If you’re a gentleman who has been noticing a receding hairline or is worried about balding, the first step is to schedule a visit with a doctor or dermatologist and make sure your hair loss isn’t a sign of a more serious health issue. “Not all hair loss is male-pattern hair loss,” explains Dr. Marc Glashofer, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss who practices in northern New Jersey. A thyroid disorder, an autoimmune disease, or even a scalp issue could be the cause of a hairline resembling Bruce Willis’s in Die Hard 2. But most hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, also known as male-pattern baldness, and fortunately (or not, depending on your perspective), it’s just a symptom of getting older.
Once male-pattern baldness starts, it’s not going to stop, though the rate at which this happens differs from person to person and depends on genetics. And since the grind of hair loss is unending, it’s important to start treatment as soon as your hairline starts bothering you. If you’re looking for a more quantitative metric, Dr. Paul McAndrews, a clinical professor of dermatology at the USC School of Medicine and member of the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, tells us that “you have to lose half your hair before the human eye can tell.”
For emerging hair-loss treatments like platelet-rich plasma injections, stem-cell activation, and micro-needling, you’ll need to consult with a specialized dermatologist. But before it comes to that, all of our experts say it’s worth leaning on reliable standbys like minoxidil and finasteride, ideally in tandem. The former is helpful for preventing hair loss, the latter for promoting growth.
Before making a diagnosis, your doctor will likely give you a physical exam and ask about your diet, your hair care routine, and your medical and family history. You might also have tests, such as the following:
- Blood test. This might help uncover medical conditions that can cause hair loss.
- Pull test. Your doctor gently pulls several dozen hairs to see how many come out. This helps determine the stage of the shedding process.
- Scalp biopsy. Your doctor scrapes samples from the skin or from a few hairs plucked from the scalp to examine the hair roots under a microscope. This can help determine whether an infection is causing hair loss.
- Light microscopy. Your doctor uses a special instrument to examine hairs trimmed at their bases. Microscopy helps uncover possible disorders of the hair shaft.
Male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia)
While there are a number of treatments available for male pattern baldness, there is no cure. Treatments include minoxidil, and finasteride. Minoxidil lotion is available over the counter from pharmacies, but finasteride tablets are only available on prescription from your doctor. Cosmetic options include camouflage sprays, wigs and hair transplant surgery.
If you’re a smoker, you’ve probably heard about all the negative effects smoking has on your lungs. But did you know that smoking may be associated with hair loss?
A 2020 studyTrusted Source of 1,000 men found that the majority of those who smoked had some amount of hair loss, compared with less than half of the participants who did not smoke.
If you smoke, quitting may help decrease hair loss.
Not only do massages feel wonderful, but they may help with hair loss, too. Massaging the scalp stimulates the hair follicles.
In a small 2016 studyTrusted Source, healthy Japanese men who received 4 minutes of scalp massage each day for 24 weeks had thicker hair at the end of the study.
Research from 2019 also found that scalp massages were associated with self-perceived improvements in hair density.
A balanced diet may help keep your hair in tip-top shape. Make sure you’re including a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unsaturated fats, and lean proteins in your diet. Try to limit your intake of sweets.
A 2019 reviewTrusted Source associated certain vitamins and minerals found in food with healthy hair. Try adding these:
Iron-rich foods, including lean beef, beans, green leafy vegetables, iron-fortified grains, and eggs
foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, flax seeds, egg yolks, hemp seeds, and walnuts
high protein foods, like eggs, lean meats, and seafood
Last but not least, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.
Stress can really do a number on the body, including your hair. Hair loss may be a result of a stressful lifestyle.
Strategies to reduce stress include:
- regularly exercising
- listening to music
- practicing yoga
- getting enough sleep
When to Contact a Doctor
People should contact a doctor if they experience any of the following:
- sudden hair loss
- hair falling out in clumps
- itching or burning scalp
- People should also contact a healthcare professional if they are worried about their hair loss.
A healthcare professional may ask questions or perform tests to investigate whether the hair loss is a result of:
- an illness
- weight loss
- iron deficiency
Does Insurance Cover Hair Loss Treatment?
A person should check with their insurance provider to see if their plan covers hair loss treatments. People should always check with their insurer before seeking treatment.