Five years ago, one of the first Doug's
Republic articles I ever wrote asked the question of
baldness was honestly that beautiful.
The startling conclusions that article drew played a
huge role in proper self esteem determination for a new
generation of the insecure. Men now knew with close to near certainty that
baldness makes them a helluva lot worse off.
At an abnormally young age, I had
already observed that certain men lost their hair. When you're 8 years old, you don't accurately discern
the differences in age between a 25 year old and 40 year
old. Adults fell
into two categories. They were old like your parents or old like your
It was normal in my family circles to
see bald men in both those age groups. As I got a bit older, say 11 or 12, I got better at
distinguishing the niceties of aging. An older cousin, Jeffrey, ten years my senior, had
already gone significantly bald.
Today, he has just marginally less hair than he did
when he was 21.
I remember having a discussion with him about the loss of
his hair. He
wasn't very sympathetic on the subject, probably because
he'd already had the equivalent of the s-t kicked out his
scalp at a supremely young age. He said baldness ran through the maternal
grandfather's side. As we both shared the same maternal grandfather and
that grandfather had balded completely by his early 20's,
Jeffrey told me that this was my destined path as well. "Enjoy your hair while you got it," he laughed.
Fortunately for me, Jeffrey didn't know
what the hell he was talking about. Baldness can come from either side of the family. The glistening scalp of a maternal grandfather - or
even a paternal grandfather -- isn't a hair death sentence,
though it does, of course, increase the chances you
inherited the baldness gene. Jeffrey could have inherited the baldness gene
from his dad, a platinum card carrying member of the Chrome
Dome Association of Northeastern Ohio. Jeffrey's father was also bald in his early 20's. Lucky for me, my father was not. By the time I was 21, I still had a full head of
This isn't to say Jeffrey's
conversation didn't worry me. My maternal grandfather was a Class 7. You can't get any worse than that. My paternal grandfather was at least a Class 5.
My own father was
evolving into a Class 5 by his early 30's. My mother may have been carrying hirsute genes which
she passed on to me, but I had no way of knowing. As baldness is a sex linked gene, women can be
carriers without balding themselves. Their sons are the unlucky souls who have to pay the
thin haired piper. So by age 17, despite no signs of balding, I'd
already begun rubbing lotions and creams into my scalp to
forestall a nightmare that looked to me like it had more
than a 50% chance of occurring.
All this took place before
Propecia and Rogaine became the only FDA approved treatments
for hair loss.
Manufacturers then said whatever they wanted to about their
General Nutrition Centers were where I bought most of my
hair 'treatments.' The products were rubbish mostly. I just didn't know that yet. I used a biotin shampoo and gel which was supposed to
nurture the scalp. More products than not weren't based on any kind of
Once a week, I bathed my scalp in Pennsylvania crude oil, a
treatment advocated by the psychic Edgar Cayce. Wilford Grover Ph.D tabulated some research results
for this treatment back in 1973. About 2 in 3 respondents reported moderate to
complete regrowth. Admittedly, Grover's study wasn't very scientific.
The treatments changed depending on
what I had access to. By the time I was 20, I was rubbing in a pre-FDA
approved dosage of 2% minoxidil. A year later I tried a Belgian treatment which came
Applying the fluid to my scalp made it tingle. I dabbled in a treatment called the Helsinki Formula,
which is still around today. An inexpensive food emulsifier, polysorbate 80, was
written up as a hair regrowth agent in the early 1980's in
the book Life Extension. My father conveniently had a copy of the book,
and I began rubbing this in as a pre-conditioner for years. If I were still able to easily get my hands on
polysorbate in Thailand, I'm sure it would still be part of
my hair fight.
Now, mind you, none of these were
frantic reactionary treatments. I had yet to go bald. These were all preventative.
The simple question you're likely
asking at this point is: did any of them work? The answer is equally simple: who the hell knows???? I'm still not classified as bald but I do have less
hair than I did when I graduated high school. So do Jerry Seinfeld, Clint Eastwood, and the late
Robin Williams and none of these men are/were considered
Baldness is one of those afflictions
that becomes more prevalent (and hence, more socially
acceptable) with age. The general accepted stat is that by 20, 20% of men
have shown some measure of baldness, and these ramp up at a
predictable rate all the way up to one's 80's. By 50, 50% of men are balding. By 80, 80%. 10% or less of the male population winds up like Alec
Baldwin or my father-in-law who have either the same OR MORE
hair at 70 than they did at 40. The rest of us recede, either slowly (Henry Winkler)
or quickly (Yul "The King and I" Brynner).
We only find out the
rate by looking in the mirror and comparing ourselves to
Today, there is a saliva swab test you
can take at a cost of less than $50 if you order it online. A positive result means a man has a 70% chance of
losing his hair.
A negative signifies he has a 90% chance of not going
prematurely bald. These are pretty vague stats. If you test positive, does that mean slight thinning
or significant balding? Remember, not all of us inherit the same balding
patterns or recede at the same rates.
This test seems to be good for telling you you're
off the hook or you're not. And if you're
not, you're left with no idea how bad it could get.
At any rate, no such test existed back
in my teenaged days, and I'd wager that most men today have
either never heard of the test or bothered to take it. Baldness is one of those things men tackle only after
it's apparent they've lost some hair.
If you were trying to lose 10 kg, you
have an easy and objective way to test whether your protocol
is working. Each
week you stand on a scale and observe whether your weight is
dropping. If you
were trying to get into better shape, there are other easy
and objective tests to measure improvements. Stress tests. Standard pulse recovery rate. Resting pulse rate.
Baldness is different.
If you go on a
treatment, you have to maintain a certain faith that the
regimen is doing something since there's usually no baseline
control to compare yourself against. A precious few may have an identical twin brother.
Comparing your scalp to your brother's, presuming he's on no
treatment, will tell you if your treatment provides any real
benefit. For the
rest of us lacking an identical twin, we're clueless. It's all too easy to pronounce a treatment a dud when
no new hair growth results, but that doesn't mean a
treatment is a failure. Regrowth of lost hair is always rare, regardless of
Treatments are always more effective at retarding further
hair loss. It's
true for anything that an ounce of prevention is worth a
pound of cure.
But even if you continue to bald, it still doesn't mean the
treatment is a scam. Perhaps you're balding at a slower rate than you
would have had you continued to do nothing.
In my case, I'm not bald now, but I do
have less hair than I did when I was 18. How much of my current growth is due to my genes and
how much to the incessant treatments, some of which I still
never know. Possibly
I can find out if I quit all my treatments and my hair
starts thinning at a rapid rate, but would I dare risk that?
I cannot tell you how many times I've
been to hair loss forums and seen a newbie post his baldness
class and then say he went on treatments X, Y, and Z
simultaneously starting last week. Why hasn't he grown any hair yet? Others post their regimens and assure the community
they'll be back to post on their progress in the succeeding
party is ever heard from again. The former gives up before he's really begun because
he has unrealistic time expectations. The latter thinks that his rigorous regimen will
reverse all signs of balding. The only things that can (possibly) do that are
surgery and cosmetic cover-ups like toupees. When the regimen merely halts further balding -
itself a sign of success - but without any regrowth, the victim
dictates his treatment a waste, posts no updates, and
probably quits doing any treatment altogether.
Winding up with a shiny scalp in a decade, he bemoans
the sh-tty genes mom and dad gave him when there was a
decent chance he could've forestalled the worst ravages of
baldness had he stayed on course.
Sympathizing with balding men, twelve
years ago I ran a business which provided generic Propecia
to balding men each month. At that time, name-brand Propecia cost a whopping
generic version, still containing the active ingredient
finasteride in the same concentration, was priced at just
$25 and included the fee of shipping their monthly dosage to
their door. I
knew most people lack the discipline to stay on something
for an extended period of time unless it's convenient and
was and still is the drug most doctors prescribe when the
issue of baldness comes up. Despite the societal acceptance, the great price, and
the ease of administering this treatment, most of my
customers didn't stick with it for any great length of time. I presume that when they didn't see their teenaged
hairlines magically reappear, they bailed.
Life is a lot like baldness. A few of us are born
into that lucky 10%. We are gifted an unassailable hairline or a silver
spoon in our mouth. We never have to think whether something is working
or not because we were fortunate to land on our feet with
everything already working. Maybe we're born with Ronald Reagan's hairline or as
part of a family dynasty, and it's understood that after a
certain age, we'll merely assume our role in the hierarchy. Prince William inherited a crappy hairline which he
didn't do anything to countermand, but then, his hairline or
lack of one was never going to be a real issue, was it? Baldness is almost a rite of passage in the British
Hair or no hair, he was destined to sit on the British
throne, marry an attractive and wealthy woman, and go
through all the motions royal family members are expected
As for the rest of us, it's all a
don't know if we're going to be in the group of 20% who bald
by 20 or the 40% who bald by 40, any more than we know that
the prestigious law job we were turned down for at Dickwatz
& Schitzky was what made us desperate enough to work for
that startup which wound up netting us $100m after it went
A few of us, at young ages, are so
determined to avoid some undesirable outcome that we do what
seems extreme in order to avoid it. We rub topical baldness solutions in our still hairy
channel obsessive efforts into starting businesses at young
ages to avoid being stuck in the lower middle classes.
And one thing we can
never be sure of, unless we're riding high, either with a
full head of hair on the baldness scale or with the life we
always dreamed of on the happiness scale, is if the
decisions we've made have worked to get us to the best
possible place. Who
of us isn't guilty of applying a few prescriptions onto our
life, waiting a ridiculously short amount of time to witness
results, and then quitting when the results haven't shown up
The treatment for hair loss and an
unsuccessful life is already out there. Neither is a secret. Baldness is expressed through some unique mix of
genes, hormones, and age. We cannot do anything about age and genes at this
point in time, so topical and oral treatments, applied
regularly, work on the hormone side to prevent auto immune
reactions and follicle shrinkage. People who are successful know what they want and
keep heading in that direction without letting up,
maintaining some faith that their steadfast vision will get
It takes most of us decades to lose all
the hair we're going to lose, with a few very unlucky sods
losing it all in less than 5 years. Similarly, it takes most of us decades to get where
we want to go, with a few very lucky dogs arriving in less
than 5 years.
For the bulk of us, doing something very little but doing it
every day is what makes all the difference.