I'm only 27. How can I keep my hair from thinning out?
March 18, 2013 6:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 27 year old male. I've noticed my hair has been thinning out and receding my hairline over the last year. Is there anything I can do to keep it sticking around for a while longer? I didn't expect to be witnessing this before I'm 30. Can a doctor help?
posted by decrescendo to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, a doctor can help.
posted by procrastination at 6:58 PM on March 18, 2013

The only thing that Actually Works (but is not guaranteed to) is medication, which has all sorts of side effects, is rather expensive and only works as long as you're using it. If there was a real miracle cure for male pattern balding, there'd be a lot less bald dudes out there. You can buy all sorts of fancy shampoos and creams and read online about how you should wash your hair with equal parts vinegar and whiskey, but none of that stuff works.

Take all the money you want to spend on keeping your hair, and instead find a good old-school men's barber who knows what to do with a dude who is losing his hair and will give you a proper, flattering haircut and convince you that a combover is a bad idea.
posted by griphus at 6:58 PM on March 18, 2013 [13 favorites]

I know someone who was having this problem. His doctor had him do Rogaine to regrow some of the hair, then Propecia to keep it from thinning.
posted by radioamy at 7:04 PM on March 18, 2013

I didn't expect to be witnessing this before I'm 30.

You're ahead of the curve a few years. I'm 27 and most of my balding friends started becoming, erm, symptomatic at 24/25. A few of them went the medical intervention route. They're still balding. That's just the way it goes.

2nding griphus.
posted by phunniemee at 7:06 PM on March 18, 2013

There's Rogaine/Propecia. You get to do it for life or until you get tired of it.

I got tired of pills and shaved it all off. Not everyone can pull that off, but more can than think they can.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:31 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

My husband's hair was thinning when I met him. He was 21 at the time. He used Rogaine for quite a while - probably until he was 27 or 28 - and finally gave it up, thank goodness. It really irritated his scalp, smelled terrible and got everywhere, and I guess he finally came to believe me that I didn't care how much hair he had. Plus I think he noticed that people at work assumed he was a little older than he actually was and took him commensurately more seriously.
posted by town of cats at 7:46 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

As a stranger on the Internet, I say please don't do the Rogaine thing. Women care about male balding about 1% as much as men do, in my experience. Rock your balding head with pride.
posted by Salamander at 8:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [13 favorites]

I started going bald when I was like 18. It sucked. Now, in my mid-20s, it's just part of the rest of my lovely phenotype cocktail. And I get to have swagga while newbie thinhairs are having an identity crisis. The only cure to this affliction is psychological-- I'm not being flip. You might find a way to hold onto a few hairs but the Saga of Balding will start to take over your brain. Every time you apply Miracle Cure XYZ, you will be reminded that you are Staving Off The Horrible Thing That Is Destroying Your Looks, And Perhaps, Indeed, Your Whole Life. It's not worth it. Adopt self-acceptance as an actual practice, not just as a catchphrase.

I hope this isn't too much of a not-answer; but this is one of those rare, nice problems you can fully cure by divesting from the problem.
posted by threeants at 8:14 PM on March 18, 2013 [24 favorites]

I find bald men much more attractive than guys with lots of hair. Don't spend the time, stress, and money worrying about losing your hair. I'm not a unicorn; lots of women feel as I do. And your 20s is a normal time for the balding gene to kick in. It varies a lot from the mid-teens to 70s or 80s. It's genetic.

Instead, crop your remaining hair as closely as possible, or go all the way with the hairless look. If you shave completely, be sure to wear sunscreen or a hat when out, as the scalp is a prime area for sun damage and skin cancer.

Don't allow your hair to stick out at the sides or grow long with a bald or thin spot on top...and for the love of all things holy, DON'T do a Donald Trump comb-over.

And, as Salamander said, rock it with pride. Truly, any prospective partner who is turned off by a balding head is not worth your time and energy.
posted by xenophile at 8:16 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who, without a lick of jokingness, floated the idea of getting a procedure that would put tiny black dot tattoos on his scalp to imitate a full-haired shaved head (!!) I felt very sad for him in that moment.
posted by threeants at 8:17 PM on March 18, 2013

My BFF is about 15 years older than you and has had infomercial-worthy success with Rogaine. His hair, after about 3-4 months of using it, is pretty much as fluffy and glorious as it was in high school (except not dyed blue). Certainly YMMV but I don't see much value in allowing people to shame or guilt you out of doing something that will potentially make you happy and is entirely harmless to others.
posted by tiny plastic sockpuppet at 9:01 PM on March 18, 2013

Check your thyroid and vitamin D levels. If abnormal, they can have effects on hair loss.
posted by shivohum at 9:06 PM on March 18, 2013

Rogaine is available over-the-counter at the drugstore. I don't see anything wrong with giving it a try -- I buy haircolor at the drugstore to cover grays and I don't think this is any different.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:31 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some guys lose hair.

Some guys don't.

To be honest, I never saw the problem. If you're going bald, you're going bald. Don't be that guy with the bad wig.

Not to be all internet detective-y, but what are your work habits and what sort of shampoo are you using? Are you inside, under flourescent lights, and you never see the sun? Or are you a lifeguard in Australia and you're getting your scalp blasted 16 hours a day? Have you tried coal tar shampoo? have you tried not shampooing for a week or two?

Bonus: threeants, an extended family member who was uncomfortable about his baldness has this done and it was really shocking how much it looked like he just shaved his head yesterday, or maybe the day before. As long as you didn't touch it and as long as he actually shaved it. And it looks surprisingly good in pictures.
posted by Sphinx at 10:18 PM on March 18, 2013

The only answer to your question is Propecia. (Now generic, price going down.) You have to get an Rx from your Dr. You take it every day. The cost is not covered by insurance. It is about $220/3 months, taken daily. No likely side effects.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 10:46 PM on March 18, 2013

Yo my hair started receding when I was like 21. I could not possibly agree more with threeants. I took a deep breath, buzzed that shit when I was maybe 25, and haven't looked back. Saves me money on haircuts, totally eliminates all tedious hair-related decisions from my life, and I look way better to boot. You probably will too. Don't fight it.
posted by valrus at 11:15 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Check your iron levels. Although the normal range is 12-110 (or thereabouts), my doctor (at a major research hospital) told me that a score under 40 can cause hair loss and thinning. Her nurse agreed, and her nurse's daughter, also a nurse, agreed, both based on their own experience. All three plus two other doctors advised Biotin 5000 mg 1x/day, too. Anyway, as a result, I was put on supplemental iron for several months, and, yes, started taking Biotin, and, yes!, my hair grew back.
posted by Puppetry for Privacy at 11:27 PM on March 18, 2013

+1 Propecia / Finpecia. Been on it for 15 years.

The side effect is it can affect your sex drive. They say.
posted by wrm at 12:04 AM on March 19, 2013

I think I win the premature balding war in this thread - I started losing it at 17 and by 19 it was full steam ahead.

threeants said it best.

I'm 24 now and most people would describe me as "bald" although I still have a very thin layer on top. I keep it cut really close (about a 2 on the razor) and my life has not ended. I still attract plenty of desirable female attention (and it becomes more of a non-issue as I get further into my 20s and balding becomes par for the course). I am well respected at my job. I have good friends. Etc. etc.

You can do the Rogaine and Propecia thing for awhile if you really can't let go just yet. I burned some money on Rogaine for a couple years (maybe it's just part of the mourning process) but to be honest, considering your age, I'd just find a cut that works for you and let it go.
posted by Defenestrator at 12:12 AM on March 19, 2013

And as other have mentioned, please don't waste your time on anything but Rogaine and Propecia. Those are the only things that *might* work.
posted by Defenestrator at 12:13 AM on March 19, 2013

bald-at-25-guy here. just buzz cut or shave that shit and don't look back. it's so not a big deal. my love life did not end when i lost my hair, far from it. it only matters if you think it does.

if you need further re-enforcement of this idea, go rent all late-era bruce willis films, starting (chronologically) with pulp fiction, and watch them back to back.
posted by messiahwannabe at 1:12 AM on March 19, 2013

Balding throughout my late teens, then, bam, one day it got too absurd, shaved my head and never looked back. Sure, the world is full of jerks with hair who think it's funny to point out that you don't have any. That's okay, since while you lack hair, they lack wit, tact, or even any originality.

There are a good number of ways to go about it. You can get it cut by a professional who knows what they're doing, and while they won't hide it, you won't look bad. Or you can get a trimmer and go to town, saving a lot of money. All of the money you would have spent on rogaine and propecia? Budget it out. Think about how much it would have cost you. Put some into savings, and take the left over bit, and pamper yourself. Nice clothes, a trip, something. Something that's fun, and makes you say, hey, if I was still so hung up on my hair, I wouldn't be doing this awesome thing I'm doing right now.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:48 AM on March 19, 2013

I lost my hair early, and now shave it fully. I've embraced the look. I had no choice unless I wanted to go down the combover route.

But I can totally understand why someone wouldn't want to lose their hair early. If I leave my hair for more than a week I end up looking like the Dilbert character with the pointy bits on the side so it's best to either go full bore than get shorter and shorter haircuts. I found the two years when it seemed to recede daily challenging because shaving it all off felt like defeat and everyone else I knew seemed to sport luxurious coiffes.

Some people can just shave their hair and carry it off, so more power to them. Some people just look prematurely old, or weird, or like they drown staffies for fun between pints of Special Brew. I don't care that I've lost my hair now but I've had time to grow into it, as it were.

I wouldn't go down the Rogaine route. It's expensive, messy, smelly and has variable results. It's a sticking plaster. If you want a full head of hair because it makes you more attractive, be aware that Rogaine is as sexy as using formaldehyde as aftershave.

Either shave it all off or go see a rug doctor (trichologist) about your suitability for more invasive procedures to rethatch your bonce. If I was in my twenties I'd totally go and have a consultation because much as I'm OK with my lack of hair if I'm totally honest I'd rather have hair than not.

Bonus points: if people start mentioning that you're losing your hair, deflect by telling them it's not true and that it's just slipped down your front. This only works if you have a hairy chest, clearly.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:38 AM on March 19, 2013

Yes, being bald is fine and dandy, etc. All that being said, I sympathize.

When I was in my early twenties I was convinced I was losing my hair. I was finding hair on my pillow, my hairline looked patchy, the whole deal. I got so tired of worrying about it that I just grew out my bangs (thus concealing my hairline) and told myself that if it got really bad I would get a hair transplant someday. I used Rogaine for a while, but it did seem like a real bother, and I got lazy and eventually quit.

Well, I am very much not in my early twenties now, and in all this time my hairline probably retreated like a quarter inch from where it started. If I haven't gone bald by now, I suspect I've dodged that particular bullet.

I say all this to show that it can really, really seem like you're balding, and then sometimes you don't go bald. For now I'd say grow some rocker bangs or another hairstyle that doesn't reveal your hairline, try some Rogaine to maintain what you've got, and stop worrying about it. Odds are that if you are really going bald, by the time you're bald enough that bangs won't hide it, you'll probably be bald enough for a good transplant procedure. Or you won't care anymore.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:21 AM on March 19, 2013

And remember all is not necessarily lost: I decided to grow out my traditionally clean-cut hair at 24. When it was shoulder-length, when I was 27, I noticed it was starting to thin on top so I cut it shorter again because I did not want to be That Guy with the ponytail and the sparse thatching on the pate. A friend who was a decade older and entirely bald assessed my situation, said it was his all over again, and warned me darkly it would all be gone before age 35.

Now I am closing in on 50 and it seems I have lost maybe 10% more since then. There is a bald spot half the size of the palm of my hand, but my dad (at 70) has had one of those for decades now. Be of good cheer: sometimes it reaches a point where it progresses no further.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:35 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

(Mean to say: I was you twenty years ago, reconciling myself to the imminent shaven-head look, and it turned out to be unnecessary. You never know. Good luck!)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:43 AM on March 19, 2013

Before you do anything - Rogaine or full-on self acceptance - ask your doctor to run a round of bloodwork for hormones, thyroid, vitamins and the other general tests. There are plenty of medical conditions which can cause loss of hair or thinning hair, and it's worth ensuring it's not a symptom of something else. Don't get obsessive about it, but I'd encourage one round of testing just to be sure.
posted by barnone at 5:16 AM on March 19, 2013

I'm with defenestrator. In my high school grad photo, I have a pronounced widow's peak and bald spot. My family was obsessed with trying to figure out what was wrong. I had men in their 60's saying "wow, you have even less hair then I do!" In my first year of university I shaved it bald, and have been doing so ever since. All the attention it was getting went away immediately. That was 16 years ago. After a few months it just became my look.

Don't worry about it too much. Many women love bald men. Talk to a barber or hair stylist and find a look that works for you.
posted by dry white toast at 7:04 AM on March 19, 2013

Even though it is made by a company that I hate and despise for personal reasons, John Frieda's Root Awakenings slows hair loss. It has really reversed the hair loss process for my husband, who is decades older than you. It's not an "instant cure." He has been using it - just the shampoo, none of the related products, for about 5 years.
posted by tizzie at 7:48 AM on March 19, 2013

Two words: Patrick Stewart.
posted by glasseyes at 7:53 AM on March 19, 2013

Hopefully it's just some spring shedding but if not, try to embrace it. I started going bald at 15. It was tough decision but I decided to shave my head about... oh, four months after realizing there wasn't much I could do (16-ish). For me it was the choice of becoming bald rather than have baldness slowly creep up on me. 33 year-old self is exceptionally pleased 16 year-old self made the right call. I've never had to worry about concealing haircuts and/or wind/swimming rearranging my perfectly positioned coif. And to be honest, in the dating/business world hair is surprisingly low on the totem pole of importance.
posted by professorpotato at 7:55 AM on March 19, 2013

Trying to keep your hair while balding: A difficult expensive losing proposition
Costs: Expensive medication and stress as you count each lost hair
Savings: None
Peace of mind: None, as you count every hair on your brush

Shaving your head: Incredibly easy, stylish and economical
Costs: One clipper every 5 or so years.
Savings: no barber / hairdresser fees ever again. You never ever need to buy shampoo, conditioner or any other hair product ever again.
Peace of mind: A lot, as you accept your new aerodynamic self
posted by jazh at 8:08 AM on March 19, 2013

I'm 28 and my hairline has been receding steadily for about a decade now.

I used to be really self conscious about it.

But now, eh. I found a hair cutter person I like and she knows how to make it look decent and not like I'm trying to cover it up. For awhile, I went with the completely shaved head look, and one day, when it gets to a certain point, I'll go back to that look.

Having a shaved head is actually so great. It feels awesome, low maintenance. Whenever people would ask me about it, I told them I was just trying to get my brain as close to the outside world as possible, for understanding, and then laugh it off.

Seriously, don't spend the mental energy, time, and money over this. Just own it dude. It's fine.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:46 AM on March 19, 2013

I fully support Tanizaki and the rest of the guys who've commented on this thread already.

Shave it and forget about it.
posted by endotoxin at 12:41 PM on March 19, 2013

Figure out what style works for you at this moment. There's just as much shaming coming from people who say "shave at the first sign of thinning" as people who say "start using medication". There's nothing wrong with slightly thin hair. Shorter will work better, it's true. And maybe one day completely shaved will look the best. But this whole "you can't fire me because I quit!" approach to hairstyle seems a little overboard.
posted by the jam at 10:22 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Acceptance. Find a good barber - work out a hairstyle that looks good for you. It will probably be pretty short, or shorter than you've worn it previously.

I'm 31 now. I've been balding since I was 25. I used to have shoulder length hair. Now I have really short hair, like 1cm. I still look good. You will too.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:14 PM on March 20, 2013

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