While the audience cheered Natalie Portman’s look in ‘V for Vendetta’ and the crowd swooned over Matt Demon’s new shaven look for the sci-fiction movie, ‘Elysium’, there are a million people, even among the audience, who suffer from Philacrophobia, the fear of going bald.
While female pattern hair loss relates to thinning of hair predominantly in the top and front of the scalp, the male experience the much feared baldness, apart from the extensive hair loss in the frontal region and the vertex.
Raymond Sabourad, a French physician had said years ago, “We cannot cure baldness, nor restore hair to denuded scalps.” The present dermatologists have sure proved him wrong with the invention of various restoration techniques like application of creams and lotions; use of oral steroids and Minoxidil; and surgical treatments like free grafting which includes adding patches of hair in a course of sittings, transporting hair bearing skins and scalp reduction, which includes a series of operations to reduce the area of bald patch.
However, what still remains as an unlocked secret is the cure to baldness.
According to a Cochrane study, based on the trials conducted on nearly 2349 participants, it was found that Minoxidil helps in moderate increase of hair re-growth and hair density especially in postmenopausal women.
What the studies did not confirm was whether the re-grown hair is persistent and the treatment sustainable, though it is acknowledged that a certain amount of hair shedding occurs immediately after the treatment.
It was also found that a higher dose of Minoxidil (5% twice daily) causes itching, skin irritation, dermatitis and additional hair growth in areas other than the scalp and had to be strictly avoided by pregnant and lactating women. Skin treatments and oral steroids were also found to cause serious side effects.
Female pattern hair loss was found to have a significant social and emotional impact, leading to feelings of unattractiveness and low self-esteem.Department of Health rightly recognizes this distress that alopecia (read hair loss) causes and therefore allows wigs to be prescribed through National Health Service (NHS). Among the males, this anxiety is comparatively less as is evident from the 1999 study published in the Women’s Health and Gender-based medicine, which said that women seemed to be more upset than men by their hair loss.
It is also interesting to note Arnold J Soler’s work in Medical Hypothesis Journal which cites cultural evolution as a causative factor for baldness. According to him, excessive hair cutting, or certain types of hair cuts are few cultural practices which result in the degenerative process of the hair by preventing the hair sebum from reaching the base of the hair follicle.
While the clinical trials confirm and suggest a number of short-term benefits, there is a need to conduct studies to evaluate the long-term benefits of therapies, its safety, efficacy and impact on the quality of life.
Until then, let’s not forget the fancy wigs, which is by far the safest option.