a good density of follicles and are not suffering from any medical condition that may impact their ability to heal properly after surgery.

How a Hair Transplant Works

In the case of Male Pattern Baldness, a surgical doctor will harvest hair follicles that are DHT resistant in order for them to survive where DHT sensitive hair follicles have died or stopped growing (source). In most cases, hair from the sides and back of the head is harvested as they are most likely to be DHT resistant (source).

The Benefits of a Hair Transplant

Before considering the benefits below (source), it’s also important to consult a medical professional to go through all the pros and cons:

  • Effective for bald spots that oral treatments can't fix
  • More permanent in most cases
  • Allows you to "tailor" your hairline to your choice
  • Improved appearance and increased confidence
  • Low maintenance as it is a natural process of growing hair and does not need special products for maintenance
  • Other Ingredients that can Stimulate Hair Growth

    Caffeine
    Although not clinically proven to block DHT, a lab study revealed that caffeine was shown to somewhat neutralise some of the negative effects of DHT (source). By applying caffeine to the scalp, it can theoretically stimulate your hair follicles, causing your hair to grow longer. Although this means it can help grow hair, it’s important to note that lab studies further don’t always translate into the real world as they are normally conducted in very controlled environments.

    It’s also worth noting that the lab study done for this experiment was only for the topical application of caffeine and not consumption (source). However, in another study done on the effectiveness of caffeine, it was found that caffeine alone was able to counteract the effects of testosterone and further stimulate significant hair growth (source).

    Therefore, when purchasing a shampoo or other hair product that has caffeine or especially relies on caffeine as the main active ingredient to stimulate hair growth, be aware that it may or may not give guaranteed results. Use these products with caution.

    Peppermint Oil
    While not clinically proven to block DHT, Peppermint Oil has the ability to stimulate blood flow in the scalp and follicles (source). This helps with circulation, which in turn helps with hair growth by delivering oxygen and nutrients needed for healthy follicles (source).

Conclusion

Hair loss in men is a condition that is caused by many factors. Some of these factors are genetic, hormonal, nutritional or environmental. Hair loss can affect a man’s self-esteem and confidence which can lead to different psychological problems such as depression or anxiety. It can also lead to social isolation from friends and family, which only worsens the problem. This means it’s incredibly important for men to seek out help for this condition, as there are effective and proven treatments which can help. It’s also better to seek help sooner than later as the less severe the hair loss is, the more easily treatable it is with a prescription or over-the-counter medication. This means a more invasive treatment, such as a hair transplant, can be avoided.

It’s also important to avoid the temptation of self-diagnosing yourself or loved ones but consult a medical professional that will run tests to find out and confirm what the cause of hair loss is. This will help in determining the most effective treatment for your kind of hair loss.

Product Round Up - Tackle Men's Hair Loss

Patricks SH1 Daily Hair Thickening Shampoo for Men
PATRICKS SH1 Daily Thickening Shampoo
Patricks SH1 Daily Hair Thickening Shampoo for Men
PATRICKS SH1 Daily Thickening Shampoo

PATRICKS SH1 Daily Thickening Shampoo

PATRICKS CD1 | Stimulating & Thickening Conditioner
PATRICKS CD1 | Stimulating & Thickening Conditioner
PATRICKS CD1 | Stimulating & Thickening Conditioner
PATRICKS CD1 | Stimulating & Thickening Conditioner
PATRICKS CD1 | Stimulating & Thickening Conditioner
PATRICKS CD1 | Stimulating & Thickening Conditioner

PATRICKS CD1 Stimulating & Thickening Conditioner

Sons The DHT Blocking Shampoo for Daily Use
Sons The DHT Blocking Shampoo for Daily Use
Sons The DHT Blocking Shampoo for Daily Use
Sons The DHT Blocking Shampoo for Daily Use
Sons The DHT Blocking Shampoo for Daily Use
Sons The DHT Blocking Shampoo for Daily Use

Sons The DHT Blocking Shampoo for Daily Use

Aesop Volumising Shampoo
Aesop Volumising Shampoo

Aesop Volumising Shampoo

PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray
PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray
PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray
PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray
PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray
PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray
PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray
PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray
PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray
PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray
PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray
PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray

PATRICKS RD1 Anti Hairloss Spray

Sons Minoxidil 5% Cutaneous Solution
Sons Minoxidil 5% Cutaneous Solution
Sons Minoxidil 5% Cutaneous Solution
Sons Minoxidil 5% Cutaneous Solution
Sons Minoxidil 5% Cutaneous Solution
Sons Minoxidil 5% Cutaneous Solution

Sons Minoxidil 5% Cutaneous Solution