Our hair is not only a major part of our physical appearance but also intrinsic to our identity. Society associates hair with prosperity and vitality; for men, hair is seen as a symbol of virility and strength. The thought of gradually losing that sense of identity can undoubtedly be overwhelming.
Unfortunately, hair loss is a natural phenomenon for men as they age. Around 30% to 50% of men experience hair loss by the age of 50. Hair loss at an earlier age can result in a person feeling physically and socially less attractive, less virile, and less likable leading to low self-esteem.
According to a multinational study, over 70% of men consider hair an important feature of their self-image, and 62% say that hair loss could affect self-esteem. Losing hair was linked to perceptions of losing attractiveness in 43% of men, fear of becoming bald in 42%, negative effects on social life in 22%, and feelings of depression in 21% of men surveyed.
Is it possible to reverse hair loss and regain one’s self-esteem?
The beauty and wellness industry offers a vast array of products and treatments promising to do just that, but they don’t often work for many men. Some natural ways to promote hair growth and prevent hair loss include:
Proper Hair Care
Proper hair care is important for maintaining healthy hair and preventing hair loss. Make sure to use a gentle shampoo and conditioner that is designed for your hair type. Avoid using hot water when washing your hair and try to limit the use of hair dryers, flat irons, and other heat-styling tools.
Improved Diet and Nutrition
A balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help promote healthy hair growth. Foods that are high in protein, iron, and biotin can be particularly beneficial. Consider adding foods like eggs, spinach, nuts, and beans to your diet.
Fish oil extract has been shown to stimulate hair growth. Mackerel-derived fermented fish oil extract and its component docosahexaenoic acid interact with and increase dermal papilla cells and other cells inside the hair follicle, leading to hair lengthening and growth.
Biotin supplements have some degree of efficacy in promoting hair growth and can be found in many hair growth supplements. A deficiency of iron, vitamin D, and/or zinc can also lead to hair loss. Supplements with these minerals and vitamins may play a role in helping hair stay healthy.
Massaging your scalp can help increase blood flow to your hair follicles, which can promote healthy hair growth. Research shows that standardized scalp massage induces mechanical stress on dermal papilla cells leading to thickening of hair, as well as stimulates hair growth genes. You can use a scalp massager or simply use your fingers to gently massage your scalp for a few minutes each day.
Regular exercise and stress management techniques like meditation also help to promote healthy hair growth.
Medication to reverse hair loss
Hair loss may result from various factors, from genetics and stress to medical conditions. The most common type of hair loss among men is male pattern baldness, mainly caused by hormones, specifically dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Health Canada has approved minoxidil, finasteride, and dutasteride for hair loss therapy in men.
Minoxidil is a topical medication that is applied directly to the scalp. It is available in different strengths and formulations, such as foam or liquid. Minoxidil works by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles, which can stimulate hair growth. The drug may also prolong the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle, which is the active growth phase of the hair follicle.
Clinical trials report that 62% of the patients on minoxidil therapy showed a significant decrease in the affected region of the scalp when treated with 5% topical minoxidil twice daily and 84.3% of patients reported hair regrowth.
- Dosage: 5% foam
- Side effects: changes in the color, length, or thickness of body or facial hair, nausea, vomiting, rash
Finasteride is a synthetic steroid that is a potent and highly selective antagonist of type II 5 alpha-reductase. It is not an anti-androgen. It binds irreversibly to the enzyme and inhibits the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (the hormone that can contribute to hair loss in men).
Finasteride is available by prescription only. Finasteride has been shown to be effective in promoting hair growth and reducing hair loss in men with male pattern baldness.
- Dosage: 1 mg orally, 2.5% gel topically
- Side effects: ejaculation problems, rash, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, depression
Dutasteride is another oral medication that is similar to finasteride. It works in a similar way by blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT. However, dutasteride blocks both types of 5-alpha-reductase enzymes, whereas finasteride only blocks one. This means that dutasteride may be more effective in reducing DHT levels in the body.
Dutasteride is also available by prescription only and is used to treat hair loss in men. Several studies have found that dutasteride is better at treating male pattern baldness than finasteride.
- Dosage: 0.5 mg orally
- Side effects: difficulty maintaining or getting an erection, decreased libido, ejaculation problems
Emerging Treatments for Hair Loss
- Laser treatment: Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a non-invasive treatment option for hair loss that involves using low-energy laser light to stimulate hair growth. The laser light is applied directly to the scalp using a specialized device, such as a laser comb or helmet. Laser light penetrates the scalp and stimulates the hair follicles, promoting increased blood flow and nutrient delivery to the hair follicles. This may help to prolong the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle and promote hair growth. LLLT is typically administered in a clinic setting, although some devices are available for home use.
- Platelet-rich plasma therapy: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a non-surgical treatment option for hair loss that involves using a patient’s own blood to stimulate hair growth. During the procedure, a small amount of blood is drawn from the patient and processed in a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets. The resulting platelet-rich plasma is then injected into the scalp, particularly in areas where hair loss has occurred. The platelets in the PRP contain growth factors that may help to stimulate hair growth by promoting the growth and survival of hair follicles. It works by increasing blood flow to the scalp and promoting the production of new hair cells.
- Surgical options such as hair transplants: Hair transplant surgery involves taking hair from an area of the scalp with dense hair growth, typically the back or sides of the head, and transplanting it to the areas where hair loss has occurred. There are two main types of hair transplant surgery: follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE). FUT involves removing a strip of scalp from the donor area and dividing it into individual follicular units, which are then transplanted into the recipient area. In FUE individual follicular units are removed from the donor area and transplanted directly into the recipient area.
Ultimately, the decision to pursue hair loss treatment is a personal one, but it’s important to know the facts before embarking on any journey toward a fuller head of hair.
The opinions shared in this article belong to the author and, like all content on Gambit’s Health Hub, should not be considered a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any health-related inquiries, consult with your preferred healthcare professional or visit a licensed, Canadian physician through Get Gambit for a supported condition.
This article has been medically reviewed by:
Dr. Taneer Ahmed, MBBS, MS