Will you go bald?

Dan Rookwood
Friday, June 6, 2008
Image: Getty

Women don't have the monopoly on body image issues. Blokes get just as hung up about their looks. Male paranoia exists too. One of the most worrying aspects; balding.

Will you go bald?
Baldness currently affects up to 30 percent of men by the age of 30 and more than 50 percent by 50, according to researchers at Palacky University in the Czech Republic. One large-scale study in Victoria showed that baldness affects 73.5 percent of men over the age of 80. So the answer to the question is most probably yes. Eventually.

Does baldness run in your family?
You can normally blame your heirs for any missing hairs. Geneticists used to think that male pattern baldness (the most common form of hair loss in men) was passed down from the mother's side of the family. But the experts at the Institute of Trichologists now think that the father's genetics are equally responsible. So if granddad was a baldie, it might not just be his carriage clock you stand to inherit.

What's your diet like?
"Crash dieting and exclusion diets can cause heavy hair loss in some individuals," says Marilyn Sherlock, chairwoman of the Institute of Trichologists. "Hair is very sensitive to a change in nutrients." A lack of iron can have an impact, so eat some red meat and drink a pint of Guinness — that'll put hair on your chest and hopefully keep some on your head too.

Speaking of which, have you got any hairs on your chest?
Androgens, the group of hormones responsible for hair loss, are also linked to prodigious body hair and beard growth. Some studies suggest that regular removal of body hair can increase hair thickness and growth on the scalp. Better book in for that back, sack and crack wax then, just to be on the safe side.

Have you been working out?
Regular aerobic exercise can help keep androgen levels naturally lower while maintaining overall health and lowering stress. But getting uber-massive in the free weights room can increase testosterone and aggression levels and that could possibly lead to increased hair loss.

Were you spotty at school?
Teenage acne is often caused by raging hormones which, if they continue their adolescent angst, could lead to hair loss from early adulthood. However, it's only a minor indicator. The same hormones are said to influence sex drive but it is not thought there is any link between virility and baldness.

Do you ever get stressed out?
Don't tear your hair out with worry. "There is no clinical evidence that stress leads to hair loss," says Sherlock. However, a 2004 study on stressed-out mice reported in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggested a possible link in humans between accelerated baldness and emotional stress or traumas such as surgery, poisoning or being forced to join the rat race.

What race and age are you?
The highest rates of male pattern baldness are found in Caucasians, followed by Afro-Caribbeans. Chinese and Japanese men have the lowest rates. For some undiscovered reason, this form of hair loss does not occur at all in Native Americans.

Statistically most of us will go bald eventually unless a miracle cure is found — and scientists are confident they are close. "There have been tremendous advances in the treatment of hair loss in recent years and the future is very encouraging," says a report in America Journal of Clinical Dermatology.

So what can you do about it?

If you're bald
Accept that bald is beautiful. Get what hair you have left shaved to grade one or zero, and revel in it. Whatever you do, don't try and compensate with a comb-over or hairpiece. Not even Donald Trump, with all his money, can successfully pull that off.

If you're prepared to go through the expense and the ordeal of surgery, visit trichology.edu.au for a list of reputable surgeons — ie: the kind of people who don't need to advertise in the box next to "Tranny Granny Panting For You" at the back of Australian Penthouse magazine.

If you're going bald
All is not yet lost, despite evidence in the plughole to the contrary. It's easier to slow down hair loss than promote new hair growth and Regaine (containing five percent minoxidil) is one of only two treatments to have Food and Drug Administration approval in the US so far. The other is a prescription drug called Propecia. Give all other supposed miracle cures — such as lasers and anything Shane Warne tries to flog with an uncharacteristically lame delivery — a very wide berth.

If you've got a full head of hair
Make sure you exercise sensibly and take multivitamins. Or hell, you could even eat some fruit and veg — the colourful foods in that annoying aisle you walk past to get to the pork chops. Another tip? Rather than go for a supposedly "volumising" shampoo, just use Head & Shoulders. According to a study in our well-thumbed back issue of Dermatology Times from 1992, anti-dandruff shampoos slow hair loss by soothing irritation of hair follicles.

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