22 and balding. Help!
May 3, 2010 8:57 AM   Subscribe

22 and balding. Help!

Male here. My hairline is receding at an alarmingly quick rate. My hair is also getting thinner, and when I run my hand through my hair it is not uncommon to find 4 or 5 hairs on my hand afterward. My laptop or papers on my desk are also constantly covered with a few hairs at all times. I don't even want to talk about what my hands and shower drain look like after I give my hair thorough scrubbing.

I've always had terrible dandruff and attempted to keep it under control with over-the-counter shampoos. Is dandruff and baldness related? I look at pictures of myself from months ago and had SO much more hair. I loved my hair. This is extremely upsetting because I'm not too attractive with a shaved head. I've tried it before...I am extremely skinny and have a very small, funny shaped head (never been able to wear hats) and received a lot of negative comments about it from friends/family members ("WHY THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT YOUR HAIR WAS BEAUTIFUL!")

I don't know what to do. Does rogaine work? Is there other effective medication for this? There has to be. How is it that they have developed an Ipad but haven't figured out how to keep hair on peoples heads. I'm only 22, I really need my hair. "Embracing" it just isn't an option for me. My head is too funny shaped. I liked getting female attention. Please higher power, please, just wait until I'm at least 30. I am losing more sleep over this than I should be.

Young balding mefites with unfortunate head shapes, what do you do?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, rogaine works. Just start using it.
posted by brainmouse at 9:04 AM on May 3, 2010

First off, finding hairs when you run your hands through or shower is normal. When I wash my hair, I always lose enough hair to make a wig, it seems. It's just part of your hair's cycle of growth. Also, I don't believe dandruff and baldness are related - one is dry scalp, while the other is mainly genetics.

I don't have any personal experience, being a woman, but a male friend swears by Rogaine. He's been taking it regularly for years and still has most of his hair, while his twin brother, who doesn't use it, is nearly bald. It can't hurt to see a doctor and get a prescription.
posted by saturngirl at 9:05 AM on May 3, 2010

I, too, have a funny shaped head, but I still shave it every summer. People always make a comment. "Yes, I'm aware that I have a funny shaped head" seems to placate them. They usually seem to just want to make sure that I'm abreast of the cranial situation.

When I was really young, like 4 or 5, for some reason I lost about a quarter- to half-dollar sized patch of hair on my head. My mom is really shifty with the answers even to this day, but I think a lot of kids at my preschool lost hair, so maybe it was an infection or a parasite or something. Over the next 25 years it grew back 90%, but I was always super paranoid about this little bald spot on my head. I always parted my hair on the side to cover it up. I'm twelve and I'm sporting a comb over.

Eventually I stopped giving a shit about it. That was hard for me to do, and I kinda had to do it on my own terms, and on my own time. I think it'll be the same for you.

So yeah, see a doctor. Find out what's up with your hair loss. It could be hormonal or something, or you could just be balding really early. This guy in my high school had super-early onset male pattern baldness. He took advantage of the situation by wearing scrubs and not getting carded at liquor stores, because he looked like a fucking 38 year-old doctor.

Sorry this is happening to you. I sound pretty casual about it, but honestly, it was a major source of stress for me growing up. I'm sure if I were going through the same thing right now I'd be freaked the fuck out. The fact that you felt the need to go anonymous for this question says a lot. If it's reversible, I hope your doctor helps you out. If it's not, I hope you come to terms with it.

So, doctor, acceptance. Good luck.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:07 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

small, funny shaped head (never been able to wear hats)

You know hats come in a wide variety of sizes, right?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:07 AM on May 3, 2010

I started losing my hair a few years ago (as far as I can tell), and after talking to my dad I started using Nioxin shampoo and conditioner (or "therapy" - whatever they call it). It definitely seems to have slowed it down and I don't notice that many stray hairs anymore when I shower. Haven't tried the rogaine.

I have also struggled with dry scalp since I was younger, and have wondered about a connection with dandruff shampoos and baldness but I've never looked into it.

Oh and mine started around 30, which by your comment would somehow make it better or easier to live with, but I'd argue that it sucks regardless of what age it starts at.
posted by Big_B at 9:10 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've tried it before...I am extremely skinny and have a very small, funny shaped head (never been able to wear hats) and received a lot of negative comments about it from friends/family members ("WHY THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT YOUR HAIR WAS BEAUTIFUL!")'

If this is how people react to you cutting your hair, it sounds like it is not as much of a problem as you see it.

In addition to that, a lot of balding men keep their hair cropped, not shaved. It allows for a little more evening out of your head.
posted by Hiker at 9:10 AM on May 3, 2010

I look at pictures of myself from months ago and had SO much more hair.

Take one or two of those with you to the doctor when you go to have your bloodwork done so you can show how dramatic the progress has been.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:15 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can try Rogaine. It's not a cure, and you may not be pleased with the results. It's really just a stop-gap, and may only grow some fluff, nothing substantial. (Plus, friends tell me it shrinks their goolies.)

Instead, step back and sort yourself out. Cut your hair short short -- it just looks better. Start a workout program, accompanied with appropriate eating levels so that you put on muscle instead of just getting fatigued. Fit guys who are "bald" look great, no matter how their heads are shaped.
posted by teedee2000 at 9:15 AM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

My professor says that he started balding in his early 20's and then he started doing intense cardio exercise regularly, which actually helped him regrow hair. He is a very smart guy and has a full head of hair, so maybe he's on to something.
posted by kmavap at 9:32 AM on May 3, 2010

I feel your pain, man. I started losing hair at about the same time. Not fair, is it?

What I did, after years of slowly losing hair and trying to cover it up, was a buzz cut with the number four guard. I don't think I'd look good totally shaved, but short hair works for me. It actually looks better than longer hair arranged to try to cover up the bald areas on the sides of my forehead.

My suggestions: If you can, see a doctor first; he or she may be able to help you diagnose why you're suddenly losing your hair (e.g. if it's a side effect of a medicine or you have some hormonal problem that's causing hair loss). He or she will also be able to tell you if Rogaine or some other drug will be better for you.

If drugs aren't an option, maybe try cutting your hair short, but not totally off.

Finally: you said, "I liked getting female attention." Don't let this undermine your self-confidence; getting all neurotic about your hair loss is gonna be a much bigger turn-off than thinning hair. Just relax, you'll still be able to get female attention.
posted by JDHarper at 9:33 AM on May 3, 2010

Along with Rogaine for the receding, you've also got Propecia for the thinning. Ask your doctor!
posted by soma lkzx at 9:34 AM on May 3, 2010

You're a guy. It happens. But please: Do. Not. Combover. Seriously. You've admitted (quasi-publicly) to the fact that you are balding, this is good. You don't want to "embrace" it? Fine. But please, please, please do not combover. Everyone can tell. If they can't right now, they will when a few out-of-place hairs reveal the haircut equivalent of a sock in your underpants.

If you have money (and if this, for you, a giant problem, you'll find the money), go to a good stylist. This will be expensive. Ask your ladyfriends (or haircut-conscious guyfriends) for a salon where they do guys.
posted by griphus at 9:34 AM on May 3, 2010

...the haircut equivalent of a sock in your underpants.

Just to not compound your issues, all I mean by this is that it will reveal an unattractive lack of confidence that is miles worse than any sort of physical issue you are trying to correct.
posted by griphus at 9:36 AM on May 3, 2010

Ah, shit. This is tough, I know, but it gets easier.

I think I started losing my hair around the same age, maybe a bit younger, like 20-ish. I had enough hair for it to seem as though my hair loss wasn't too dramatic for a while, but a few years ago (about when I hit 30) it started feeling like I was trying too hard, and I just started keeping it buzzed pretty short, and mostly stopped thinking about it (before that I'd gone back and forth with having it slightly longer and buzzing it). I say mostly because I'll admit to occasionally pining for my old hair. But that's infrequent.

I can't speak to whether or not Rogaine or anything like that works, but I didn't want to go that route because 1) I wanted to get comfortable with "reality" (I know others may feel differently about what "reality" is, but I'm just speaking for myself, so let's not debate this), and 2) I didn't want to bother with the cost and time it takes to care for (and think about) my diminishing hair. Now I pull out the electric clippers once a week and I'm done with it. If you start using Rogaine, from what I understand, you have to keep using Rogaine for eternity (please, if this is not true, someone correct me...). That doesn't seem appealing to me.

I guess my head is reasonably shaped, I've never gotten negative comments like you, but I sort of think it's besides the point; you just have to get used to it, screw what other people think. In terms of being comfortable and confident, in the end, it's how you present and carry yourself, not how much hair you have on your head.

Also, see this thread. (And there are a bunch more if you do a search for 'baldness' in the archives...)

Good luck figuring out how to deal. I feel for you.
posted by dubitable at 9:39 AM on May 3, 2010

And from the thread I linked to, the Patrick Stewart video here is great. Check it out.
posted by dubitable at 9:41 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try using a conditioner only regime. Shampoo causes dandruff to worsen in some cases especially because a common content is some alcohol like substance that causes the scalp to dry like crazy.

Also, your worry is not helping the situation. Exercise to decrease your stress and embrace yourself too. Rogaine and others are expensive to maintain but if it does work and you can use it, go ahead.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 9:52 AM on May 3, 2010

None of the drugs are going to work, if you are going bald just live with it. It is not uncommon for people your age to be losing their hair, just accept that your body is going to change as you get older, sometimes for the better but mostly for the worse ;)
posted by Lebannen at 9:57 AM on May 3, 2010

... the above comment written not by me but by my boyfriend, who is in his twenties and pretty much bald, yet still got a girlfriend. He keeps the hair he has pretty short and it looks fine; his brother shaves his head and personally I think it doesn't look as good, but who knows, he has a girlfriend too.

As far as hats go, keep looking. Make friends with someone who can knit?
posted by Lebannen at 10:02 AM on May 3, 2010

I hope rogaine or some other solution works for you.

My only advice would be that if you do end up going bald - just own it.

I have a few friends who've gone bald, and they've accepted it and moved on - and the confidence shows through. Keeping your hair short often looks better than keeping it a bit longer once it starts to thin.

I think any new hair style takes a period of adjustment before it "suits" the individual, so try not to take earlier comments about your bald appearance too seriously.
posted by backwards guitar at 10:05 AM on May 3, 2010

The harsh truth is the least painfuil route is to learn to live it. Everyone goes though a stage of denial, finding it very unfunny/upsetting, and a bit more denial for good measure. The smart ones - or the ones for whom either rogaine doesn't work or for whom the idea of slaphead lotion doesn't appeal - end up cutting their hair short.

Personally, I don't think my bonce looks*that* great buzzed cut. But it looks a damn site better than it would with a tonsure.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:08 AM on May 3, 2010

Is it possible that your head, rather than being "funny shaped", is distinctively shaped?
posted by amtho at 10:11 AM on May 3, 2010

Definitely ask your doctor, and do take the fuller-haired photos with you. In the meantime, though, I'm a female with fine, thinning hair. I tried Progaine shampoo on a whim a few years ago (I thought it might contain Rogaine, but a glance at the ingredients nixed that). Unlike the zillions of other "volumizing" shampoos I've tried over the years, I really noticed a difference with Progaine. My hair is definitely "fluffier" after I dry it. No, I didn't suddenly have Farrah Fawcett hair, but it was actually fuller enough to prompt a few co-workers to ask me "Did you do something different with your hair?"
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:15 AM on May 3, 2010

Propecia works pretty well for most people. My buddy has been on it since he was 18 (now almost 29) and his hair, which was thin at 18, hasn't gotten worse in the last decade. I took it for a while and my hairline is noticeably more healthy than my little brother's, who never took it.

It'll run you something like $70/month, but people often split the pills after the first 3 months, so it'll run more like $35/month in the long run.

Rogaine has been tried by my family members as well, and I don't see that it's been effective.

Also you could just bic it. I started shaving my head a couple months ago and am very happy with it.
posted by kryptonik at 10:34 AM on May 3, 2010

Finally: you said, "I liked getting female attention." Don't let this undermine your self-confidence; getting all neurotic about your hair loss is gonna be a much bigger turn-off than thinning hair. Just relax, you'll still be able to get female attention.

Seconding this. My boyfriend had the most amazing thick hair in high school (yes, we've known each other a long time), and was incredibly adorable. Now he's got no hair on top and has started shaving the rest. Every time I catch his high school graduation photo out of the corner of my eye at his parents' house, I'm all "who IS that?" for a second. He's sexy as hell even without the hair.

The problem with the prescriptions/etc is that they are a lot of money in the long term...money you could be using for many more useful and helpful things. Boyfriend's mom is a hairdresser, and tried to convince him to get hair plugs for a while...til he found out it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000. Really. I know it's not what you want to hear, but there will always be women who will think you are incredibly awesome no matter what your hair looks like.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:54 AM on May 3, 2010

I noticed my hairline receding when I was a senior in high school. I got by with shorter and shorter haircuts until I was about 22. It only took me about 10 minutes of research to decide that all of the hair-loss products out there either didn't work, cost too much, or had unacceptable side effects. Now I just buzz it once or twice a week and don't worry about it.

Now for serious time: For the most part balding is usually just an unfortunate thing that happens to most men. Sudden, rapid hair loss, on the other hand, may indicate some other problem. If it makes you feel better, you may want to ask your doctor about it.
posted by indyz at 11:09 AM on May 3, 2010

let it go man.
posted by nihlton at 11:16 AM on May 3, 2010

I am in the shave it short camp. I started losing my hair around 25, I just bit the bullet and started shaving it.

I much prefer my hair cut short than any of the crazy hair styles I had when younger.

So shave it short and buy a new era if you need a hat
posted by moochoo at 11:32 AM on May 3, 2010

A friend of mine was losing hair rapidly and became very concerned. (woman in her 40's) Her doctor recommended a once daily treatment of 200 mcg. Selenium and 30 mg. zinc. All OTC. Several years later it has worked wonders for her.
posted by scottymac at 11:33 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a woman in my twenties, and the most attractive man I know is skinny and balding, and has been that way since college. He's never buzzed his head, but he keeps his hair cropped short. I think that's good compromise if you don't want to bare your entire head to the world.

And--I think some women will find you and your baldness attractive and some won't, but that isn't any different than the situation you were in when you had all of your hair. No one is ever universally attractive.

If you have good friends who you can talk to about this kind of stuff, I think you should if you haven't already, because it might help your confidence a bit. I'll bet you discover that your friends are all worried about things that you haven't ever really noticed, or think look good on them, which might help dim the spotlight-on-your-head feeling.
posted by colfax at 11:53 AM on May 3, 2010

Been through it - now 20 years on: Balding is a 5 stage grieving process, anonymous:
1. Denial: A little hair in the shower is quite normal right?"
2. Anger: Damn my bald grandfather!"
3. Bargaining: Comboverville.
4. Depression: Do I dare eat a peach?
5. Acceptance: Not a bug but a feature.

Acknowlege it. Work through it. Move on.
Enjoy a head start over your contemporaries.
posted by rongorongo at 12:02 PM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Go ahead and try out the Rogaine and/or Propecia. If you're like me, you'll think the Rogaine is kind of gross. And that the Propecia is too expensive, and a pain to constantly refill.

I'm skinny, and have a big, slightly lumpy head. Began noticing a receding hairline at 18, and starting buzzing my hair short by 23. Stressed out about it for years, and also worried that women wouldn't be attracted to me. I wish I had gotten over that sooner, because as it turns out, it's just not an issue for the vast majority of women worth knowing.

You'll eventually embrace it, but in the meantime you should just do whatever you need to do.
posted by bennett being thrown at 12:41 PM on May 3, 2010

My husband is hot and started balding at age 20 or so. I've only ever known him bald. There are women who will like you in spite/because of your dome. Don't worry about that.
posted by emkelley at 12:57 PM on May 3, 2010

My fiance is skinny and balding. And he's beautiful. And so are you.

Also, as others have mentioned, a short haircut goes a long way. Don't let it get long and stringy. The shorter it is the less obvious it is.

He has a very large head, so he also has problems finding proper hats. His mother recently got him one from an actual hat shop. It fits him well and looks good. I would suggest the same for you (go to a real hat shop). They'll be able to set you up with a style and size that work great for your head.
posted by kthxbi at 1:07 PM on May 3, 2010

Hair is dumb, don't stress about losing it. When it's gone you'll just have one less thing to take care of.
posted by foodgeek at 1:17 PM on May 3, 2010

The best thing you can do is accept it. Most of us go bald, it's just a matter of when.

Buzzing your hair is probably your best bet. When I start losing my hair I followed my father's lead and just chopped it all off. I never wet-shave, I use either a number 1 or no guard at all with the electric clippers. My head is pointy but I quickly came to love it. And I even started getting more attention from women. Something about looking slightly unconventional is attractive to a lot of them I think;)
posted by fso at 1:19 PM on May 3, 2010

Don't take Propecia. I know someone that it fucked up real bad.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:58 PM on May 3, 2010

You're in good company. Patrick Stewart, Captain Picard, went bald around age 19.

Here's him talking about it:

Also Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, on his blog says people don't notice you're bald when you're in good shape.
posted by Honkshu at 3:08 PM on May 3, 2010

Wow, an anonymous email from myself, 12 years ago. I, too, use to have awesome hair. People used to pet my hair. Very soft, silky happy hair. And a giant forehead. One that kept getting bigger.

One day, in college, in a friends dorm, I was half lying on a bed, and someone sat down next to my head, directly on my hair. It hurt a bit, so I sat up, and I left a chunk (seriously, a lot) of my hair on the bed. The thing is, it didn't hurt at all. Everyone was kind of shocked, and I was pretty stunned, too. I went back to my dorm, borrowed my roommates clippers, set it to the number 1 guard, and went to work. And that's it. I've never looked back, because to me, wishing I had hair again is like wishing I'd been born into wealth, or that I was 6'4" and an all-star point guard. None of that's going to happen. People I know still make jokes about my hair, but to me, it doesn't bother me, like above, it's like joking about the sky being blue. It's just something that is. It's no mark of shame.

I have a cousin who went with rogaine. He spent a lot of money on it, for about 8 years. The last time I saw him, he looked pretty much just like me. It's expensive, and it's not going to work forever. Acceptance is key. That, and the savings on haircuts, shampoo, and hair products. I bought my clippers 10 years ago, and that was the last money I spent on my hair. Every three weeks, I trim without the guard. Shaving is too much of a pain in the butt, and requires too much maintaining. Find a length on the trimmer you're comfortable with, and realize that you're pretty good as is, and people who will mock you, or get hung up on your lack of hair? Fuck 'em. There are other people out there who aren't assholes.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:32 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

On the female attention issue: When I started college, I instantly categorized any guy who was noticeably balding as too old for me. By the time I finished, so many of my peers had lost significant quantities of hair that I'd stopped noticing. It's really not a problem (to me) unless guys start doing some silly architectural engineering or cultivating a hat fetish to hide it. You don't have to shave it immediately, but yeah, eventually a cropped style might be in order.
posted by ecsh at 6:13 PM on May 3, 2010

As someone who also has substantial hair loss, I have two thoughts to share with you.

The first is this: if you drew negative comments only from your family, that does not necessarily mean that it actually looked bad. It could have just been cognitive dissonance: their mental image in their head is suddenly very dissonant from what you look like in reality, and the jarring nature of that dissonance causes a negative reaction. Or, to put it more plainly, their brain yells at them, "He's not supposed to look like that!" You might want to get a more neutral opinion from someone who has only known you for a short time. For example, when I tried a completely shaven head for a while, I would get positive comments from colleagues at work; my parents preferred me with hair. I think it's for this reason.

The second is this: closely shorn hair (buzzcuts), and completely bereft of hair (Locke, Mr. Clean, etc.) are two *distinctly* different visual looks, and both minimize the appearance of baldness. If you truly think you looked bad with one, try the other.
posted by WCityMike at 3:11 PM on May 5, 2010

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