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Male Pattern Baldness

Male Pattern Baldness

For men who have male pattern baldness, the worst part is the inevitability of it all. It has been known for thousands of years that hair loss for men is usually hereditary: If your father and uncles and grandfathers went bald, the odds were pretty good that you would, too. For many, the morning finally arrives when the evidence becomes clear that they are, yes, losing their hair.

The most common look of men who are losing their hair is something we've come to call "male pattern baldness." The scientific name for the condition, "androgenic alopecia" (which is Latin for "male pattern baldness). Studies have shown that the cause is usually genetic, specifically an inherited predisposition for the hair follicles to be sensitive to a form of male hormone called dihydrotestoterone (DHT). When men who have inherited this sensitivity reach a certain age - for some it happens earlier than for others - the hair follicles on their heads begins to react to the DHT and begin to shrink and slow down production of hair.

The classic pattern is a receding hairline at the front, forming what is sometimes called a "widower's peak," causing an "M" shape to the line. As the pattern progresses, the entire top of the head loses its hair, leaving just a fringe around the sides and back. All of this can take many years to occur, but the person who is going bald usually notices sooner rather than later that he is losing his hair. The first reaction, of course, is, "What can I do?"

That is the big question, and men, being men, have been attempting to "do something" for many centuries. The first, and most obvious, attempt at a solution to baldness was to rub something on their heads. In ancient Greece, they tried raw, sliced garlic, which not only didn't work but had its own issues. Since ancient times in India, various spices and oils have been used, also without effect. Archaeologists have determined that the Aztecs used a paste made from hot peppers. During the Middle Ages in England, goose droppings were applied to the balding area, although the logic isn't clear to us now; just as strange was the trend a few centuries later when the English tried rubbing on fat rendered from foxes. More recent American folk remedies have varied from applying rosemary steeped in warm water to washing the head in apple cider, supposedly with the idea that these cleansed the scalp of excess oils and kept the hair roots clean and able to "breathe."

Oddly enough, there is one folk remedy which does seem to have some effect: coffee. Shampooing what hair remains with cold coffee or even patting the pate with coffee grounds seems to at least slow down, if not stop, hair loss in men. How this was discovered remains a mystery (maybe someone got the idea that coffee would "excite" the scalp?), but the results were observable. Recent studies have shown that the caffeine in coffee can block DHT to some degree, so there is an actual scientific basis to the coffee treatment. The operative word, however, is "treatment" and not "cure."

It wasn't until the 1990s that two drugs were discovered which have been scientifically proven to stop and even reverse male pattern baldness. The first, called minoxidil (marketed under the name Rogaine) is applied topically (rubbed onto the scalp). The other is called finasteride (marketed as Propecia and Proscar) and is taken in a pill form to actually interfere with the production of DHT. Use of either of these drugs has been shown to be effective. In both cases, however, the effects only last as long as the medication is used. Once you stop using them, you're back to square one. Some people also experience unwanted side effects. For those who are sensitive to these products, there are alternative scalp treatment solutions which help to promote healthy growth and reduce fallout. Hand-held laser devices are also available as an alternative to topical treatments. They work by stimulating hair follicles and thereby promoting growth without the side effects of topical treatments.

These over the counter products are as much an option as hair transplants, weaves, toupees or even the old stand-by, the buzz-cut. Whatever you choose, at least you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you are taking charge of the situation. As inevitable as male pattern baldness seems there is one thing you can do that will make a great deal of difference: take care of the hair you have left!

Neglecting your remaining hair can actually speed up the process of hair loss. Treasure those last strands during their brief existence on earth. Shampoo with a good effective product to keep your follicles clean and clear of excess oils and dead skin cells. It is possible, after all, to be both bald and have dandruff. Use a conditioner to keep the luster and healthy appearance of your hair. There are specialized shampoos and conditioners which nourish the follicle and help increase circulation in order to promote healthy growth so take advantage of the resources available. You'll look and feel better.

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