Male Pattern Baldness – Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
Male pattern hair loss or male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) is a type of hair loss that affects men. It’s a very common type of hair loss, affecting around 85% of men in the UK.
Those with androgenetic alopecia have a weakened hair growth cycle, resulting in the hair follicles shrinking, producing shorter, finer strands. In time, this growth cycle will end and no new hair will grow in its place.
Male pattern hair loss is a hereditary condition. This means that it’s caused by the genes you inherit from your parents, usually on the maternal side. This hair loss can begin during the teenage years, but for most men, it starts in the late twenties to early thirties.
There are seven stages of male pattern hair loss, and the earlier you seek treatment, the more hair you can save.
Male pattern hair loss will start by receding at the hairline, gradually progressing backwards to form an ‘M’ shape. The strands of hair in the vertex (the circular area on the back of your head) will thin and expand. Over time, the hair will become thinner, finer and shorter, leading to a U-shaped balding pattern around the side and back of the head.
Androgenetic alopecia shouldn't be confused with alopecia areata, which is a type of hair loss characterised by unpredictable, patchy hair loss. In order to accurately determine the correct cause of your hair loss, you should always seek advice from a medical professional.
Hair loss stages
There are seven stages of male pattern hair loss, which differ slightly from the signs of female pattern baldness. This is known as the Norwood Scale. In stage one, there is no significant hair loss, then in stage two, the hairline begins to recede around the temples. Stage three is when the male balding patterns appear. The hairline is deeply recessed, taking on the shape of an ‘M’, a ‘U’ or a ‘V’. These balding spots are either completely bare or covered in thin wisps of hair.
During stage four, the hairline is now severely recessed and there is no hair or a very small amount of hair on the vertex. These two areas of hair loss (the hairline and the vertex) are separated by a band of hair on the side of the scalp. The two areas of hair loss are greater in stage five. They remain separated, however, the band of hair is now narrower.
The balding areas located at the temple join with the vertex in stage six. The band of hair is now gone. Finally, there is stage seven, which is the most extreme stage of hereditary hair loss. All that remains is a thin band of hair around the side of the scalp.
Hair loss in men is typically hereditary, meaning it's caused by your genetics or family history. Additionally, men lose their hair due to ageing, hormonal and environmental factors, too.
Your genes determine how sensitive you are to the male sex hormones, androgens. One in particular plays a significant role in male hair loss, known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
An increase of this hormone can lead to a shorter cycle of hair growth, and when new hair does grow, it tends to be shorter and thinner. Eventually, these hair follicles will be too small to produce any new hair.
For more information on other reasons for hair loss in men, read our in-depth guide here.
Who is at risk?
Men at risk of developing androgenetic alopecia include those who have a genetic history of the condition (especially on the maternal side of the family) and those who have a high amount of the DHT hormone in the body. Your chances also increase with age.
When diagnosing male pattern hair loss, your GP will start by examining the pattern of hair loss on the scalp to determine whether or not you've lost a significant amount of hair, the miniaturisation of the hair follicles, and measure the space between the hair follicles. Additionally, they may also take a blood test to measure hormone levels.
When to see your GP:
It's normal to lose some hair; on average, people lose around 50-100 hairs per day. But if you suddenly start losing more hair than usual, or if you start balding in patches, it's time to see your doctor.
In the early stages of male pattern baldness, you may be able to hide it with a new hairstyle, but eventually it will become too difficult to disguise. There are several treatments for male pattern baldness available, so it's best to get a diagnosis early.
Minoxidil is a topical treatment for both male and female pattern baldness that's available over-the-counter (OTC). This medication is a vasodilator, which expands blood vessels and improves blood flow.
It's thought that minoxidil can reverse the shrinkage of hair follicles and extend each follicle's growth phase, resulting in thicker, healthier hair. For women, it is recommended to use 2% minoxidil, while for men, it is recommended to use 5%.
There is another prescription drug called finasteride that can help with hair loss by blocking the dihydrotestosterone hormone in the scalp. This hormone can reduce the growth cycle of hair and stimulate hair growth, resulting in thinning and hair loss.
You can buy male hair loss treatments over the counter or obtain prescription strength treatment from your GP, depending which would be a better fit for you. Alternatively, you can seek treatment from an online pharmacy or online prescribers, like the ones on our team.
If you choose online treatment, you'll need to complete a quick consultation, just as you would at a local pharmacy or GP. You can complete the consultation at any time, whether you're on the go or in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
Alternative treatments for hair loss include caffeine shampoo, which stimulates the hair follicles to produce new hair growth, and hair transplants or wigs, though these can be expensive.
Living with alopecia
Living with male pattern baldness can affect your self-esteem and confidence. Although there is no cure, there are treatment options that can help. Hair growth is unpredictable and can take time, so it's important to be patient.
Try to accept your hair loss and focus on your good qualities. There are also alopecia support groups where you can meet and socialise with others.