1. Look For Clues
Forget clumps of hair in your sink. Male pattern baldness comes slowly, as hair follicles close in reaction to hormones produced by your body, says Dr Bessam Farjo, hair loss expert and founder of the Farjo Medical Centre.
A hair’s life cycle is up to seven years – then it drops out, and a new one grows in its place. Unless the follicle’s shut up shop. But by then, you’re half a decade too late to take action.
“You’re likely to start losing your hair in two places,” says Lilly Dillon, trichologist and managing barber at London grooming mecca Ruffians. “At the temples or on the crown.” Or, in some unfortunate cases, both.
Early action is most effective at halting the retreat, but since receding is gradual it can be hard to notice. Compare your current hairline to old Facebook profile snaps to check if your forehead’s grown, and quiz your barber about your hard-to-check crown.
The old wives’ tale about baldness skipping a generation isn’t true (sorry), but receding hairlines are hereditary, says Farjo. So even if you’re not noticing thinning, a family photo album full of cue balls means that either you’re adopted, or baldness is inevitable.
2. Raid The Medicine Cabinet
There are only two recognised treatments for hair loss, says Dillon: Propecia, taken orally, which prevents your body producing the follicle-closing hormone, and Minoxidil, labelled as Regaine, which you apply straight to the scalp to encourage the follicles to stay open.
Both are clinically proven to work, but don’t expect miracles, warns Farjo. Though these treatments prevent further loss, neither can actually grow hair back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. So start as soon as you suspect you’re getting lighter up top.
3. Get Stimulated
If the drugs don’t work, all isn’t lost. “Once you have thinning hair, you should start to use a stimulating or clarifying shampoo,” says Dillon.
The idea that regular washing encourages droppage is a myth. “It works in a similar way to the topical solution and encourages the hair follicles to stay open, keeps them cleansed and means they’re less likely to block up.” Look for menthol and tea tree on the label for a hair-saving power-up.
4. Style It Out
There’s no shame in beating a tactical retreat. Accepting your hair loss means choosing a style that works with what’s left. But know that no one’s ever been fooled by a combover. “There’s a lot of options for guys with thinning hair,” says Dillon. “A buzzcut, growing facial hair or a textured crop can all work really well.”
It might seem counter-intuitive, but taking some length out of the fringe, so your hairline stays straight either side, can give the impression you’ve got more up top.
You need smarter products too. Gel ensures scalp shows through, but a dose of sea salt spray thickens what’s thinning and adds some much-needed volume.
5. The Last Resort: Go Under The Knife
It’s the drastic choice, but modern surgery can undo much of the damage from male pattern baldness. Healthy follicles are transplanted from your neckline to your scalp, where they grow as usual. But there’s a limit to how much you can cover, says Farjo, since you’re only blessed with a finite number of transferable follicles.
Be prepared to play the waiting game. Hair loss continues for up to 30 years, so choose surgery early and your new hair will soon be isolated as the rest continues to recede. Instead, use Propecia and Regaine to apply the brakes, then the surgeon’s scalpel once balding stops. The Wayne Rooney look isn’t one to emulate.