Many people have written about this topic, but they have failed to capture and express the devastating effects this disease has on the psyche of young men. Although I usually write about Korea and travel related topics, I feel this is a topic that needs to be addressed. People who suffer from early hair loss need to know that they are not alone and everyone else needs to understand how emotionally crippling this disease is for young men. In fact, there is nothing in the world that makes young men feel more helpless, deficient, shameful, embarrassed, unattractive, unwanted, angry, or afraid. By an unfortunate lottery, these men feel like natural failures and often withdraw to being shells of their former selves because their external appearance no longer represents how they internally know they should feel about themselves.
The two biggest signs of early aging for men are weight-gain and hair loss. To a large extent, they can improve their bodies through proper nutrition and exercise. Perhaps they are not genetically disposed to have six-packs(even if under 12% body fat), but they can improve their appearance. On the other hand, very little can be done about hair loss. In essence, this is why it is so debilitating. Young men know they are strong and full of vitality, yet they are powerless in the face of hair loss. They find their appearance reflects a version of themselves that is five to fifteen years older than their actual age. The perception people form of them is drastically altered due to the few measly inches of recession in the front of their hairline.
Hair loss cannot be ignored. We look at our face and hair every morning as we get ready for work or school. Those who suffer from early hair loss watch a gradual recession of their hairline or watch in horror as 50 to 100 hairs fall off of their head every time they take a shower or brush their hair. Other people can try to tell hair loss sufferers to remain positive, but they’ve never experienced what it feels like to watch years of their youth vanish in sheer moments. When hair loss sufferers run their hands through their hair, their confidence is not affirmed by enjoying the feel of a full grasp of hair and vitality. Instead, it is replaced by the shock of grasping for thin strands of hair or the feel of smooth bald spots that Hollywood led them to believe only existed for villains and old men.
Imagine the horror these young men feel when a woman they care about tries to rub her hand through his vulnerable hair or removes a hat she thinks he’s wearing to be stylish. Imagine the horror of being invited to go to the beach with friends and knowing the addition of water to your head will reveal bald spots and thinning areas that are hidden when your hair is dry. Imagine avoiding nicer clubs, restaurants and upscale venues in favor of casual establishments because you know you are more attractive in places that allow you to wear a hat. These men try to remain positive, but hair loss is not something they can ignore or escape. Every time they look in the mirror or touch their hair, their hair loss reminds them that their most beautiful and attractive days are already forgotten in the past. They become obsessed and look at their hair every day to try to judge if their condition is worsening, improving, or staying the same. I believe this is acceptable for a thirty year old. However, a nineteen year old should not endure being emasculated before his time.
The hopelessness for these men is only exacerbated because there are no role models or positive examples in our culture for premature hair loss. Sure, there are people like Bruce Willis, the Rock, and Jason Statham. However, their hair loss occurred later in life. We have all witnessed the exploitative Hair Loss for Men commercials. However, instead of sending a message of how to be comfortable with who you are, these commercials show grown men crying to their mothers about being follicly challenged. What makes it worse is most of these men are in their thirties or forties. How does that make a seventeen year old feel about himself before he leaves for college or has to take pictures for his senior prom?
The one hope this author directed his attention to was Wayne Rooney. Rooney is a star football player for Manchester United who suffered from an advanced stage of male pattern baldness at an early age. Despite his vulnerable hairline, he succeeded in football, became a popular celebrity, and married a beautiful woman. He weathered criticism about his athleticism, attitude, work ethic, social life and physical appearance for years. Despite all the criticism he overcame, this tough, gritty English football star succumbed to the psychological trauma and social stigma of hair loss. He underwent an expensive hair transplant surgery (25,000 pounds) last summer. His example does not illustrate how a young man should deal with hair loss; it illustrates how difficult it is for young men to deal with hair loss. Most young men are not wealthy, famous football stars with a beautiful wife. Most are poor and searching for someone to love them for who they are. However, just like Wayne Rooney, their confidence is shaken by what they see. No matter what opinion a woman has about a man’s hairline, a man with declining confidence will be universally unattractive.
With a few short paragraphs, I hope I’ve painted a picture of how damaging hair loss can be to the self esteem and confidence of men. There hasn’t been a day in the last ten years where I have not thought about my own hair loss. I often get angry at men who are unattractive because they are too lazy to eat right, exercise, purchase matching clothes, or develop likeable and honest personalities. I get angry and jealous when I look at my 65 year old father who has a much better head of hair than I do. I get upset because I can’t style my hair or make it look nice. I can’t embrace my baldness because my family and friends tell me I look horrible when I shave my head. Unfortunately, they don’t understand that I feel fake by growing and styling my hair in such a way to minimize the appearance of my hair loss. Did I mention my forehead is ridiculously big and I’m fairly short. The worst part is, I often can’t pursue the women I love because I feel inadequate. A lot of people will tell me hair loss should never cause these feelings, but I’m just being honest with you… it does.
I’ve been fortunate to have a few beautiful and wonderful woman love me and find me attractive despite my shiny head. Life is not over because you lose hair early and it should not revolve around how you look. Additionally, young men now have good options for preventing hair loss. The key is to be proactive. I visited a dermatologist when I was 17 and he provided me with awful information and told me my only hope was a hair transplant. I would be in a much better position had I received proper information about hair loss and available treatments. In part two, I will provide useful information on hair loss treatments and share the best sites and forums for both information and support. For now, if you suffer from hair loss please know that you’re not alone and I understand exactly how you feel. For everyone else, I hope you are a little more aware of how these courageous men are every time they do simple things like jump in a pool or rock their receding hairlines with pride to the best bars in town on a Friday night. There are no clothes, make up, or tricks to hide their insecurity. They embrace their insecurities simply by introducing themselves and saying “hello.”