Will There Ever Be a ‘Cure’ for Baldness?
Hair loss can cause a lot of stress for the guys suffering from it. This is the reason why so much research has been done into hair loss prevention, but also why so many myths exist around the subject.
We’ve seen our fair share of wild cures for baldness. But do any of them actually work? We’ll take a closer look in this guide.
What is ‘Baldness’?
Hair loss is a term commonly used to describe the loss of hair from a part of the body or head. The severity of this loss can vary extremely from person to person.
There are a lot of different kinds of hair loss. Most widely known and most common is male pattern baldness (MPB), also called androgenic alopecia.
Genetic predisposition and male hormones, like DHT, are generally the case of MPB. It’s very common, and affects primarily the top and front of the scalp.
Why are People Affected by Hair Loss?
That’s the big question. A lot of different reasons have been found for why hair loss happens. It has been linked to genetic factors, but that’s not the only reason why this can occur.
Factors like age, lifestyle and nutrition can also seem to have an impact. In this section, we’ll take a look at these components. If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide to hair loss, check out hair loss 101.
Hormones and hair loss
Hormones are often the primary suspects when it comes to male pattern baldness. This is because of something called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is an androgen that is derived from testosterone, and is the most common cause of hair loss.
DHT can bind to receptors found in your hair follicles, and interfere with your cycle of hair growth. It then leads to a shrinking of the follicles, and can even weaken them. This in turn leads hair to grow slower and become more brittle. Over time, DHT can make the follicle die, resulting in a bald spot.
Genetics and hair loss
You’ve probably heard the old saying that if your mother’s father went bald, you’ll eventually become bald too. It’s not quite as simple as that, but hair loss does often run in families.
Your genes will affect things like:
At what age you’ll start losing hair
How fast you will lose it
The pattern and extent of your hair loss
The majority of alopecia sufferers start noticing their hair loss in their mid- to late-twenties. There are a lot of genes that play a part in early baldness – some research has suggested that there is a complex host of genes in play coming both from your mother and father. Yet there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration to determine how much genetics really play a role.
Lifestyle and hair loss
It seems easy now to blame your parents and your genes for your hair loss. But before you jump on the blame train, there are other things to consider. One of those is that your own lifestyle might be having an effect on your hair loss.
How you take care of yourself and how you live your life have a bigger impact on your hair growth cycle than you might think. In this sense, you can actually have some control over how fast or how much hair you lose. Please note that although these factors are linked to some forms of hair loss, they are not causes of male pattern baldness.
Obesity is fast becoming the number one health issue in our society. It doesn’t only impact your general health, but plays havoc with your hormonal balances. In the end, these imbalances can actually have a similar effect as DHT: thinning of the hair, reducing the size of hair follicles and eventually even killing them. And don’t forget the medication obese people usually need to take to prevent heart issues. Common side effects of which include: hair loss.
Next to obesity, smoking is also a lifestyle habit known to have a link to hair loss. It restricts proper blood flow through your vessels, and into your hair follicles. If your follicles don’t get a proper blood flow, and this can even damage the DNA of your follicles. This, in turn, can lead to a negative effect on your hair growth. So take this into consideration when you’re lighting up that next stick.
Implementing some simple steps like this into your life can give you more of a shot at keeping the hair on your head healthy. However, these are just two examples of how your lifestyle can affect hair loss – let’s take a look at how other factors can come into play.
Nutrition and hair loss
You could think that nutrition only matters when it comes to building muscles or losing fat. Nothing could be further from the truth. A proper diet helps your body to stay healthy and improves your hair quality. We’re talking protein and iron deficiencies, which can have a significant effect when it comes to hair loss. Make sure you’re getting enough of both to keep your healthy head of hair. Also take care to get enough magnesium, zinc and calcium.
The search for a cure
We’ve taken a look at what hair loss is and what the main causes are. But what about a cure? Since baldness isn’t a new issue, there have been a lot of (alleged) cures through the times. Let’s see what they’ve got to offer.
Ancient Egyptian cures
Cures for baldness go as far back as the Ancient Egyptians. In a medical text that dates back to 1550 B.C., one of the cures suggests making a mixture and rubbing it on your head. This could be made by mixing porcupine hair boiled in water with fats from a hippopotamus, crocodile, tomcat, snake and ibex. Egyptian people were extremely concerned with their hair, which made them known for wearing wigs and even fake beards to keep up appearances.
Roman Empire cures
The Romans were equally engrossed with their hairiness as the Egyptians. Their favourite cure involved rubbing myrrh berries into the scalp. If this failed to work, they opted to comb over the bald spot with the remaining hairs. Or, they simply used a laurel wreath to cover up their receding hairline. The most famous wearer was Julius Caesar.
‘Cures’ for baldness that definitely don’t work
The Egyptians and Romans paved the street for even more ridiculous treatments. Let’s take a quick look into what these myths are and where they may have come from.
Rubbing hot sauce on your head is only the first of these myths. One study has proved the effect of capsaicin on hair growth. The study used injections on mice and tablets on humans. So no mention of topical use. The only thing you’ll get from rubbing hot sauce on your head is burning eyes if you’re not careful.
Currently a very popular and alluring treatment used in London, believe it or not. Professionals rub a shot of bull semen into your hair, which should restore your hair. All building on the fact that a protein treatment is beneficial to your hair. But in order for it to work, the protein has to be broken down into smaller sections, which isn’t the case for bull semen.
This fix is based on the fact that onions are antibacterial and have a high sulfur content. Which should help get rid of bacteria that affect hair growth when rubbed onto the skull. The treatment has been proven effective in a study on people with an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the hair follicles. So, it could work for other sorts of hair loss.
Just like onion juice, cow urine is believed to have antibacterial properties. There are men in India who are convinced that drinking cow urine will resolve baldness. And not just that, but can also cure cancer and diabetes. No evidence has been found to back this.
The vacuum suction technique used in the 1940s
In the 40s they were extremely inventive by designing a technique using vacuum suction. This machine promised to improve the blood circulation to the scalp. Fair to say that, although a good circulation does help prevent hair loss, the machine didn’t make the cut.
Rubbing tea on your scalp
This method was widely popular in England during the 1800s. The specific tea used was an Indian blend, used cold. Preferably mixed with chunks of lemon. This concoction was then rubbed onto the heads of people going bald. Obviously this ‘cure’ hasn’t survived the times.
Will there ever be a cure for baldness, and how close are we to a cure?
Now it’s time to take a look at some of the more recent medical endeavours to try and find an actual cure for balding.
An increase in research
Dating back to ancient Egyptians remedies, hair loss has always been a favourite topic for scientists – and non-qualified enthusiasts – to research, but a definite cure remains to be found.
The main reason for this is that we still understand too little of the molecular organisms that make up our head of hair. Sadly, the lack of funding is also an issue for this topic. Mainly because it is still seen by many as a cosmetic issue rather than a medical one, despite the upset that hair loss causes to those who go through it.
Despite this, modern scientists have come up with some ingenious ways to slow down and even reverse hair loss. We’ve gone into these in more detail below.
How to deal with hair loss today
We’re pretty confident you won’t see much in the way of results from the crazy baldness cures mentioned earlier. But fortunately, there are scientifically-backed methods of fighting hair loss that we’ll stand by.
How your hair follicles work
Before we get into details about how to prevent hair loss, it’s useful to understand how hair growth actually works.
Your entire body is covered with hair follicles. It’s a part of your skin, and grows hair by packing old cells together. This is a complicated process in which hormones, neuropeptides and immune cells all play a role. Growth happens in cycles that vary from two to six years. If a hair cycle has ended, the hair falls out and makes place for a new one to grow.
You can find out more about your hair growth cycle in our guide.
Hair Loss Products
There are medicines which have been scientifically proven to effectively treat hair loss. It’s currently the closest thing to a cure there’s likely to be anytime soon. Let’s look at these in more detail.
Minoxidil, which is sold under many different trade names around the world including Regaine ®, is a solution that is applied directly to the scalp in order to combat hair loss.
The solution works by dilating blood vessels around hair follicles, which in turn increases the nutrient supply to them. Over time, this makes the hair follicles stronger, allowing the hairs to grow thicker and longer. This increases the overall volume of hair and helps prevent further hair loss.
Finasteride, which is sold under different trade names around the world including Propecia ®, is a tablet which is taken once a day to help reduce hair loss.
The tablet works by reducing the levels of DHT, the hormone most commonly responsible for male pattern baldness. It can be used in combination with Minoxidil or by itself. Because it works to directly block the mechanism causing male pattern baldness, it is most effective for balding around the hairline.
How to cope with hair loss
Hair loss can have serious psychological effects on the people suffering from it. That’s why it’s important to speak to somebody if you feel concerned or upset about your hair loss.
Get expert help
If you think you’re experiencing male pattern baldness, rest assured that there’s help out there, and you are not alone.
There are a lot of things you can do if you find yourself fretting over lost hair. And rest assured, research is still being done to find that elusive cure.
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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.