Over the past decade or so, I’ve gradually come to accept that my hairline is receding. I mean, I don’t know if acceptance is the right way to phrase it, but I’ve neither plummeted into a deep depression nor treated it, so I guess I’ve accepted it on some level. But now that I’m 34, I’m curious: Is there an age where I can look forward to my hair loss stopping?
Or if, unlike me, someone still has a totally full head of hair by a certain age, does that mean they’re free to stop worrying until their 70s or 80s, when you’d reasonably expect some thinning to occur? How exactly are age and hair loss intertwined?
For answers, I turned to Carlos Wambier, the director of cosmetic dermatology research at Brown University, who, unfortunately, tells me that everyone experiences at least some hair loss and that “hair loss never stops.” For guys like me, who have already had some hair loss, Wambier explains that, generally, this hair loss begins at puberty and it gradually continues until about 50 years of age. Once you reach that age, hair loss doesn’t stop, though — it accelerates. The peak age for hair loss, in fact, is generally between the ages of 50 and 60.
Wambier says that this is because “cellular pathways change” as we age. Our body creates more of the enzymes that turn testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. Wambier adds that this is both what causes your prostate to grow and your scalp hair to become less dense. “So what happens is that those who are already previously bald become really bald,” Wambier says.
As for my enviable friends with a full head of hair well into adulthood, their hair loss will also accelerate at that age, but it likely won’t seem as severe as those who have already suffered from more significant loss. But even guys with a full head of hair are never really “in the clear,” at least not until they’re past age 60 or so, as that’s when the “final hit,” as Wambier describes it, comes from your hormones.
Wambier says that sun damage to the scalp will also play a major role in hair loss. “Once hair becomes thin, the scalp becomes susceptible to UVA radiation and mutations, which further destroys important superficial stem cells of the follicles,” he explains. This is especially an issue for guys whose hair is already thinning.
As far as preventing this from happening, Wambier says there are measures you can take. Diet, for one, makes a big difference with hair loss, as good nutrition will affect how much hair you’ll have. He also says that if someone is experiencing significant hair loss and wants to stop it, there are a variety of effective treatments available — and the sooner people use them, the more effective they’ll be. While topical minoxidil — i.e., Rogaine — is the most common treatment, he says that’s ineffective for most. Instead, long-term oral medications like finasteride and dutasteride are better and can be prescribed by dermatologists. There are also several procedures that are even more effective, like surgery and “drug tattooing,” which administers meds right into the scalp.
As far as worrying about hair loss goes, that never really goes away, because hair loss never really stops. Which means you either have to treat it, accept it or flat-out deny that it’s happening at all. Take your pick.