These days, if preparing for a big meeting or your college reunion finds you attempting an artful comb-over, there may be hope coming your way. New research has pinpointed another likely cause of male pattern baldness, and that might mean more successful forms of treatment will eventually be available.
Scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia focused on comparing men who had experienced hair loss with their peers with full heads of hair to determine where the difference lies. And their assessment did indeed find a difference: men with male pattern baldness have a much greater quantity of prostaglandin D2 protein on their scalps.1 This protein and the derivatives into which it breaks down are known to obstruct the growth of hair. Male pattern baldness takes place when hair follicles contract in size. The hairs that subsequently grow are very small and fall out quickly, leaving the individual with increasingly large bald spots.
If this breakthrough can be turned into an effective treatment for hair loss, it will be huge business. Approximately 80 percent of men below the age of 70 experience some baldness. While it is not a problem of the same magnitude for pre-menopausal women, with only 10 percent developing hair loss, it actually expands to a whopping 50 to 75 percent of women 65 and older.2 In addition, it is less socially acceptable and therefore that much more embarrassing for them.
However, that could all be a thing of the past if this new research leads to improved treatments that truly address the/a/one cause of hair loss. The current treatments tend to be more reactionary, as many medical treatments are, and just look to reduce symptoms instead of affecting the cause of the baldness. For instance, minoxidil (better known as Rogaine) was found accidentally to help restore some lost hair as it was being used to combat high blood pressure. Propecia, a prescription drug used for enlarged prostate glands, was also inadvertently found to help with hair loss. This drug works by preventing testosterone from modifying into dihydrotestosterone (DHI), which causes the contraction of the follicles.
Of course, any real cure that might result from prostaglandin D2 findings is years away from reaching fruition. If you are experiencing hair loss and the above-mentioned medications or a hair transplant aren’t all that appealing to you (or if you’ve tried a treatment with no success), take heart that there are more natural hair loss remedies to deal with balding. Maintaining the proper ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1:1 — 2:1) is important. The proper ratio helps control both systemic inflammation and insulin resistance, which can both play a role in hair loss. Excessive sebum (scalp oil) causes a high level of 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT, and pore clogging, resulting in malnutrition of the hair root and a shift into the resting phase. Keeping the scalp clean with a good shampoo that contains essential oils can help.3
How can we prevent the conversion of testosterone into DHT aside from a squeaky clean scalp? Supplement with saw palmetto, which inhibits DHT production, prevents DHT from binding to its cell receptors, and promotes the breakdown of DHT. One of the primary mechanisms through which saw palmetto works in the body is that it inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, therefore thwarting the conversion of DHT from testosterone.
You might also want to try extracts of wild oats and nettles, which can safely help increase testosterone levels in the body — by unbinding testosterone already in your body, making it available for use. These extracts are beneficial to many people losing their hair, men and women alike. In fact, for women, a major factor that can cause baldness is a hormonal imbalance, with estrogen dominance and a loss of testosterone. Thyroid problems, often brought on by the hormonal imbalance, can also cause thinning of the hair.
So, until such time that there is a safe, effective treatment for hair loss that truly gets to the root of the problem, supplementing naturally may be the best option for combating baldness successfully. Either that, or learn to embrace your shiny dome.
1 Mann, Denise. “Male Pattern Baldness: New Root Cause Found?” WebMD. 21 March 2012. Accessed 26 March 2012. <http://men.webmd.com/news/20120321/male-pattern-baldness-the-cause>.
2 Scheinfeld, Noah. “A review of hormonal therapy for female pattern (androgenic) alopecia.” Dermatology Online Journal. March 2008. Accessed 26 March 2012. <http://dermatology-s10.cdlib.org/143/commentary/alopecia/scheinfeld.html>.
3 Isabelle C. Hay, MRCP; Margaret Jamieson, SRN; Anthony D. Ormerod, FRCP. “Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy — Successful Treatment for Alopecia Areata.” Arch Dermatol. 1998;134:1349-1352. <http://archderm.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/134/11/1349>.