Hair today, bald tomorrow

2011-10-21 14:32

Losing hair is not fun. Nobody likes seeing hair on their brush or, worse, seeing skin where there is supposed to be a luscious mane.

While women are willing to talk about their hair problems, men are more reticent, even though men have bigger hair-related problems like balding.
You’d have to be blind to miss the peek-a-boo hairlines of men such as Prince William, kwaito star Kabelo Mabalane, TV presenter Stoan Seate, basketball star LeBron James, tennis legend Andre Agassi, singer Ne-Yo, and actors Taye Diggs, Bruce Willis, Jude Law, Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. And, really, who remembers Sting with a full head of hair? Most of them went bald before they hit 30.

According to Dr Larry Gershowitz, a medical expert from the Medical Hair Restoration Centre in Cape Town, more than 75% of men and about 8% of women suffer from baldness.

“It is a globally accepted scientific fact that we don’t lose hair because of a lack of blood flow to the scalp. If this common myth were true, then every bald person would have gangrenous skin and their scalp would rot,” says Gershowitz.

He explains that hair loss is a genetically inherited condition. “It’s caused by a sensitivity of the hair follicle (root) to the male hormone (testosterone).

Once the hair has fallen out and bald skin appears, no prayers, potions, lotions or laser therapy can ever restore the lost hair,” he says.

Professional model and businessman Max Mmethi (30) from Pretoria started noticing his hair was slowly disappearing when he wanted to grow it back from his usual shaven style.

“I was only 24 when I realised that some of my hair was not coming back,” he says.

However, he adds that the hair loss didn’t come as a surprise since most of his male relatives are bald. “I was okay with it, but I just didn’t expect it to start so early,” he says.

Fellow model Ashley Morley (27) enjoyed a good run with dreadlocks in his younger days, until he began to see that his hair was thinning.

“I was worried because I’m too young to go bald. I then cut off the dreadlocks to shave off my hair,” he says.

Since then, Morley has been trying everything to get his missing hair back.

“I now dye my head black and put pomade on it with the hope that it will reduce the visibility of the balding, but I get self-conscious around people.”

Despite the fact that there are thousands of quick-fix remedies and potions, the US Food and Drug Administration has so far only approved two products to prevent further hair loss – Propecia (Finasteride) and Regaine (Minoxidil), which Gershowitz says are being administered to patients in South Africa.

“There are no magic or miraculous cures for baldness. The most expensive treatment is the one that doesn’t work. Even if it costs R1, it’s still a waste of money,” says Gershowitz.

Both Gershowitz and Dr Kevin Alexander of the Hair Loss Clinic in Berdforview, Joburg, deal in hair transplantation, which they believe is the only permanent solution.

Hair is taken from a place where it doesn’t fall out (usually the sides of the head) and relocated to the bald area (usually on the top of the head). While it sounds painful, the doctors say it is performed under anaesthetic and is less painful than a visit to the dentist. And if you’re worried about spotting a dodgy hairline with scabs, the experts say no one will be aware that a transplant has been done.

Says Gershowitz: “The transplanted follicles only start growing three to four months after the procedure. Because these follicles are not predisposed to fall out, they will continue to grow forever. The transplanted hair will never fall out.”

Two-time Cape Town-based World Muaythai Champion Quentin Chong says despite running the successful Dragon Power Gym and being an instructor to celebrities, he’s always felt insecure about his receding hairline.

“I have always been a very confident person, but the one thing that had always bothered me was my receding hairline. It was holding me back from reaching my full potential. I had always thought that this was one fight I wouldn’t be able to win. Since undergoing the hair restoration procedure last year, I feel like I can accomplish anything,” he says.

Chong is not the only athlete who got his groove back with the return of his hairline.

A few months ago, UK footballer Wayne Rooney tweeted a post on his hair transplant operation: “Just to confirm ... ?I have had a hair transplant. I was going bald at 25, why not? I’m delighted with the results.”

The Manchester United star’s rejuvenated performances on the field led his academy director Brian McClair to say: “It seems we can forget coaching manuals, training sessions, diet, rehydration, heart-rate monitors, yoga, ice baths, £200 boots and omega wave technology. Apparently all one needs to play brilliantly is a follicular unit transplant!”

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