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June 16, 2005 11:46 AM   Subscribe

How do I really know if I'm losing my hair?

There are lots of sites that help with thinning hair, but I can't find anything on how to recognize thinning...
So, it seems to me that my hair has been slowly thinning on the top of my head for sometime now (maybe just under a year), but I'm really not sure. I have black hair and seem to notice more of my scalp when looking in the mirror (especially close up). This is more apparent when my hair is wet - when it's dry, it's more difficult to tell. I notice hairs here and there on my table when I'm at the computer, but am not sure if it's really a lot or a normal amount. My father is pretty bald, so I wonder if I'm being paranoid. My fiance says she hasn't noticed any loss. I've always had really thick hair, so I never even thought about losing it until now.
And if I am, what should I do to try and halt it? Rogaine? A new diet? Start wearing a hat to protect from the sun? Or should I just get it over with and shave it?
posted by hellbient to Health & Fitness (22 answers total)
Take pictures after you get your hair cut, and have your fiance take pictures of the bits in back. If you go to the same barber, ask them if they notice a difference. Compare by the month, not the day.
posted by OmieWise at 12:08 PM on June 16, 2005

As someone who has been balding since age 19, my advice to you (which you will ignore) is not to panic, not to read the baldness websites, not start buying products which claim to halt or reverse hairloss, not to go on crazy diets. it will turn you into an obsessed lunatic. (spend 10 horrific moments at the alt.baldspot newsgroup for a taste of what heppens to people).

if your hair gets thin and you don't like the way it looks then shave it off. shaving my head changed my life. seriously.
posted by glenwood at 12:24 PM on June 16, 2005

It's worth keeping in mind that most hair loss treatments do a much better job of maintaining hair than regrowing it. So while accepting it is probably the most sane way of dealing, if you are planning to try to counteract it, you'd do well to start sooner rather than later. Right now, only minoxidil (Rogaine), finasteride (Propecia), copper peptides, Nizoral shampoo, and low-level laser (Lasercomb) are really the only options worth spending your time on.

That said, fighting hair loss is a frustrating, uphill battle that can easily turn you into a psychological mess. I haven't made the shaved head leap yet and still use the Nizoral shampoo, but since I took the energy I expended obsessing about my hair and shifted it towards getting in shape and staying healthy, I've been a much happier person.

Repeat after me: "male pattern baldness is not a disease". It's a completely natural and harmless (if unattractive) of being an adult male.
posted by 4easypayments at 12:43 PM on June 16, 2005

I agree with Glenwood.

And if you think you might be losing your hair, you probably are. Don't worry about it. Shaving your head (or cutting it very short) is the best idea in the long run. It worked for me.
posted by kdern at 12:47 PM on June 16, 2005

Woah! Just wanted to chime and say to kdern that you look a lot cooler with the shaved head.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:58 PM on June 16, 2005

Check this thread.
posted by peacay at 1:01 PM on June 16, 2005

I haven't made the shaved head leap yet and still use the Nizoral shampoo..

Is it working for you? I'm in pretty much the same situation as hellbient other than the fact that I know I'm losing my hair. If shampoo is all it takes to at least maintain/slowdown what is inevitably going to happen, I would be fine with that. I know it's not 100% assured, but I'd at least like to try.

I want to maintain my sanity about the whole thing, and have no aversions to eventually shaving it all off, but if I can hold on to what I have until I'm at least 30, that would be great.

(hellbient: Sorry for jumping in on your question. I hope it's not too much of a derail.)
posted by purephase at 1:04 PM on June 16, 2005

I don't have any advice on retaining or regaining hair but I'd like to add some girlzone perspective: 1) if you're going bald do it with dignity, and 2) confident bald guys are sexy guys.

Also: kdern, the new look rocks!
posted by idest at 1:11 PM on June 16, 2005

4easypayments (and other bald men)--baldness in itself is NOT unattractive.

For me (and most other women I know), baldness is really a non-issue.

The combover, however, is ludicrous.
posted by luneray at 1:12 PM on June 16, 2005

And if you think you might be losing your hair, you probably are.

Not necesarily true: I had long hair in my early 20s (I'm a guy) and was worried that I might be losing hair because so much of it would show up in the drain after a shower.

Turned out, everyone loses 70-90 hairs every day, and I just noticed it more because it was so long (and I was probably putting stress on it by having it pulled back all day, which added to my daily total).
posted by o2b at 1:16 PM on June 16, 2005

The Nizoral is really just the only part of my old regimen that stuck because it's cheap and I have to shampoo my hair with something in any case. Severe dandruff seems to go hand in hand with MPB, and since Nizoral is primarily an anti-dandruff shampoo, you're at least getting that benefit.

It's hard to say exactly how much it's helped since I have no idea where I'd be if I weren't using it, but I feel like it has. There is a study that compares Nizoral to 2% minoxidil. If I can find the link, I'll post it.

kdern: Whoa! Looks good. Your pic may have inspired me to try out a super-buzzed look myself.
posted by 4easypayments at 1:19 PM on June 16, 2005

Another vote here for shaving it all off. Throughout high school I had long (shoulder-length) hair but by the end of high school I was starting to thin out on top. I was a little concerned but didn't think anything of it. Then, after my 1st year of University, I cropped my locks and got a short haircut to keep me cool (temperature wise) while I worked that summer in a Frito Lay warehouse in Texas. Near the end of my second year at University I found myself anxiously checking the back of my head more and more frequently: sure enough, I was going bald. I started to freak out a little more each day and with each fallen strand, until I thought to myself, hmmm... I'm worried about losing my hair, but if I had no hair to lose, then I would no longer be worried. I shaved my head completely, and then I was bald. There-- done! My worries were bagged up with the rest of my hair and lugged to the curb for the trash man. I was bald, but the sun still rose and the world still turned and the ladies still answered the door when I came a'knockin. It's been ten years now, a decade of sleek-headedness and let me tell you, I love it-- it's the quickest, easiest, most maintenance-free hairstyle ever. So take heart, hellbient! Buy some electric clippers, shave your head, and with the money you save on haircuts, take your fiance out for a first class meal.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 1:38 PM on June 16, 2005

Response by poster: Severe dandruff seems to go hand in hand with MPB
oh, ahem, that explains a lot in my case...I'd never heard that before. If going bald cures dandruff, I'd almost welcome it...I already had to give up my dream of being a goth because of the nasty stuff...

FWIW, I'm not freaking out, I'm sure that'd only cause more hair to fall out. If it happens, it happens, I just figure if it's happening, I might as well try and keep what I have. I'm not going to try and get it back if I do evolve. Like 4easypayments, I use dandruff shampoo anyway (Nexxus Dandarrest - works okay, not great though) so if OmieWise's method proves positive for MPB, then I suppose I'll switch to Nizoral. If that doesn't work, it won't be the first time I've gone with the shaved look anyway...

purephase - I was going to ask that anyway.
thanks, wise bald ones! : )
posted by hellbient at 1:43 PM on June 16, 2005

If I can find the link, I'll post it.

Much appreciated. I've looked into the other products and I'm not interested in the regimen that most seem to require. Shampoo seems like a fairly simple step that hopefully will not devolve into a neurosis. ;)

idest and luneray, thanks for the female perspective! Always helpful in this situation (and my fiancee agrees with you as well).

kdern, nice. :) Leaves some hope for me!
posted by purephase at 1:44 PM on June 16, 2005

I have always heard that the gene for baldness comes from the mother, and that if your mother's father was bald, then you (if male) are likely to be bald as well. Not sure if this is true but might be worth a Google search and a look at your Grandpa (or a picture).
posted by amro at 1:44 PM on June 16, 2005

Minoxidil can be really harsh (it's usually diluted in alcohol) and once started, has to be continued or you can lose your gains. it's expensive, kind of messy to apply, and you get an initial shedding which is meant to resolve but apparently can be pretty worrying to those who aren't expecting it. This is why a lot start it but don't see it through. I don't think I've ever read a clear explanation as to why it works.

Start with Nizoral shampoo, it's the easiest. The only problems it can cause is dryness of the scalp, so make sure you have a good conditioner and perhaps when you put your conditioner in your hand ready to use it add a drop of emu oil. You won't find anything on it about it being a hair loss treatment, although that probably accounts for the majority of the sales. The company won't go through the expensive study trials it needs to in order to be able to market it for hair loss prevention and there is really only anecdotal evidence that it works at all, but there's quite a lot of it and the claims are quite sane. It's no miracle but it does have an effect. I use it (it's the only treatment I use) and personally believe it helps.

Topical Spironolactone is expensive and rather hard to source but reasonably easy to use and like Nizoral it is claimed to reduce the amount of DHT in the scalp. Therefore it's no big deal to stop the treament or take a break from it. You cannot use it with Rogain because the chemicals react together. Some people persevere and use Spiro during the day, wash it off, and use Rogain at night. Hardcore.

Propecia and Dutasteride are oral medications that block the conversion of testosterone into DHT however can have severe side effects. You want to really look into these side effects! People using them for hair loss sometimes cut them into quarters or halves in order to take the least possible that has an effect. You lose the effects once you stop taking it. I hope it doesn't seem like I'm recommending this treatment, I'm just trying to outline what's out there.

There are various vitamins and minerals that apparently help but you might be better off just taking a multivitamin, making sure you are getting enough protein, and maybe drinking some Horsetail tea once a day for the silica and minerals.

Some of these vitamins taken in isolation can cause problems, too much zinc for example, can cause imbalances with other vitamins, and very few guys need iron supplements at all, in fact, they can be very dangerous.
posted by lucien at 1:54 PM on June 16, 2005

I think kdern mighta dropped a few pounds, too, but the shaved pic definitely looks very cool...

I have a male friend who says he started with the shampoos and it's totally working. He is psyched about it and fully convinced it's the products. I have no way to give you any scientific evidence of that, but you can always try the tricks before cutting (or shaving, I guess) your losses.

I'm female and thought I was losing hair this fall - which is even worse than being a man with thinning hair, which is at least sorta expected. But now I think maybe I was just stressed out, and that now I'm just back to the normal "70-90 hairs a day" that o2b referenced above. Stress is a factor. Also take a multivitamin. I called my doctor to ask if it might be a side effect of a med I was taking - he didn't think it was, but recommended taking the mineral selenium just in case, as it's meant to help combat hair loss (but that may be just for women, not sure).
posted by mdn at 1:57 PM on June 16, 2005

If you read the thread that peacay points to you can read the little trick for how I tracked the hairline (which is how my baldness started and is progressing).

And if I am, what should I do to try and halt it? Rogaine? A new diet? Start wearing a hat to protect from the sun? Or should I just get it over with and shave it?

Cut it short. Shave it. Trust us. We know.
posted by safetyfork at 2:25 PM on June 16, 2005

buzz/shave it. sexxxxx-aay! kdern - looks good (did you lose a few pounds too?).
posted by matildaben at 2:49 PM on June 16, 2005

For what it's worth, here's my experience. About a year and a half ago, I started noticing what I thought was some thinning in the hair on top of my head. I have a family history of baldness, so I wasn't all that surprised. My general practitioner diagnosed basic male pattern baldness by performing a test in which he plucked at my scalp, and noted how much hair came away.

I decided to go the pharmaceutical route, and I've been taking Propecia ever since. I've had no side effects, and I do notice it working -- MUCH less hair in the shower drain, subjectively "more" hair when I look at myself in the mirror, etc. Versus some of the other choices, one pill a day is a lot easier to deal with than creams or other topical emoluments.

The major downside is the cost -- about $70 per month forever, which is not covered by insurance since, as previously noted, baldness isn't really a pathology.

I'd disagree with previous posters about fatalistic hair shaving -- if you would prefer to have hair for awhile there are certainly pharmacological options open to you. Good luck!
posted by killdevil at 5:27 PM on June 16, 2005

Whatever you do, don't do a combover.
posted by zardoz at 1:13 AM on June 17, 2005

My hair started thinning at alarming rates as soon as I got out of high school. My dermatologist, after I told her that my uncle and grandfather on my Mom's side were bald, told me that I was "doomed". I started using generic minoxidill and taking propecia almost 3 years ago, and it has definitely halted my hair loss and even filled out the front a little.

The minoxidill is annoying (it recommends twice a day, but I only use it when I do to bed - it's very greasy), but I've had absolutely no problems with propecia. I would recommend asking your doctor about both.
posted by deafmute at 1:34 AM on June 17, 2005

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