Male pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia, is exceedingly common. Hair thinning and hair loss can begin as early as late adolescence and progress with age. Understanding why it happens, including its strong genetic element, can help men counter its effects.
Characteristics of male pattern hair loss (MPHL)
MPHL typically begins first with bitemporal recession – triangular, usually symmetrical, areas of recession at the frontal hairline. Thinning starts in the temples as well as the crown/vertex and slowly progresses to encompass the entire top of the scalp.
The disease onset and progression vary from person to person. Initial signs of male pattern hair loss usually develop during teenage years and lead to progressive hair loss and thinning of the hair across the scalp.
Causes of male pattern hair loss
A genetic predisposition is considered a major risk factor for male pattern hair loss, as genetics determine the activity level of the androgenic hormones that lead to MPHL. However, this condition can also be present even in individuals without a family history.
In the hair follicle cells, a male hormone called testosterone converts into an active form and binds to the androgenic receptors in the hair follicle. Individuals with male pattern hair loss have abnormal sensitivity of hair follicles, allowing easier binding to receptors.
This specific bonding triggers cellular processes that cut short the anagen phase of the hair cycle, the stage where hair follicles grow. For this reason, the hair follicles enter the telogen phase earlier where programmed cell death happens.
In normal hair follicles, the duration of the anagen phase lasts from two to seven years. Individuals with male pattern hair loss have an anagen phase that ranges from a few years to just weeks.
With the decreased duration of the anagen phase, more hair follicles enter the telogen phase. Telogen hairs are more easily plucked than anagen hairs. Thus, individuals will notice increased hair shedding as they comb their hair.
An increased amount of androgen also causes hair follicles to be transformed into thin, vellus-like hairs. As a result, hairs are finer and lack pigmentation.
Topical and oral treatments
Topical and systemic drugs are often used in treating MPHL. The most common topical drug is minoxidil. Originally developed as an oral medication for hypertension, its common side effect of excessive hair growth has led to its use as a treatment. Minoxidil 2% or 5% solution is often used in topical application to prolong the anagen phase.
Other anti-androgen drugs include fluridil and finasteride. A topical application of fluridil helps suppress androgen receptors in hair follicles. Finasteride is available as oral medication and reduces the conversion of testosterone into its active form. Finasteride has also shown to reverse the effects of follicle miniaturization.
Copper peptide is another ingredient that stimulates hair regrowth. Made up of amino acids, copper peptides have regenerative properties that work to increase hair follicle size and reduce hair loss. By fighting inflammation and free radicals, copper peptides also protect the hair follicles from being damaged.
For a hair regrowth serum without any toxicity or irritation, look to Copper Peptide Hair Regrowth Serum.
All treatments for MPHL are for long-term use, which means stopping the treatment will cause your hair loss condition to return. Before committing to any topical treatment, it is recommended to consult an accredited dermatologist for professional advice.
Light therapy as treatment
Low light, intense pulsed light, and red light treatment can initiate hair regrowth. Red light treatment, with wavelengths between 630 to 670 nm, stimulates an enzyme called cytochrome C. This enzyme encourages our genes to produce more hair and lowers the cell death of hair follicles.
Using a laser comb for 15 minutes, three times a week, also increases the number of hair follicles in the anagen phase, the stage in which our hair grows. The comb is available as a stand-alone or adjunctive therapy.
All treatments are currently available at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre.
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Meet with Dr. Teo Wan Lin, an accredited dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, for a thorough consultation to determine the most suitable treatment for your skin.
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