Male pattern baldness: medications help but still no cure

It happens to the best of men and the worst of men – male pattern baldness, that is.

Androgenic alopecia is the medical term for the disease, according to Vena Melendez, a physician’s assistant for Dr. Evelyn Jankowski at the Dermatology Surgical ‘ Medical Clinic of Granada Hills. However, many men could not care less about formalities. They just do not want to see it affect them, and likely disdain the day it might happen to them.

In fact, the non-fatal disease affects about 50 percent of men, and it can start at the early ages of 20 to 30, Melendez said. “Its causes are related to hormone production,” she said, explaining that the main culprit is DHT, a male hormone that interacts with testosterone. Melendez explained that the hormone increases during puberty and as the male gets older, it can affect his hair follicles, weakening them and eventually creating thinner hair over time.

“(Male pattern baldness) was likely adopted as a common way to refer to the specific pattern of hair loss that occurs,” Melendez said.

She said men usually experience loss on the top of the head, also known as the vertex or crown, and thinning at the front of the scalp, or what we commonly think of as a receding hairline, first. This is followed by thinning along the sides of the head. Eventually, men will see “a blending” of loss all around the head, where the balding on the crown meets up with the receding hairline.

Melendez said it could happen to anyone, but one’s mother and father are good indications of whether or not baldness will affect them.

This contrasts a common myth that it comes from the mother’s side of the family or that the mother is the sole carrier of the gene that causes the disease.

“It depends on the actual person, the classification of the disease and their specific genes,” Melendez said, but for the most part, she said it is inherited and can come from either parent.

Adrian Larabee, sophomore undeclared major, recognizes that he inherited his father’s genes and copes with it in his own way.

“My dad’s bald. I’m balding already, but in order to not call attention to it, I just keep my head shaved. If I do not want anyone to see where my hairline is at all, then I do a really close shave,” he said.

Melendez said there are other forms of balding, or alopecia. Melendez referred to those forms as “conditions of hair loss” and clarified that they are usually temporary and likely caused by stress or illness.

Melendez also said that women may experience balding as well, but it is more common in males. She added that women experience it differently – usually it occurs later in life and is found in small patches of thinning hair, as opposed to an overall thinning that men experience.

Jessica Cruz, junior business major, said, “I don’t think it just affects men, but I haven’t seen any bald women walking around.”

She said she noticed some bald patches on a friend’s head and asked her about it. Cruz said she believed her friend would not have told her about it if she had not asked her first.

Leila Taranti, sophomore undeclared major, said, “Guys don’t even want to talk about it, so could you imagine girls? A girl’s hair is like her best accessory. It’s everything.”

There are treatments for both men and women on the market. A common one is Rogaine, which is a liquid medication that can be found in most stores.

Another treatment for balding is Propecia, which Melendez said “works quite well to maintain and prevent future hair loss.” This medication comes in the form of a pill and can only be purchased with a prescription. Melendez said the best time to start taking medication is at the first signs of hair loss.

“They’ll know after one year whether the medication is working,” she said.

Melendez cautioned that once a patient stops taking or using a medication, the hair loss will begin to reoccur, so they must use it on a consistent basis. She also said Propecia has some side effects, such as headaches, an upset stomach, or rashes due to allergies, but these are common to most drugs. Another side effect to Propecia is erectile dysfunction, but this is not common.

“A decreased libido is one side effect, but (we have found) this occurs in less than 1 percent of men, and the studies show it occurs in 2 percent of men,” Melendez said.

Cruz said she prefers that the guy she is dating have hair.

“Not to be completely superficial, but I wouldn’t want to have a guy who’s bald at such an early age, because I wouldn’t want my kids to experience (early hair loss) ? And looks-wise, I like a guy with a lot of hair,” Cruz said.

Cruz said she believes it is a sensitive subject among men.

“The ones that I have encountered seem to not want to talk about it,” she said. “Not most are comfortable with it unless they’re bald by choice.

I’ve noticed that my dad’s going bald and he doesn’t like the fact that it’s happening, but he doesn’t really address it.”

A senior math major who wished to remain anonymous acknowledged that at 21 years old, he is already experiencing thinning hair. However, he is not afraid to talk about his experience with balding.

“I don’t hide it, but I just don’t care, mostly because I don’t really care much for superficial things anyways,” he said.

Indeed, looking around campus, there are quite a few young men who do not seem to mind showing off their balding heads. Call it aging gracefully, whatever the age.