What Causes Male Pattern Baldness and How to Treat It

Male pattern baldness can cause a receding hairline. If left untreated, the condition will likely result in permanent hair loss.

A man holding his head showing a male pattern baldness near his temple

Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, presents as a receding hairline that forms an ‘M’ shape on the top of the head. This condition eventually results in baldness of the entire crown.

Generally, the risk increases with age. However, some men can also start to experience the condition in their teenage years. In addition, this condition may also be a tell-tale sign of medical conditions like hypertension, prostate cancer, coronary heart disease, insulin resistance disorders, and an enlargement of the prostate.

What Causes Male Pattern Baldness?

Man looking at a comb full of shed hair
Genetic and environmental factors can cause male pattern baldness.

Several genetic and environmental factors are likely to cause male pattern baldness. Studies find that an increase in a sex hormone known as androgen. It regulates men and women’s reproductive functions, relates directly to hair loss.

On top of this, researchers have also discovered that variations of a single gene known as AR can increase androgen receptor activity in hair follicles. A higher level of androgen in hair follicles will give rise to a shorter cycle of hair growth. It will also increase the growth of shorter and thinner hair strands. A delay in the growth of new hair to replace shed strands is also likely to occur. All these lead to male pattern baldness.

How to Treat Male Pattern Baldness Effectively

A doctor will examine your scalp when diagnosing a hair loss condition. Medications and hair tonic are typically recommended. Additionally, traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) will use unique diagnostic methods to determine the root cause of your problem before offering treatments or herbal formulas for treating male pattern baldness.

Medication, hair tonic, and medicated shampoo

Doctors usually prescribe a hair tonic that contains minoxidil and a medicated shampoo to treat the condition and promote hair growth. In several clinical trials, people with male pattern baldness were treated with 5% minoxidil solutions. The results were promising as most of them achieved remarkable hair growth.

Doctors may also recommend finasteride. This hair loss treatment contains anti-androgen properties. It helps reduce the amount of testosterone being converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes this condition. Meanwhile, hair loss due to fungal infections usually requires an oral antifungal.

Herbal formulas

Chinese medical literature like the “Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic,” “Treatise on Febrile Diseases,” and “Compendium of Materia Medica” documents the use of classic, herbal formulations in the treatment of male pattern baldness, which is usually caused by:  

  • Liver qi (vital life energy) stagnation  
  • Kidney deficiency  
  • Blood-heat with dry wind  
  • Spleen-stomach with dampness-heat  

Based on the root causes of baldness, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments include herbal ingredients like mulberries (Sangshènzǐ), Chinese Angelica (Danggui), fleece flower tuber (Heshouwu), Poria mushrooms (Fuling), red sage (Danshen), and Rehmannia root (Shēngdìhuáng). These herbs clear heat, calm the heart, improve blood circulation, tranquilise the mind as well as remove toxicity and blood stasis. They also help tonify the liver and kidneys, increase the microelement levels of the hair, and downregulate the serum testosterone level.

“You may also use acupuncture to help to stimulate hair follicles, nerves, and blood vessels so the hair loss will stop. Then, regrowth may begin again with additional treatment”, says Eu Yan Sang TCM physician Kong Teck Chuan. 

Apart from this, consuming health supplements or a botanical beverage high in calcium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D can also support hair growth. Iron, biotin, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B12 can also help to promote hair growth. However, they may not be so effective for male pattern baldness.

Can Male Pattern Baldness Become Permanent?

Man washing his hair in the shower
Doctors may prescribe medicated shampoos and hair tonics to treat hair loss.

There’s no cure for pattern baldness, and failure to treat it early may cause or speed up permanent hair loss. However, medications like minoxidil and TCM herbal formulations can help slow and reverse its symptoms.  

Fortunately, there are treatments available to mitigate male pattern baldness. The use of herbal formulations can work in different ways to regulate your bodily systems and hormone levels. At the same time, adjunctive use of medication, supplements, or medicated shampoo help inhibit hair loss and promote growth. Always consult a specialist or practitioner to get the right hair treatment formula to ensure optimal results.

This is an adaptation of an article, “脱发问题(秃头) (Hair Loss Problems (Baldness)”, which first appeared on Health123 website.

References

  1. MedlinePlus. Androgenetic alopecia.  [Accessed 12 November 2021]
  2. US National Library of Medicine. 2019. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. [Accessed 8 November 2021]
  3. Hindawi. 2019. Meta-Analysis on the Efficacy and Safety of Traditional Chinese Medicine as Adjuvant Therapy for Refractory Androgenetic Alopecia. [Accessed 8 November 2021]

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