IN A HEARTBEAT
About 70 percent of Mexican men over the age of 40 suffer from at least some balding, and while male hair loss is generally associated with aging, the condition — technically known as alopecia — can affect men (and women) as young as 18.
“There are a number of factors that can lead to thinning hair in men — as well as well as in women — including hormonal changes, certain medications, physical or emotional stress, vitamin deficiencies and, of course, male pattern baldness,” explained dermatologist and derma-surgeon Isela Méndez of the Clínica Dermatólogia Isela Méndez in Colonia Polanco, who specializes in hair transplants for both men and women.
“If a patient is suffering from hair loss, the first step is to find out the root cause of the problem and then proceed with the appropriate treatment.”
In many cases, Méndez said, topical therapies and ointments and/or a change in diet or other lifestyle activities can help to resolve the problem, but when it comes to male pattern baldness, there is really no effective way to stop the progression.
Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is the most common type of baldness in men, affecting about 30 percent of men by the age of 3o and well over half by the age of 40.
Hair at the temples and on the crown slowly thins and eventually disappears. The balding pattern moves progressively toward the back and middle of the head, until only a small ring of hair around the nape of the neck remains.
“Sadly, becoming gradually bald is a natural phenomenon for most men,” said Méndez. “This is just part of the natural aging process, and it is not a condition that indicates poor health.”
The cause of male pattern balding is both genetically and hormonally linked, she said.
One of the key factors that seems to be intimately linked to male pattern baldness is the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT is an androgen produced in the gonads and linked to testosterone that helps give men their male characteristics and usually begins to form in the body after puberty.
But while DHT may add to a man’s virility, it also causes the shafts of some hair follicles to become thinner and thinner with each cycle of growth, and thus more likely to fall out of the scalp.
“Not all men are going to go bald,” Méndez said. “It is really the luck of the genetic draw. Some men keep a full head of hair their entire lives, and others go bald in their 20s.”
But for many men — especially those who suffer early baldness or who are dependent on their physical appearance for their professional life — the process can be distressing and even lead to depression, she said.
The first defense, in these cases, is the use of pharmaceutical products, either finasteride (Propecia) and/or mioxidil (Rogaine).
Finasteride works by blocking the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, which means that hair follicles are then not affected by this hormone and can enlarge back to their normal size.
Finasteride treatment is effective in about 20 percent of cases of men suffering from male pattern baldness, but the process can take up to four months to kick in and if the product is discontinued, the balding cycle will return.
Minoxidil, on the other hand, is a foam or lotion treatment available in most pharmacies without a prescription.
It is most effective when used early on in the balding process, rather than once a lot of hair has already been lost.
Minoxidil must be applied daily and, as in the case of finasteride, it can take up to four months to produce visible results and must be use indefinitely to maintain its benefits.
But Méndez, who runs a special hair implant clinic using the follicular unit extraction (FUE) technique that harvests follicles from the nape of a patient’s head (which are less prone to be affected by DHT) and replanting them in the front and top of his head.
“Hair transplants used to be much more complex, requiring the surgical removal of a strip of the scalp to harvest follicles,” she said.
“But now, the process is much simpler and less traumatic for a patient because we select grafts from parts of the back of the head and replant them on the spot. Most patients are only lightly sedated and they can return to work or their normal activities the same day.”
The cost of a hair transplant can run between 30,000 and 50,000 pesos, depending on how many graphs are transplanted, but the results are usually permanent, as long as patients follow the physician’s instructions and use special shampoo and hair products after the procedure.
“Hair transplants are not for everyone,” Méndez said.
“They aren’t cheap and they do require a commitment from the patient. But for a lot of men who are negatively impacted by their baldness, they can make a real difference both physically and psychologically.”
She also said that hair transplants can help men to have fuller beards or moustaches.
Méndez said that her clinic offers free consultations to men and women who might be contemplating undergoing a hair transplant procedure.
Isela Méndez’ dermatological clinic is located at Calle Plinio 118B in Colonia Polanco (tel: 5280-7256 or 5280-4218).
For more information, consult the webpage www.iselamendez.mx.