German men are ‘wiser’ than us; or are they?
The Times chose to give their medical correspondent, Dr Thomas Stuttaford a whole page to write an article which he called ‘The Bald Truth about Hair Loss’. As I ‘suffer’ from a receding hairline myself, I started to read it with interest but soon my interest turned to boredom and finally amazement.
Dr. Stuttaford addresses the problem of baldness in men or ‘male pattern alopecia’ as it’s known in the trade. He starts the article by discussing the relationship between baldness and levels of testosterone. He initially states correctly that baldness is due to higher levels of dihydrotestosterone but then incorrectly gives the reader the impression that baldness occurs in men with higher testosterone levels. The first part of the article therefore propogates the myth that bald men are sexier because of higher testosterone levels. In truth they probably only have higher dihydrotestosterone levels and it’s testosterone that increases libido in men and women.
I shouldn’t be complaining as I like the myth that bald men are sexier – but the truth is the truth. Anyway the good doctor goes on to give some hair-raising statistics about baldness in Europe. One in two British men suffer from baldness before the age of 50 (yes I’m one of them). He goes on to reveal that a survey of several European countries showed Britain to be the worst hit by this baldness epidemic. That means we have higher sex drives than the Europeans – not. He goes on to make an amazing statement which I will quote in full: “The Germans are almost as severely affected – but there is a difference ; nine out of ten British men accept a receding hair line in their early forties as an act of God, or a downside of their masculinity. They generally do no more than to try to disguise it than having their hair cut very short, whereas the Germans try to do something about it. They have the wiser approach.”
Wiser? Is the good Dr. Stuttaford serious? Vainer, more arrogant or more neurotic but wiser? Okay maybe it was just an unfortunate choice of word so let’s look at what ‘do something about it means’.
Dr Stuttaford mentions two treatments for male pattern baldness.
1. Finasteride (Proscar) also a treatment for enlarged prostate taken as an oral tablet may help baldness a little, but no doctor I know would seriously advocate its use to treat baldness in men without prostate problems.
2. Minoxidil (Regaine in the UK and Rogaine in the USA) This drug was initially used to treat high blood pressure and then someone found that it inhibited hair loss in these patients so they made a topical hair lotion out of it. It may work in some cases, at best it only prevents further hair loss and you have to keep using it more or less forever just as is the case with finasteride.
So is it wise to take medication for a harmless condition like baldness? Well it all depends on who you want to believe. I think we should believe what women think about this issue. What do women advise men with receding hairlines to do? The great majority of women (about 70%) say ‘don’t worry about it’. Most of the rest say ‘shave it’. Not even 1% say take drugs for it, have hair transplants, wear wigs or employ a psychotherapist to deal with the trauma of going bald. So should we emulate German men who are apparently ‘wiser’ than us or should we listen to what women say about the issue? Perhaps we should all just grow long strands of hair on one side and comb it over our heads. It may not be good on a windy day, but it fools everyone doesn’t it?