Look at Life: Baldness

3rd August 2018

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

By Heather Harris

At the start of this year, an £180 expenditure by our future King caused more controversy than the entire multi-million-pound refurbishment of Big Ben.

It was all about the hair of our heir – or, to be more precise, the lack of it. Once a golden-locked image of his late mother, Prince William popped to the barbers for a new look, and found himself compared (favourably in most cases) to Jason Statham: the rather handsome, shiny-headed action hero of many a Hollywood blockbuster. Sadly, by the time of the recent wedding, William appeared to have reverted to his original tonsured monkish style.

Current research shows that the ‘close-shaven’ look (few under the age of 70 use the b-word) is not something to keep under your hat. On the contrary, studies led by Albert E Mannes, showed particpants pictures of men with hair – and then pictures of the same men with their hair digitally removed. The results make your hair stand on end (if you have any). The bald versions were thought more dominant, masculine and confident, with greater leadership – and an extra inch on their perceived height. “Bald men,” Mannes concluded, “are on the whole are seen as more successful than their hairier peers.”

It’s even mooted that lack of hair is a sign of intelligence – although Einstein may have something to say on the matter.

The average human in fact has 100,000 hair follicles and loses 100 hairs a day. Despite the myths, wearing a hat/crown, over-brushing or shampooing too much do not increase hair loss. Extreme stress or illness can have an impact but the most common form of hair loss – Androgenetic Alopecia, more commonly known as ‘male pattern baldness’ – is all in the genes. This hereditary condition is caused by oversensitive hair follicles, linked to having too much of a certain male hormone.

In the UK, 40% of men have noticeable hair loss by age 35, 65% by aged 60 and 80% by aged 80. This puts us a respectable fifth in the worldwide league table of baldness, in which the Czech Republic is top and China bottom.

And while an increasing number of men are giving a thinning top the brush off in favour of an all over shine, the number of men worldwide seeking professional treatment for hair loss, at a cost of between £1,000 and £30,000, has more than doubled since 2008. Figures suggest that men across the world spend a hair-raising £1.5 billion each year to stop Mother Nature in her tracks.

As the denials of Bruce Forsyth and Elton John wore increasingly thin, other celebrities such as Irish TV actor James Nesbitt admitted that he had had a hair transplant – to ‘boost his career’. Quite why England and Everton football star Wayne Rooney went down the same ‘root’ is a mystery – but, off the top of my head, I suggest it could be something to do with the realisation that his expanding bald patch was looking down from bedroom walls right across the globe.

Because that’s the thing with going commando on top – stylish as it might be, it takes guts, as Men’s Health journalist Dennis DiClaudio discovered, when his magazine posed a hypothetical question to its readers: ‘You’re starting to go bald. Do you hang on to every hair you have left, or bite the bullet and shave your head?’

The results were pretty unequivocal: 68% selected ‘Shave it. Let people think it’s a choice’, while 16% wanted to hold onto it, arguing, ‘Some hair is better than none.’ The remaining 16% couldn’t even contemplate the horror: ‘Pray that day never comes’ was their choice.

So, after years of denial (I hesitate to say ‘head in the sand’), Mr DiClaudio headed for the clippers, with unexpected results. “I love what I see in the mirror now. In fact, if a miracle cure for hair loss emerged next week, I’m not sure if I would use it!”

My ever-increasing number of smooth topped male friends agree. Surprisingly, many are not only keen to extol the virtues of their new streamlined look but to wax lyrical about the exciting opportunities for facial accessories.

“I’d never have grown a beard if I had hair,” is a common comment along with “Stylish spectacles suddenly become much more important.” They also admit to investing more in skin care products – after all as one 25-year-old baldy (there, I’ve said it) observes, “I suddenly have so much more of it…”

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