For many of us hair and our sense of identity are heavily intertwined. Hair styles can mark the different phases of our lives and allow us to express ourselves.

From teenage grunge years to slicked back 20s, men are every bit as wedded to their hairstyles as women. And yet for 50% of men, baldness will become an issue before they hit retirement age. More worrying still is the fact that hair loss is commonplace for gentlemen in their 20s and 30s.

Perhaps it is no surprise then that an estimated 66% of men have searched for hair loss remedies at some stage.

So, what exactly causes hair loss?

Most commonly, cases of hair loss occur as a consequence of your genetic make-up and it can be inherited from both your mum and your dad. Another cause of hair loss is something we all know a little bit about; stress. Being stressed can cause the production of certain chemicals which impacts negatively on hair follicles, stunting hair growth.
Stress can also result in the development of the mental disorder trichotillomania, which is the pulling out of ones hair under stressful conditions. While stress clearly perpetuates hair loss, it does not however cause male-pattern baldness which is purely genetic.

What is male-pattern baldness?

It is the most common type of hair loss and it tends to develop according to a strict pattern. First, a receding hairline. This is then followed by the thinning of the hair on the crown of the head creating a balding patch on the top of the head with hair remaining around the back and sides. While it is possible, it is rare that male-pattern baldness will progress to complete baldness.

Given its ties to genetics and its common nature, there is sense of inevitability surrounding male-pattern baldness. However, there are treatments available.

What is the best treatment for you?

While male-pattern baldness is a natural process, posing no risk to your physical health, it can be distressing and pose risks to the self-esteem of some men. Treatment is available for aesthetic purposes and is recommended for the alleviation of this loss of confidence.

The only permanent way of solving hair loss is through a hair transplant. However, whether or not you undergo this measure, it is important to continue treatment for hair loss on the un-transplanted areas of your head through medications such as Propecia (Finasteride) and Minoxidil, which inhibit the thinning process.

Propecia

This is the most common medication for the cosmetic treatment of male-pattern baldness. It is available as a private prescription form your GP or pharmacist and consists of orally self-administered pills. Its history offers insight into exactly how this medication works.

Propecia was originally used as a form of treatment for men with an enlarged prostate. A common side effect of this use of Propecia was hair growth. Business savvy distributors realised its potential as a treatment for hair loss, creating the popular drug we have today. It works by preventing the conversion of testosterone to a hormone named dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is responsible for the shrinking of hair follicles.

An added benefit of Propecia is that it is renowned for its lack of common side effects. Incidences of erectile dysfunction have been documented in relation to the use of Propecia. However, the likelihood of erectile dysfunction is deemed to be very small.

While posing no threat to your health, Propecia does have an effect on your levels of prostate specific antigens (PSA). The level of these in your blood is commonly used as a base line by your GP in the screening process for prostate cancer. It is important therefore to consult a health professional before before taking Propecia and always order medications from a reputable and regulated provider.