Is Hair Loss a Part and Parcel of Masculinity?

Hair loss has been bothering men for millennia. While the loss of body hair that help characterise our development from primate to homosapien presumably passed by with little fanfare – the loss of the scant hair retained on our scalps is source of great consternation for men globally.

The first recorded remedy for hair loss can be found in the oldest medical text ever discovered, the Ebers Papyrus. It involves ingesting a concoction of iron oxide, honey, red lead, alabaster and the fat of animals including lions, snakes, hippopotamuses and crocodiles.

Sounds delicious, right? Perhaps it’s no wonder that many public figures have opted to try cover-ups instead of magical potions.

From Caesar’s laurel wreath, to Louis XIII triggering a Europe-wide fashion craze by donning a full wig to cover up his thinning locks, down to modern day ego-maniac Donald Trump’s dodgy toupe; baldness has been something to hide.Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 16.26.30[Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIII_of_France]

One of the most important historical observations on hair loss was first made by the notoriously follicle-y challenged, Hippocrates. He noticed that the eunuchs in the Persian Army who guarded the king’s harem never lost their hair.

While Hippocrates came to the wrong conclusion about this (that it was men’s hot-bloodedness that caused hair loss and not the presence of genitalia) it was a perceptive observation. We now know that the reason for male pattern baldness can indeed be linked to a man’s testicles. Specifically, to the production of a by-product of testosterone called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

DHT is responsible for most of the characteristics society considers to be uniquely male. During in utero development it is responsible for the growth of male genitalia, and as an androgen is responsible for the deepening of voices, the hairy chest, and the increased muscle mass associated with the pubescent transformation into adult masculinity. It is the primary sex hormone present both in the prostate and in the hair follicles of men.

While DHT is essential for the growth of hair on other areas of the body (armpit, groin and beard) it can be detrimental to the growth of hair on top of the head. It causes genetically disadvantaged hair follicles to miniaturise, so hair becomes thinner and weaker, before ceasing to grow entirely: this is the dreaded, hereditable Male Pattern Baldness.Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 16.28.21[Source: www.baldingblog.com]

So, what’s a boy to do when he wants to stay lustrous atop his head, and healthy below the waist?

Well, believe it or not the drugs really do work. Male Pattern Baldness caused by DHT can be treated and slowed by using a DHT blocker like finasteride (Propecia). The side-effects associated with hair loss drugs can, however, include the shrinking of the prostate, a drop in libido, and erectile difficulties.

If you have taken a DHT blocker and experienced erectile difficulties, however, these are not necessarily connected.

It would be simple to assume that because of the relationship between DHT, testosterone and the testicles that hair loss is a symptom of high testosterone and too much manliness. But, as men grow older their testosterone levels drop naturally, and it’s well known that hair loss incidence is much higher among older men… So what’s the deal?

If your DHT is high it is likely that your body is struggling to convert testosterone into other testosterone by-products, and so begins favouring DHT. Hair loss occurs in men with high and low testosterone levels – meaning that your erectile dysfunction could still be a symptom of low testosterone, which can be easily treated with testosterone replacement therapy.

So, it’s not a choice between going bald and having a healthy sex life, or keeping a full-head of hair and having your testicles removed. Testosterone and hair loss are connected, but an overabundance of one doesn’t cause the loss of the other. And while hair loss might be something that’s more common in the male physiology – it has nothing to do with what it is to be a man.

If you’re worried about hair loss, low testosterone or any other male health problems, book an appointment with specialist men’s health centre, The WellMan Clinic, today.

Or, just shave it all off – R.P.Mussolini_mezzobusto (1)[Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benito_Mussolini]

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