Grooming

How to hold onto your hair for longer

How to hold onto your hair for longer

Hair loss is a natural and, for most men, inevitable part of life. But that doesn’t stop guys freaking out about it. Blame social pressure, but ever since Samson was trimmed of his locks, men have attributed all kinds of strength to a thick head of hair.

Around 85 percent of men will experience some hair loss by their 50th birthday. Almost all of them will worry about it. Some will take drastic measures to reverse it. Others will be hoodwinked by the snake oil salesmen who prey on follicular anxiety to shill miracle products that are as effective at preventing baldness as avoiding hair gel or hats (both myths, by the way).

But a receding hairline does not necessarily mean you’ll transform into Jean-Luc Picard. Hair loss can be slowed. It can be halted. In some cases, it can be reversed. But first, you need to know the enemy you’re up against and the weapons at your disposal. So we drafted trichologist Eva Proudman, of UK Hair Specialists, to dispel the baldness bull and reveal the surefire ways that any man can prevent, reduce or just come to terms with their hair loss.

Fact: Not all hair loss is the same

There is androgenetic alopecia – also known as male-pattern baldness – which is a genetically determined, patterned, and progressive loss of hair from the scalp. And then there is telogen effluvium, which is a form of temporary hair loss. So if you're worried about your hair receding or thinning, it's always a good idea to seek professional advice first to confirm which of the two you're experiencing.

Fiction: You can prevent hair loss with caffeine

Some men are tempted by a low-risk option like a caffeine shampoo. Unfortunately, it's mostly wishful thinking, according to Proudman. "Caffeine can stimulate hair growth in the laboratory. However, in a shampoo, it is on the hair for such a short time that it really doesn't have any benefit."

Having said that, there are some shampoos that can help. As DHT (See below) is the main culprit in hair loss, look out for haircare products that contain 1-2% ketoconazole which effectively blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT. What's more, because the application of ketoconazole is limited to the scalp, it doesn’t carry as much of a risk when it comes to side effects.

Fact: Meds can help

"Minoxidil and finasteride are the most clinically proven solutions," says Proudman. "Transplants are also very effective, but quite an extreme option for some people."

Let’s break that down. Finasteride works by inhibiting the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes the hair follicles to shrink and eventually fall out, while minoxidil increases blood flow and nutrient uptake to the follicles. Both treatments are more about halting the hair loss rather than making it grow back, but they may result in some hair regrowth as well. However, they do come with the risk of side-effects, so always do your research first.

Fiction: Stress will make your hair fall out

Looking at pictures of Barack Obama before and after the White House, one would be forgiven for thinking that stress is responsible for a myriad of ageing changes. But androgenetic alopecia isn't one of them, says Proudman. Instead, it's telogen effluvium that's stress-related. Telogen effluvium is "a disruption to the hair's growth cycle causing hair to shed prematurely, re-grow and shed again leading to a loss of overall hair density," explains Proudman. Good news though, she adds: "It's a common condition that can recover very well."

Fact: Laser combs are a drug-free alternative

If prescription medications don't appeal, and you'd like something a bit more hardcore than shampoo, you could also try a laser comb. Yes, it sounds like a prop from a bad sci-fi movie, but apart from finasteride and minoxidil, laser combs are the only hair-loss treatment to have received FDA approval.

Fiction: Hats lead to baldness

Lastly, as we enter the season of woolly hats, should men be worrying about the effects of a beanie on their hair? Well, yes and no. "Wearing a tight-fitting hat every day can put stress on the hair and could cause some hair trauma," allows Proudman. "But wearing a hat in the winter is normal and won't cause a problem, so it really depends on the type of hat and how long it is worn for."

There you have it, men of Britain: ditch the caffeine shampoo, try a laser comb, and don't worry about wearing a hat when you're cold.

ILLUSTRATION: TIM LAHAN