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Hair loss affects 1 in 3 men before they reach the age of 30 and eventually causes up to 80% of men to go bald. Clinically proven and well-tolerated medications can stop balding and preserve your hairline.


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Prices exclude a prescription fee. This treatment requires a quick online consultation, which a doctor will review to determine if a prescription is appropriate.

Information

Dr Samantha Miller

Reviewed by Dr Samantha Miller MB ChB
(2017, University of Glasgow)
GMC number: 7561464

Information last reviewed 20/05/2021

About

What is male pattern baldness?

Male pattern baldness is a genetic condition that causes the hair follicles to shrink, slowing down the growth of new hair and gradually leading to baldness. Male pattern baldness begins as a receding hairline creating an M shape. The hair on the scalp starts to become thinner, eventually leaving a curved horseshoe pattern of hair left around the sides of the head. 

What causes hair loss in men?

The most common cause of hair loss in men is the genetic condition known as male pattern baldness. Other possible causes include: 

  • Unusual levels of androgen hormones
  • Stress
  • Illness 
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Certain blood thinners and high blood pressure medications 
  • Autoimmune disease 
  • Medical conditions 
  • Poor diet

What causes female hair loss?

It's normal to lose 50–100 hairs every day. Having hair come out on your hairbrush or while washing your hair is nothing to worry about. If you notice that your hair is falling out in clumps, then this may be a sign of something more significant. Female hair loss can be caused by a number of factors, including: 

  • Genetics
  • Thyroid problems 
  • Autoimmune disease 
  • Anaemia 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Stress 
  • Physical trauma 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Chemical treatments
  • Chemotherapy

How to cope with male hair loss

Almost all men will experience hair loss and balding, so it's very common. Accepting hair loss is the best way to cope with it, cutting your hair short to balance it out can help to adjust to the altered appearance. Talking to others who are also experiencing hair loss can be helpful in dealing with your feelings about it. 

How to cope with female hair loss

Female hair loss can be upsetting and difficult to deal with. There are things you can do to help you cope with it. Joining a support group or talking to a therapist can be effective in coming to terms with it, as well as talking to your family and friends about the impact it is having on you. Cover up methods like wigs and scarves are helpful for many women, with wigs being available on the NHS in certain circumstances.

Treatment

Is there a cure for hair loss?

There is no cure for male pattern baldness. If there is an underlying cause found for your hair loss, treatment of this may reduce hair loss.

What male hair loss treatment is available?

The most popular treatment which has been shown to produce results is minoxidil, more commonly known by the brand name Rogaine. Finasteride is a prescription-only medication that works by stopping testosterone (a sex hormone) conversion to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Propecia is a brand-name version of finasteride. Other treatments include steroid injections and creams, immunotherapy and hair transplants.

What treatments are available for female hair loss?

Minoxidil is a popular treatment for both male and female hair loss. Other treatments are available depending on if there is an underlying cause for female hair loss – for example, polycystic ovary syndrome or iron deficiency. Finasteride and Propecia are not suitable for women.

How effective is hair loss treatment?

Hair loss treatments may not be effective for everyone. Minoxidil has been reported to be effective at promoting hair regrowth for approximately two-thirds of both men and women after using the product for 8 months. Data has suggested that younger patients, who have had thinning hair for a shorter period of time respond better to minoxidil. 

Finasteride is 90% effective in slowing or preventing male hair loss and can also result in hair regrowth for 2 out of 3 men using the medication. 

Shampoos and supplements designed for hair loss do not have lasting effects.

What is the best treatment for hair loss?

Different treatments will work for different individuals. Finasteride is 90% effective at slowing hair loss over a period of 5 years in clinical studies but the medication is only available on prescription and is not issued by the NHS. Minoxidil is more readily available and is one of the most popular and effective treatments for both men and women. Finasteride is not suitable for women.

Is hair loss treatment available on the NHS?

Hair loss treatments are not available on the NHS for either men or women. However, women who have experienced hair loss as a result of chemotherapy to treat cancer may be able to get a wig on the NHS. 

Can hair loss be stopped?

Medications like minoxidil and finasteride work to slow down and stop further hair loss and can even promote hair regrowth.

What does a hair transplant involve?

A hair transplant involves taking hair from an area where the hair is plentiful and moving it to the bald area. The procedure is carried out under anaesthetic or sedation. A strip of skin is removed from the back of the head in an area that produces hair. This is then split up into individual hair grafts and implanted into tiny incisions across the scalp. You can expect to be there for up to a full day and can usually return home the same night. This treatment is only available privately and can be costly.

Can medications help regrow hair after it has been pulled out?

Trichotillomania is a disorder where an individual pulls out their own hair. For this type of hair loss, the hair will grow back. However, continuing to pull out the hair can eventually damage the hair follicles which may prevent regrowth. For male pattern baldness, hair regrowth can occur after a six-month course of minoxidil or finasteride but the medication must be taken continuously to maintain any regrowth.

Can medication help hair regrowth after chemotherapy?

Your hair will usually naturally grow back after you have completed chemotherapy. It is not known whether treatments like minoxidil are effective in this situation.

Q&A

Can hair grow back after hair loss?

If hair loss is caused by stress, medication, or an illness, then it will likely grow back. Hair loss caused by male pattern baldness is not typically fully reversible.

Does stress cause hair loss?

Stress can cause hair loss in some people, however, the hair typically grows back once the stressful stimulus has been treated. 

What is trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania is a disorder that causes you to pull out your own hair. It's a psychological condition and often occurs as a response to stress, anxiety or trauma. 

Which medications can lead to hair loss?

Hair loss is a possible side effect of the following medications: 

  • Retinoids 
  • Antifungals 
  • Antibiotics 
  • Antidepressants 
  • The contraceptive pill
  • Immune suppressors 
  • Medication to lower cholesterol 
  • Anticonvulsants 
  • High blood pressure medications
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Hormone replacement therapy 
  • Mood stabilisers 
  • Thyroid treatments 
  • Parkinson's disease treatments 
  • Steroids
  • Anti-inflammatories 
  • Weight loss tablets 

As with any drug, this is just one of many possible side effects. You will not necessarily experience hair loss as a result of taking these medications.

How can hair loss affect you psychologically?

While hair loss isn't harmful to your health, it can be a very distressing thing to experience, given the way it alters your appearance. Hair is often seen as a strong part of a person's identity; a sign of youth, beauty or virility and losing it can be detrimental to your self-esteem. There are support groups that tackle these issues and some individuals benefit from counselling to help deal with it. 

Is hair loss genetic?

Hair loss is often genetic, particularly in the case of male pattern baldness. It can also be caused by stress, illness or medication. 

Can smoking cause hair loss?

Scientific studies have identified a link between smoking and hair loss so it is possible for smoking to be a factor in hair loss. 

Are there environmental factors that lead to hair loss?

There are many factors that can contribute to, or exacerbate, hair loss. These include stress, smoking, pregnancy, surgery, poor health, medical conditions and certain medications. 

How to reduce your chances of hair loss?

Keeping your hair in good condition and avoiding putting stress on it can help to reduce your chances of hair loss. This includes not using chemical dyes and solutions, reducing the use of hair straighteners, hairdryers or anything causing heat damage, using shampoos to boost the volume and maintaining a healthy intake of vitamins and minerals.

How does diet affect your hair?

Poor nutrition can lead to dry, brittle and thinning hair. Hair is made up of a protein called keratin so a diet including adequate protein, vitamins and minerals is essential to keep it healthy. Omega 3 and protein are two food groups that you need to consume every day for healthy hair. Other important vitamins are B6, B12 and folic acid.

How quickly does hair loss occur?

There is no definite timeline for how fast hair loss occurs as it's different for everyone. On average, it takes men 15–25 years to go bald, but for some, it can happen much quicker. It will also depend on the cause of your hair loss. For example, during chemotherapy hair loss can be quite rapid.

What are the different patterns of hair loss? What do they mean?

For men experiencing hair loss, male pattern baldness starts as a receding hairline. Due to it being a gradual process, it will result in different patterns of baldness over time. For example, a receding hairline is usually preceded by a round bald patch towards the back of the head, eventually resulting in a horseshoe-shaped ring of hair around the sides of the head. If your hair loss does not follow these patterns then it may be caused by something else. In this case, see your GP to find out if there is an underlying condition causing it. 

Female pattern hair loss tends to be more diffuse but less marked, beginning with a thinning of the hair at the crown and frontal scalp, and widening of the central parting.

Why don’t all men go bald?

Male pattern baldness is thought to affect 80% of men under the age of seventy. The condition is genetic so it won't affect men who don't have the gene.

Is hair loss seasonal?

Seasonal hair loss can occur in women, usually in the autumn. The exact reason is unclear but the hair loss is not usually significant and it will regrow quickly.

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