Question: I am 24-year-old man, but to my horror, my hair is falling out! My hairline seems to be receding and I noticed a slight thinning patch on the top. I am reminded of this every time I glance at all the hairs in my sink, on my bathroom floor and on my pillowcase. Nothing has been said (yet!), but my co-workers must be noticing, as well as my friends at the gym. I’m hoping to settle down, but it’s getting harder to get a date.
What should I do? I remember telling my uncle he looked like a doll after he got “hair plugs” when I was in kindergarten, and wonder if hair transplants have improved since then.
Dr. Shapiro, Hair Transplant Doctor Answers: As a young man in the dating scene, I understand that your hair loss must be very stressful. You are smart to look into the problem now, before it gets worse.
The first step is to visit your doctor or dermatologist to determine the cause of the hair loss. You seemed to describe male pattern balding, also known as androgenetic alopecia, which is hormone-related and runs in families. Self-diagnosis is a bad idea, because hair loss can be a sign of a more serious condition, fungal infection, etc.
If your problem is indeed early-onset male pattern balding, now is the time to start your life-long Hair Management Plan. Think long-term here. You are going to be around for probably another 50 or more years. Your male pattern balding started prematurely. For most men, it usually kicks in around middle age. Hair loss is progressive. Therefore, given that you have a long life ahead of you, you have more time to lose even more hair than most other men. Soon, your hair loss may make you look 10 or 20 years older than you really are. Attracting a mate your own age may become increasingly difficult.
It is true that doctors and regular dermatologists have knowledge of hair loss, but they do not specialize in this area. The health care professional who is best qualified to help you create your Hair Management Plan is a hair transplant specialist.
In the same way that seeing an orthopedic surgeon does not mean you will have immediate surgery, seeing a hair transplant doctor does not mean you are signing up for a hair transplant. At my offices in Southern Florida, I see people of all ages who need a consultation, diagnosis and advice about their hair loss.
As part of your Hair Management Plan, we would take photos and get a baseline measurement of your hair’s condition. You might benefit from medication, such as Rogaine or Propecia, to help retain the hair you have and slow your hair loss.
It would not hurt to look at your nutrition. Are you taking a whey protein supplement to help build muscle at the gym? Most whey protein supplements contain whey protein isolate, which may contribute to hair loss according to a study. My special Help Hair Shake contains the safer and more natural whey protein concentrate, as well as natural ingredients chosen for their hair-enhancing qualities. There are also Help Hair Vitamins and hair care products that may help improve the quality of the hair you have.
Hair transplant surgery has improved significantly in the last 20 years with the development of Follicular Unit Micrografting. I was one of the pioneers in this field. The “plugs” you saw had 5-10 hairs in each incision, whereas Follicular Unit Micrografting has just 1-3 hairs at the hairline. This creates a totally natural look.
I can do a hair transplant on a person as young as 17, as long as they have achieved full growth. As you may already know, hair transplants use donor hair from other parts of the patient’s scalp and transplant these hairs to the balding areas. For some young patients, we decide to put off hair transplant surgery by using nutrition and medication. In this way, we will make maximum use of the donor hair over your lifetime and will do not run out of donor hair later.
Creating a written Hair Management Plan with a hair transplant doctor now is the best move you could make.
Thanks for asking!
Dr. Shapiro is a dermatologist and hair transplantation specialist with hair transplant clinics in the Miami, Boca Raton and Ft. Lauderdale areas of south Florida.