Throughout history, hair on both women and men has symbolized strength and beauty in art and literature. See Sampson, Lady Godiva, Rapunzel, Venus Rising, Cousin Itt, etc.
If you're a man, however, you should probably come to terms with the fact that you might lose yours. Fact is, two-thirds of men experience hair loss at some point. The good news: you really don't have to worry about it. Let the hair go. A shiny bald head is a stunning fashion statement.
Male-pattern baldness is caused by high levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone responsible for the formation and development of male sex characteristics. Simply put, the balding man could argue he's just plain more of a man than his well-tressed peer. Sampson, Shmampson.
Other causes of baldness can be more problematic, especially for women. The culprits may be hormone fluctuations - like after childbirth - thyroid malfunction, stress, autoimmune disease, dietary deficiency, prescription drugs, fungal infections and more. Same for men, except for the childbirth thing. You really do need to see someone to determine the cause. Could be serious.
What the experts say
"For women, one of the side effects of birth control pills can be hair loss. There are some herbal teas you can apply to your hair topically, like burdock root , nettle or birch . There may be some signs of regrowth, but these don't result in a thick, lustrous head of hair. A combination of zinc and copper supplements can also be taken internally. A study showed results with this after six months."
JONAH LUSIS , naturopath, Toronto
"Women can inherit a genetic predisposition to hair loss just as men do. They don't get a receding hairline - just a widening part or [thinness] on the crown of the head. Another cause in women is telogen effluvium, which is a shedding problem. Stress could trigger it, but you really have to look for other causes. A lot of people have stress but don't shed. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. You get little bald patches. Extreme dieting can also cause hair loss. Vegetarians have to get enough protein. Biotin and zinc are good vitamins. Rogaine absolutely works - better in women than men. Diane-35 is a birth control pill that can help with certain types of hair loss. If you're shedding, don't wear a tight hairstyle. Black women have to be careful with extensions and weaves, which can permanently damage the hair follicles."
DR. PAUL COHEN , dermatologist, Toronto
"What the issue is will help determine your approach. Stimulating blood flow to the area can be done topically and internally. You can take things inside to heat you up such as cayenne and ginger, and you can apply them topically. Rosemary has always been used as a remedy for women's hair loss. You can drink it as a tea or eat it or make a hair wash with it. It's one of those general tonic herbs, so it may wind up addressing the underlying cause of hair loss. If someone discovered something to make hair grow back, he or she would make a mint."
DANETTE STEELE , registered medical herbalist, Toronto
"Rogaine works fairly well - I won't say greatly - for women. There are side effects such as itchiness and very dry scalp. Unfortunately, you're really not getting to the root of the problem, and once you stop using it you will see excessive shedding. If a woman is using Rogaine, she really should be using a scalp treatment in order to correct the side effects. Another option is a hair transplant if she qualifies. The recovery is long and painful. It may traumatize the existing follicles around the transplant. Transplants are excellent for men, however. If a woman's hair is receding, I would send her for a transplant to get more of a hairline and then move to a non-surgical solution. We use a very fine membrane that has hair tied to it and integrates with existing hair. A woman can swim, sleep and shower with it on. It's the most non-invasive solution."
AMALIA RUGGIERO , Truly You Wigs and Hair Replacement, Mississauga
"In traditional Chinese medicine, the essence of energy comes from the kidney, so a kidney deficiency would cause hair loss. Start by getting nutrients to the kidneys. [You might have to] use something that increases the yin or the yang. There are shampoos you can get from a Chinese herbalist with things like ginger and shuwu to stimulate the scalp. Teatree oil does the same thing."
BRUCE ALLY , PhD, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, Toronto