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hair loss can be traumatic. What man in his right man wants to experience baldness? A receding hairline nad male pattern baldness turn what looks like a 30 year old into a 50 year old. Rogaine, otherwise known as minoxidil, showed some effectiveness in slowing down baldness but not much. Propecia, otherwise known as finasteride, showed better promise. What class on the Norwood scale are you?


 
Home / Health  /
Honestly, Is Baldness Really That Beautiful?
Baldness

It's easy to say bald is beautiful when you're a female with hair down to your ankles, but what about the poor bald guys who have to look in the mirror?


Would you believe the man in this picture is only 35?

Okay, I'm lying.   But if you dyed his minimal remaining fringe hair brown and smeared his face with a bit of anti-wrinkle cream, that's how he would have looked at age 35 -- or hell, even at age 25.   Men like this one, with only the thin horseshoe fringe barely clinging on, are termed Norwood Class 7 balders.   That's the summit of the top of the bald mountain no man wants to climb. You don't get any balder than this.  Men with seemingly no hair are Class 7's who shaved off their fringe hair, like the actor Telly Savalas or Michael Jordan.   All these fellows started losing their hair shortly after they obtained their driver's licenses, maybe before.  By the time they graduated university, they were walking around with the shiny scalps they'll display for the rest of their lives. 

When you see flashbacks of a youthful Homer Simpson or Jeffrey Tambor's patriarchal character on Arrested Development, both are shown with half decent heads of hair.  In reality, both men, as Class 7's, would never have had hair as adults.  You can actually see a young Jeffrey Tambor in his mid-thirties in reruns of Three's Company and in its spinoff The Ropers.  He was as golfball bald then as he is now.    

I'm not a vain man, but bald scalps never looked becoming to me.  At just 10, I was paranoid I'd end up looking like the man in our picture.  My grandfather on my mother's side was balder than a bald eagle on chemotherapy,  and back then I was told and believed that baldness was inherited through the mother's father.   Actually, baldness can be inherited from either side of the family.   Well, no saving grace there.   My father's father was a Class 5, and my own father, as far as I can remember, was emerging into a Class 5 of his own.  My chances for growing into adulthood with a hairy scalp looked bleak.    Was I to be one of the doomed to have to smear sun screen upon his chrome domed scalp?

Norwood baldness scale

If I'd known anything about genetics then, there were a few meager strands of hope for me. Baldness is a sex-linked gene, which manifests more obviously in men than in women.  My maternal grandmother's brothers all possessed full heads of hair, and my paternal grandmother also came from a family where apelike scalps were not unknown.  If my mother were carrying hairy genes, there was a chance my scalp would receive her endowment.  Problem is:  how do you know what genes your mom is carrying? 

Male pattern baldness is triggered by hormones, a genetic predisposition, and an internal clock that governs when each follicle starts to shrink.  The hormones don't kick in until puberty.  That's why you never see any prepubescent bald tykes roaming about the playground.  Nonetheless, by age 14 I was already using special anti-dandruff shampoos to prevent inflammation of the scalp.  A short while later, I was using biotin shampoos and hair gels that purportedly counteracted the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase from turning the male hormone testosterone into dihydrotesterone (DHT).   

In hindsight, the products I was then using were rubbish.  Back in the 1980's, there was little FDA regulation.  A company could manufacture a product and claim it helped or cured hair loss, when most did nothing of the sort.   I remember seeing a segment on 20/20 in 1985 about the effects of minoxidil on balding scalps.   Everyone was hailing this as a new wonder drug, and many men, including non-balding men like me, rushed to have homemade versions of it concocted before Upjohn released their own version as Rogaine in 1989. 

Rogaine was only available in 2% solutions back then, and it really wasn't as amazing as everyone made it out to be.  Today, you can get it in 5% and even 15% solutions that are far more effective. 

I  didn't stick with minoxidil for more than a year and dumped it completely in 1989.   It made my scalp too dry, and I still had a full head of hair; it was hard then to justify the sacrifice of a perpetually itchy scalp for unseen rewards. 

People made equally as a big a deal, possibly bigger, when Merck got finasteride, better known as Propecia, FDA approved in 1997.  Propecia acts as a DHT-inhibitor.   The research looked promising.  Like all wonder treatments, it worked better to prevent hair loss than restore follicles that had already gone to follicle heaven.  And let's face it, if Propecia were so brilliant, then why are there still plenty of young bald guys reflecting sunlight off their bald scalps more than 10 years later?

  Baldness Song lyrics

 When the hair is shedding, sing about it: The Baldness Song

I never tried Propecia.  From 1989 to 1997, I went on the journey from my early 20's to my late 20's.  Some hair follicles became casualties on that journey, but at the end of it, I still had enough scalp coverage that no one would shout "Baldy" to me in the street. My diet had changed as well, and I became more health conscious.  I no longer had the teenaged fervor of  "I'll do anything (short of castration) to stave off hair loss."  I refused to put myself on a drug indefinitely to possibly keep the strands.  Instead, around 2001, I settled on a regimen of special shampoos and an all-natural DHT inhibitor spray, which I've been on ever since.   The question I'm always asked is:  "Does it help?"  The answer:  how the hell do I know?  I could only answer that if I had a twin brother whose untreated scalp I could compare mine to.

I have no more desire to go bald now than I did when I was 20.  There's just less heat on me now.  I realized that if you make it into your mid-twenties with a respectable amount of hair, it's highly, highly unlikely you'll ever wind up with a completely glistening scalp, though you're never really home free.   There're a select few fellows -- Ronald Reagan, Tony Bennett, my friend Brian, my cousin Jon -- whose hair magically seems to grow thicker with age.  Call them lucky mutants.  Their unfortunate counterparts are the poor guys whose hair thins at racing car speeds, the ones who wind up with smooth scalps at 35, the ones who get labeled "bald."

The truth is that most men lose their hair with the passing of the years, just not at the rates which cause the alarm bells to sound.  Think of Henry Winker, aka the Fonz.  He's in his mid-60's now.  No one would call him bald, but what he's currently got, dyed black and greased back, wouldn't be cool enough for Fonzie's groupies to run their hands through.   Think about Jerry Seinfeld.  His scalp isn't about nothing, like his TV show was, but you couldn't exactly lose a comb in there.    Clint Eastwood's career enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990's, but it wasn't because of his hair.  Those follicles remain unforgiven.  Even after a hair transplant in the mid 1980's and his hair trimmed short, no one would insist that the former Dirty Harry's hair would make their day. 

The older you get, the more common it is to see your peers with less hair and so it becomes easier to see yourself with less hair.  Twenty-five percent of men under 30 show signs of balding.  Thereafter, it just gets worse, with the percentages of the balding nearly matching the ages -- that is, about 50% who reach 50 shows signs of balding and 66% of men at 60.  I expect if most men reached age 100, full heads of hair would only be waiting for 5% of them.  The reason that it's impossible for men to live to 200 is that 190% or more of them would have to be bald.  

Hair loss

Let's correct a myth sprouted by bald lobbyists who want to convince the masses that baldness isn't all that bad:  bald is not beautiful.   No bald man, particularly a young bald man, revels in being bald.  Some, like the comedian Larry David, try to derive humor out of their baldness.  This isn't quite the same as enjoying being bald.  Guaranteed:  if Larry could use his millions to purchase a genuine new head of hair, not a toupee, but real thick hair emanating from his scalp, he'd plunk it down quicker than a heroin addict could inject his next fix. 

The Baldness Appearance Theorem, which I'm inventing right now, states that any man who's bald would look better with hair.  Like Sean Connery bald?  Go rent Dr. No or Goldfinger.  He looked better with hair, even if it was a toupee.   Are you one of the many who thought Ron Howard was cute as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and as Richie Cunningham on Happy Days?  How cute do you find him now with his hair evaporated?  No wonder he opted for a career behind the camera.  A fullheaded man can at least shave it all off he wants to temporarily (key word: temporarily) go hairless.  What's a Class 7 to do but wear a toupee that costs more than the average American's monthly salary, like William Shatner and Burt Reynolds do, and constantly get made fun of in the press?

Being a bald caveman probably didn't matter one way or the other.  These men existed simply to survive and reproduce.  A full head of hair wouldn't help them run faster to avoid being eaten.  It's once societies sprung up that to have or not have hair became a question.   The Ancient Egyptians used lion's fat and hippopotamus dung as crappy remedies to combat hair loss.  Julius Caesar was an innovator of the comb-over and wore a laurel wreath to cover up his thinning scalp.  Modern media has only exacerbated what's always been a concern, as we're constantly shown images of male models sporting the trendiest shirts and shoes and bodies.  None of them are bald.  I'm surprised in the politically correct West that aspiring but balding male models haven't sued for affirmative action already. 

Positions of apparent power don't go to the bald.  When has the United States recently had a bald president?  Considering the percentage of men in America over 40 who are balding and that all elected U.S. presidents have been males over 40, the without hairs appear on that list a lot less than they should.  The last cueball Commander-in-Chief was Gerald Ford in 1977, and I'd argue he shouldn't be counted since he was neither elected as president or as vice-president .   The last truly bald American president, chosen by the people, was Dwight Eisenhower, in 1953, and the electorate had reason to ignore his gleaming scalp because the man was an honored war hero.   Before Eisenhower, we have to go all the way back to 1881 to James Garfield to locate a Class 6/Class 7 balder in the White House, and poor Garfield was assassinated after just six months in office!

I've read repeated "surveys" and "studies", documenting that a man's lack of hair density plays little part in his attractiveness to the opposite sex.   I could believe that for women over 30, in the market for more mature men, but such statements are the equivalent of horse manure when you're talking about twentysomethings on the singles scene.  In a Psychology Today article from 1994, 40% of women agreed that they found bald men unattractive.  These women tended to be the younger, more attractive ones, exactly the sort of women a sane single twentysomething male would want to attract.   If 40% were honest enough to admit that baldness turned them off, then in the real world, the stat is even higher, because in the real world it's usually impossible to isolate a single factor that makes someone else unattractive.  When a woman meets a man, she assesses him as a package:  his physique, his sense of humor, his hygiene, his values, his attitude, and yes, his scalp.  Unless she has a recognized phobia for the balding, it's unlikely she'll be aware of precisely how much a man's challenged scalp dimmed her fires.  Instead, she'll clock up her lack of attraction to him being too thin or too fat or too dark or too white or, more likely, a combination of many.  The man's transparent scalp could well have played a decisive role in him not getting consideration.   When I was in grade school, I remember how being punctual with homework assignments had a small impact on our final grades.  It could nudge someone with a B+ average up to an A-.   I'd say baldness has a similar impact for most women, knocking an otherwise A- down to a B+ (or lower) and right off her radar. 

Because more people are bald the older one gets, balding later in life has less of an impact than balding earlier.  A man married to a woman for twenty years probably isn't going to have his wife file for divorce because he starts to go bald.  However, the story could well have wound up differently had he been balding when they met.  People who've already gotten their feet in the door with hair are already in the building once their hair starts to shed.   

Being bald doesn't mean you'll wind up a loser.   There are plenty of vocations open to the bald.   Basically, anything that involves a perception of youth or sexiness is out.  Back office jobs, like accountancy or engineering, where the scalp remains hidden, or jobs where advanced age (or the perception of it -- you'll look 10-15 years older being bald) is valued, such as a surgeon, are in. 

The politically correct stance is to state that baldness, like a small penis, is irrelevant.  Who are we kidding?   The early onset of pattern baldness and a microscopic John Thomas can't be ignored by those born to suffer those fates.  Even if you're one of the few men who can honestly come to terms with his hairlessness and embrace it, when others start treating you as a middle-aged has-been when you're barely 25, it's going to extract some toll on how you feel about yourself.  

I'll believe baldness is beautiful when I see others actively seeking to become bald.  Until that day comes -- and it will, when pigs fly -- I'll opt to walk down the street and be mistaken for an ape. 

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