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Off with his hair – Does hair loss really affect men?

Posted in: Men's Health 14 Aug, 2012

When pop star Justin Bieber, according to the Daily Mail, recently poked fun at prince William’s thinning locks during an interview for Rollercoaster, there was a national outcry, with many coming out to defend the future king. Prince William’s hair loss, however, is neither recent news to the public nor the prince, who started losing his hair in his early twenties.

However, he is not alone. Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia, is an extremely common condition that can affect men as young as those in their teens.

What is MPB?

Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss, affecting 6.5 million men in the UK. It generally starts with a little thinning of the hair, followed by wider hair loss, causing more of the scalp to become visible. For a few men, this process starts as early as their late teens. By the age of 60, most men have experienced some form of hair loss.

Normally, at first the hair begins to recede (thin) at the front. At the same time, the hair usually becomes thin on the top of the head. A bald patch will gradually develop in the middle of the scalp. The receding front and the bald patch on the top (the crown) gradually enlarge and merge together resulting in what is termed as a ‘horseshoe’ shape of the hair around the back and sides of the hair. In some men, this rim of hair also thins and may leave a completely bald scalp.

The process

Hair is produced in the hair follicles, which are like tiny pouches just under the skin surface. A hair normally grows from each follicle for about three years. It is then shed and replaced by a new hair that grows from the follicle. This repetitive cycle of hair growth - shedding - and new growth goes on throughout the a person's life. Gradually as they become bald, many men experience the following:

  • Affected hair follicles on the scalp gradually become smaller.
  • As the follicle shrinks, each new hair is noticeably thinner than the previous one.
  • Before falling out, each new hair grows for much less time than the normal three years or so.
  • Eventually, all that remains is a much smaller hair follicle and a thin stump of hair that does not grow out to the skin surface.

Self confidence

We can only speculate if Justin Bieber’s jibes about the prince’s receding hair truly affect the prince’s confidence.

His public demeanour does little to suggest that his lack of hair affects him in any way. Like his father and his father’s father, premature balding seems to run in his family. Male pattern baldness is usually inherited and should this be the case, it means that the condition cannot be prevented. For many men, this condition does not trouble them at all.

For others, however, despite not being a disease, the effects of baldness can have long lasting and negative effects, leading many to suffer from great emotional distress, a lack of self-esteem and, in some cases, even depression. According to Dr Susan McDonald-Hull a consultant dermatologist at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, “[y]oung men, especially, feel hair loss pretty acutely.”

The hair and now

Bieber went on to suggest that the prince should consider using a treatment to reverse the effects, stating that: “I mean, there are things to prevent that nowadays, like Propecia.” One wonders how the 18 year old even knows about the treatment but that can be left for a later debate.

Propecia is currently the only effective prescription medication that can help treat male pattern baldness and restore hair.

Whether the prince or anybody else chooses to use such treatments is entirely their decision. However, I wonder if somebody like Bieber, who is as popular for his mane as he is for his music, will still experience ‘Bieber fever’ should he in later life suffer from fallen follicles. If his hair does fall out, would his legions of loyal fans in turn fall out with him?


  • Tom GreenTuesday, Aug 14, 2012

    I too am going bald so I know how many men feel about the issue. It does affect a man's confidence. I instinctively also reach for a hat before I leave my house as I feel insecure. I am currently looking into Propecia,although am still undecided

  • GrahamTuesday, Aug 14, 2012

    Justin Bieber is only 18! So i dont think he really thought before he said those comments. I am in my mid thirties and can see that my hair is slightly receding. But it really doesn't bother me at all.

  • Claire JosephTuesday, Aug 14, 2012

    My boyfriend's experiencing hair loss. But it bothers him more than me, as I think the bald look is quite attractive.

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