The Definitive Guide to Hair Loss and Hair Thinning Hair in Men
It’s the thing no guy ever wants to talk about: hair loss. But the reality is that 85% of men have significant hair loss by the time they turn 50. That’s according to the American Hair Loss Association.
They report that “most men who suffer from male pattern baldness are extremely unhappy with their situation and would do anything to change it. Hair loss affects every aspect of the hair loss sufferer's life. It affects interpersonal relationships as well as the professional lives of those suffering. It is not uncommon for men to change their career paths because of their hair loss.”
Hair loss sucks. Nobody likes it. But since the significant majority of men (and that probably includes you) will experience at least some hair loss and thinning during their lifetime, do the smart thing and educate yourself.
A better understanding of your hair, how hair loss happens, and what you can do about it will empower you to confidently look your best - no matter what stage you’re at in your experience with hair thinning and loss.
In this guide we’ll break down how your hair works, common myths about hair loss, and how to prevent, treat, and deal with the reality of thinning and hair loss. Read on - or jump to the section that interests you most.
What Even Is Your Hair?
TL; DR: Basically, your hair is just a bunch of dead cells made of 91% protein.
But there’s a lot more interesting anatomy to your hair, the way it grows, and why we all have different types of hair.
The visible part of your hair - the shaft - grows out of small openings in your scalp called follicles. Within those follicles are the hair roots. At the base of each root is a hair bulb where nutrients are stored and new hair grows from.
Also inside hair follicles are cone shaped areas called the dermal papilla. These send blood and nutrients to the hair bulb. And there’s a sebum oil gland at the follicle base that sends lubrication throughout the hair strand. This lubricating hair oil is what keeps hair looking shiny and healthy.
The hair bulb generates new hair cells using nutrients from the dermal papilla. As these newly generated cells move up through the hair, they mature via a process called keratinization. By the time a hair shaft visibly emerges from its follicle, it’s nothing more than keratinized proteins.
How Follicles Affect Hair Type and Texture
The hair follicles are what give men such a wide variety of hair types and textures. They’re what create the unique aspects of your hair that set you apart. So yeah, they’re pretty awesome.
The shape and size of your hair follicles has a lot to do with how your hair grows and looks. For example:
- Size - Larger follicles = thicker hair. Smaller follicles = finer hair.
- Shape - Circular follicles = straighter hair. Ovular/flat follicle = wavier, curlier hair.
These details all come down to genetics. For now, you can’t customize your hair follicles and change your natural hair texture and appearance. Genetics also determines how many follicles you have on your scalp; for most guys it’s about 100,000.
Ugh. Nobody likes hair thinning and hair loss. It’s totally normal and totally frustrating. But no matter what stage you’re at in this process, there’s plenty you can do to take care of your hair, enhance its appearance, and confidently look your best.
By age 30, most men have already noticed some kind of hair thinning or balding. This happens when individual hair follicles shrink (producing thinner hair strands) and then close off for good (no more hair growth).
Male pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia) is when progressive, natural thinning of the hair occurs that eventually leads to baldness. Hair loss and thinning usually (but not always) begins at the temple and gradually recedes backwards, creating a “horseshoe” shape of hair left on the head, with the crown becoming bald.
What’s behind this process? If you’ve blamed yourself or wondered, “What should I have done to prevent this?” it’s time to let that go. In 95% of cases, men’s hair loss is caused by androgenetic alopecia - commonly knowns as male pattern baldness. In 25% of cases, guys will have already started losing their hair before they turn 21.
This loss can be emotionally devastating, but you shouldn’t blame yourself.
Experts find that in about 95% of cases, a chemical called dihydrotestosterone (DHT, a bi-product of testosterone) is to blame. It attaches itself to hair follicles and slowly causes them to stop producing hair. Here's what that progression looks like:
While great strides have been made, male pattern hair loss is still not 100% understood. Some medications and methods have been approved for slowing or reversing hair loss, but they often come with unpleasant side effects that make many men second guess using them.
The desire to prevent and reverse hair loss is nothing new. Since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians, guys have been trying to finding a miraculous cure for hair loss. (Spoiler alert: There still isn’t one.)
Ancient Hair Loss Treatments
Part of the reason this has always been a concern is that, since ancient times, hair growth has been associated with masculinity, virility, and strength. To hold on to that image of themselves, Egyptian men would take the fat from tomcats, crocodiles, ibexes, and snakes, melt it all together, and then apply the mixture directly to their bald heads. Not something you’ll see recommended by doctors today.
Hippocrates - a major figure in Greek medicine - was a bald man. And he came up with his own cure for baldness. Opium, horseradish, beet juice, and pigeon droppings. Mix that and put it on your head. (But please, don’t. It doesn’t work. And it’s gross.)
Clearly, many of these ancient cures were crafted from complete guesswork. People would combine ingredients - sometimes seemingly at random, sometimes based on their smells, textures, and effects - in a desperate attempt to regrow hair.
There were some methods that were more about the way the treatment was applied than the ingredients themselves. For example, there was the oats and molasses paste that, when licked off by a cow, led to hair growth. Or the beer, boiled wheat, and honey mix that only worked if a virgin rubbed it on your head. (Again, none of this actually works.)
New Solutions: Huge Wigs and Hair Tonics
Eventually, large, ornamental wigs with long curls were popular. This lasted from Victorian times all the way up to the American Revolution. These were more about hiding baldness than actually curing it. They turned baldness into a moot point by dressing it up in ridiculous wigs.
In the 1800’s, patent medicines often claimed to cure baldness. But… they did not. Medicine shows traveled around the United States, advertising hair tonics that accomplished nothing but supposedly would reverse hair loss.
The Industrial Revolution lead to the development of electronic and mechanical devices that were designed to stimulate hair growth. Many used heat or light to supposedly stimulate hair growth. You can still find products like this today - some of which use lasers. They didn’t work then, and they still don’t now.
Finally, Something That Actually Works (Sometimes)
In the late 1970’s, medical researchers discovered substances that could, in some cases, cause hair growth. This led to the development of finasteride, commonly marketed as Propecia, and minoxidil, the active ingredient in Rogaine.
These drugs work for some guys, but not everyone. They are still treatments, not cures. No one fully understands the process of hair loss. If they did, there would be one clear treatment that doctors could prescribe to everyone. But for now, nothing is 100% effective for 100% of men.
Fear about hair loss - and a general lack of education about it - have given way to many male hair loss myths. They spread like wildfire and lead guys to make iffy decisions about their hair care. And in some cases, it could mean you’re working with bad information and accelerating your hair loss.
Get the facts, not the fear-mongering myths. Here are a few common myths about hair loss, debunked (and in some cases, confirmed).
Myth: Your hair care routine doesn’t matter.
Fact: Yes, it most definitely does.
The way you treat your hair today will have an affect on how it looks and acts tomorrow. That’s why you should use the best natural hair care products for men - not just whatever you can find. Anything less and you’re just looking for trouble.
Your shampoo should contain natural cleansers, not harsh chemical detergents. Those strip away the natural oils your hair needs to stay strong and healthy. If you’re already noticing that you hair is getting thinner, use our Daily Strengthening Shampoo with hydrolyzed wheat protein. This natural ingredient plumps hair strands to help them appear fuller.
Myth: You should shampoo every day, no matter what.
Fact: Daily shampooing can accelerate hair loss.
If you’re already starting to lose your hair, it may be wise to stop shampooing daily. As you massage your shampoo into your hair, you weaken the strands and can cause accelerated hair loss. The same goes for aggressive towel drying. All that jostling only weakens your hair.
Instead, switch to shampooing just a few times a week, perhaps every other day. In most cases there’s no need to worry, your hair will still stay clean and healthy.
Myth: Stress causes hair loss.
Fact: It does, but for most guys genetics is the real problem.
Stressful life experiences can definitely cause hair loss, but it’s not typically permanent. Your stress levels would have to be quite extreme to cause major hair loss.
For most guys, the problem is genetic and thus totally unavoidable. So while you should certainly lower your stress levels just to enjoy life better and lower your risk of other health problems, it’s not likely to have any affect on your long term hair loss.
Myth: Wearing hats causes hair loss.
Fact: Nope. Chill out and wear your hat.
Traction alopecia - permanent hair loss caused by a pulling force on the hair - is a thing. But for a hat to cause this kind of hair loss it would have to be tight. Like, nasty, uncomfortable, unreasonable, unbearably tight. So keep wearing that baseball cap, no worries.
Myth: There’s no way to prevent or reverse hair loss.
Fact: Some hair loss treatments are gimmicks, but others are the real deal.
It’s true that some natural supplements have been shown to reduce the chemical responsible for male pattern baldness, DHT. But there’s still no conclusive evidence that they actually prevent hair loss.
On the other hand, Propecia and Roagine both work for many men. The active ingredient in Propecia - finasteride - is FDA-approved and blocks an enzyme that would normally convert testosterone into DHT and cause hair loss. It does have side effects, though, and can cause sexual problems for some men. Rogaine - or minoxidil - is effective in about 30%-50% of men and has far fewer side effects.
The best way to prevent hair thinning and hair loss is to treat your hair and scalp well. In the majority of cases, hair loss is determined by genetic factors that you can’t control. Yes - some brands now market hair loss vitamins and other treatments. And while those can help, chances are that you are still going to experience some degree of hair loss, no matter what.
For starters, you should learn to appreciate and properly care for the hair you do have - whatever it’s thickness or texture. Here are a few ways to do that:
Use gentle, natural hair care products. Harsh detergents, sulfates, and phthalates in most shampoos damage hair and irritate the scalp. They remove dirt and oil, but they do it at the cost of essential moisture. So switch to a gentler option - like our Daily Strengthening Shampoo. It's specifically designed to help thicken your thinning hair strands. How? With hydrolyzed wheat protein.
Let's get down to some dirty science: Hydrolyzed wheat protein is a brown liquid that comes from wheat germ. The amino acids and peptides are processed out of the germ to create a nutrient rich protein extract. Through hydrolysis, peptide bonds are broken down to create smaller amino acid chains. These easily penetrate deep into the inner fibers of hair shafts because of their low molecular weight.
As your hair strands absorb hydrolyzed wheat protein, they swell up, form a protective film, and develop a natural, glossy shine. This gives your hair a fuller, thicker appearance thanks to a massive increase in moisture.
This protein doesn't replace the keratin that makes up your hair. But it does make a huge difference in the way your hair looks and feels. Using it regularly will help keep your hair fuller and thicker - even if you’re losing your hair currently.
Turn down the temperature. Hot water is hard on your hair and scalp. It strips away the natural oils that your hair needs to stay full and healthy. So take it easy on your hair by washing it with warm, not scalding hot, water.
Dry gently. Rubbing at your scalp like a madman is no way to dry your hair. A gentle patting technique is much easier on your hair and scalp. Skip the heat tools too for drying and styling - they do damage much like your hot water does.
Style with hydrating products. The sprays, gels, and pomades you use to style your hair also have an effect on your scalp and its health - which in turn affects hair growth. If you go for a natural product with ingredients that hydrate, soothe, and enhance your hair, you’ll do much better. Above all else, avoid hair styling products that contain alcohol - it dries our your hair and scalp, leaving them easily damaged and not in a position to maintain optimal hair growth.
Lead a healthy lifestyle. The healthy habits that contribute to overall wellness also help keep your hair healthy. So quit smoking, get regular exercise, eat right, and do what you can to mitigate stress. That’s all easier said than done, but even small improvements in your lifestyle will make a difference.
Talk to your doctor. You may be able to treat your receding hairline with medical techniques. On the more invasive end of the spectrum are hair transplants and stem cell treatments - but these can be costly and involve some downtime for recovery. An alternative is low-level laser therapy, a non-invasive treatment that uses lasers to increase circulation and stimulate hair growth. It’s not a one-and-done procedure - you’ll need to attend multiple sessions per week over many months. But studies have shown that it can work for some men.
If you want to look your best despite hair loss, the first step is acceptance. You won’t ever look exactly like you did before the process began - but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Years of experience have made you older yes, but also wiser and more successful. Embrace the reality of your situation, both the good and the bad.
Once you’ve done that, consider changing or modifying your hair style to deal better with hair loss. These tips can help.
When Hair Loss First Starts
Many guys first notice hair loss as a receding hair line. This can happen even if you have thick hair. But it’s most noticeable in men who already have a V-shaped hairline. The more dramatic the V, the more pronounced your hair loss will appear.
At the early phases of hair loss, a bit of length (and maybe the genetic help of a natural wave) can help minimize the appearance of hair loss. If you don’t have wavy hair on your own, the right styling product - like our texturizing pomade - can help make up for a little thinning.
Most of the hair style adjustments you can make are designed to create more volume. It’s easier to do if you have thicker hair, but even guys with thin hair can achieve this look.
What if your hair is thinning around your temples and receding back? Growing the hair behind that area a bit longer and pushing it forward can create more coverage without looking like a combover. A tousled look is best - it gives your style more volume. It’s a messier style, but can still be done in a professional way that won’t make you look too disheveled. You can get the look easily using our Shaping Paste Pomade.
If you want to build hair volume, use hair care products specifically designed for men with thinning hair. For example, our Daily Strengthening Shampoo is made with thickening ingredients - like hydrolyzed wheat protein - that plump hair strands and promote growth. Most shampoos are made with surfactants and sulfates that are harsh and dehydrating. Avoid those for the best results.
Beware of Too Much Length
Growing your hair out may help with volume, but it can quickly reach a point of diminishing returns. That’s because long hair is heavy and harder to shape. It resists your styling efforts and can get all out of place far too easily.
In essence, it becomes a hot mess.
When that happens, the thinning spots you are trying to cover up may stand out even worse. Every guy’s hair is different, so experiment with the right length for you.
Many men reach a point in their hair loss when shaving it off is the best solution. A buzz cut gives you a clean look that embraces the reality of hair loss without any of the unfortunate looks that come with combovers.
This is a common reaction to hair loss because it works. Instead of stressing about patchy spots or desperately hoping your hair stays in place, you can take pride in your appearance and get back to being a successful, confident man.
Hair Loss Doesn’t Define You
For most guys, hair thinning and hair loss is part of life. It doesn’t make you a failure, any less of a man, or anything else negative that you may have floating around in your head. So instead of letting this natural process get you down, take action. Accept the reality of it, do what you can to treat your hair right, and embrace confidence in your whole self - hair loss and all.