For many of us, it starts with a harmless glance in the mirror that reveals the beginnings of a bald spot, or we see a picture of ourselves taken on a bright day and notice more scalp shining through than we’d like. However it happens, discovering your hair is thinning can be disheartening because it seems to signal an inevitable decline. According to Harvard Health, hereditary hair loss (androgenic alopecia) is typically caused by a combination of genetics, male hormones, and advancing age (although it can happen at any time). But, just as you can make choices that may help you live younger longer, so can you take steps to keep your head looking healthy. Here are some of the best methods to slow male pattern baldness.
One option for treatment is the prescription drug finasteride (sold under the brand name Propecia), one of two medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some men have a genetically predispositioned sensitivity to develop male pattern baldness because of sensitivity to the androgenic hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is produced by converting from testosterone. Finasteride works by blocking much of the conversion (70% or so) of testosterone to DHT. While the drug has been shown to be effective for treating hair loss, it can cause sexual dysfunction in some guys (difficulty achieving orgasm and lowered libido), problems that can become permanent if you stay on this medication too long while experiencing those symptoms. Most guys will not notice any such side effects, but if you do, you should stop this medication right away. Just be sure to discuss whether or not this treatment is a good option for you with your doctor. It can also be used topically, minimizing the chances of that side effect.
Another FDA-approved option that has likely come up in conversations about hair loss is minoxidil, more commonly known as Rogaine. Available over the counter, this topical application is rubbed into the scalp twice daily to stimulate hair growth. The Mayo Clinic states that some people taking minoxidil “experience hair regrowth, a slower rate of hair loss or both,” with possible side effects including scalp irritation and unwanted hair growth on the face and hands. Just as with finasteride, minoxidil only works while you’re using it. The foam is the best form of it – and you need the 5% strength to really make a difference. It can be used in combination with topical finasteride.
While they may not be able to reverse hair loss, supplements can be an excellent way to keep the hair you do have looking thick, full, and shiny. Consider taking the following, along with eating a balanced and nutrient-rich diet.
- B vitamins, especially biotin and folic acid
Biotin is useful for strengthening the protein infrastructure of your hair, while folic acid’s
ability to improve circulation can help hair follicles function properly. Taking a B-complex
vitamin every day is also a good way to give yourself an energy boost.
- Fish oil
There’s a reason I include fish oil on so many of my lists (like the top 10 best anti-aging supplements for men and 5 supplements everyone should take). The omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel have been consistently shown to reduce inflammation—a condition with the potential to exacerbate hair loss in addition to increasing your risk of heart disease and other chronic health problems. LIVESTRONG reports that omega-3s also stimulate hair and follicle growth. Supplementing with fish oil can help keep your scalp healthy and your hair strong.
Taking zinc probably won’t stop your hair from thinning, but science suggests a link between low levels of this essential trace mineral and hair loss. In a 2013 study published in Annals of Dermatology, researchers looked at patients with four different types of hair loss and found that they all had one thing in common—significantly lower mean serum zinc compared to a control group. Based on these findings, they formed “the hypothesis of zinc metabolism disturbances playing a key role in hair loss.” Zinc has also been shown to help with sexual competency and erectile dysfunction, which is why it’s on my list of top 5 supplements to increase sex drive. If you decide to take a zinc supplement, you shouldn’t take more than 20 mg a day without checking with your doctor. Zinc can deplete your body of other nutrients and interact with medications, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says exceeding the recommended daily allowance of zinc can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and other digestive discomfort.
Are you getting the nutrients you need for long-term health? Download my Top 10 Supplements For Men PDF to learn about the most critical supplements you need.
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has been a consultant with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on national television, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times. He was most recently National Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer of a national medical practice, but is available to consult with individual patients interested in a personalized approach to optimal performance and health.