THE QUESTION OF THE DAY: WHEN IS IT TIME TO STOP THE DENIAL AND TAKE SWIFT ACTION AGAINST HAIR LOSS?
When it comes to hair loss, there’s no lack of advice one can get from others. Television and Internet marketing campaigns suggest pharmaceutical or surgical products are the way to bring back your mane. Perhaps your hairstylist has ideas on how to mitigate the loss with a different cut or follicle-thickening shampoos and a little color to reduce the contrast between the scalp and your dwindling hair population.
Perhaps least helpful are those who say, “So you’re losing your hair. Accept it.” Those individuals do not walk in your shoes — or wear your hat. Are they single and dating or in a secure, committed long-term relationship? Are they job hunting or worried they may need to be soon? Is their profession or industry driven in part by physical appearance, such as real estate, sales, hospitality or performance?
Brian Sterling-Vete, chairman of the U.S. division of Head of Hair, a hair transplant and hair loss resource based in the U.K., is a straight man who has been around gay guys in both fitness and hair replacement industries throughout his career. He believes the decision to fight hair loss is entirely personal and should not rely too heavily on what others have to say.
“It’s up to the individual,” says Sterling-Vete. “It’s about how their self-image is projected, what person they present. Do they consider their hair to be an asset?”
He cites his professional counterpart in the U.K., Andy Hunt, who acknowledges, “Hair loss affected my confidence, self-esteem,” as he describes it on the firm’s Web site. “I found myself not wanting to go out, be with friends (especially if they had hair), and I felt old.”
Sterling-Vete claims the point at which a person decides to reverse the course of hair loss is from the classic “do-I?/don’t-I?” model of major decision making. “It’s when doing something outweighs the risks,” he says. “The balance tips when you go from saying, ‘I can live with this,’ to ‘I want to do something about it.’”
There can be trigger events, of course, he notes. “Maybe it is when you are newly single or divorced, or just feel like you’re getting older,” he says. “It may or may not be associated with trigger events, but there are few people who wouldn’t want to regain some youth, to turn back the clock.”
Such a trigger event may involve job hunting. The 2009 survey Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: The Myths & Truths Behind Hair Loss, conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Rogaine brand hair restorer, found that 11 percent of the thousand people polled worried that their thinning hair negatively affected them when interviewing for a job. Clearly, this confidence-undermining factor does not concern everyone. But for those who are affected, it throws an extra hurdle into the race to be the person hired.
Of note, 35 percent of respondents in that survey claimed to have actively tried to hide their own thinning hair by styling it in a particular way, wearing a scarf or hat, using some form of hair replacement system or spray-on concealers, or posting photos of themselves with more hair in online profiles.
Not one decision, but a progression
For many, deciding to move ahead with some form or another of hair loss resistance does not begin with a bolt up in bed or an angelic chorus singing from the heavens.
Rather, the fight begins with something smaller and progresses from there. Remember Andrew Brown, who would try different hairstyles until they failed and then dyed his hair blonde and cropped it close to the head? He eventually went with a superclose clipped look, just short of a shaved head.
Sterling-Vete says the process he sees people following goes something like this:
- The individual will try a product such as Rogaine or the prescription-only Propecia.
- Concurrently or as a substitute, he will try using concealers, lotions and various pills.
- He begins to get annoyed with the daily process.
- When the individual tires of using Propecia or Rogaine, he drops it and considers other methods next — or nothing at all, in some cases.
“When your day revolves around getting that little patch covered, it takes over your life,” says Sterling-Vete. That’s when a guy will more likely seek out a permanent solution.
Which really is not so different from any other parts of our lives. When we want to have a good education, we immerse ourselves in college or some other study program. When we want a better body, we invest time and money in gym training — and might throw in a tanning session to go with it.
The sales of grooming products, broadly defined as “cosmeceuticals” by the Freedonia Group, a leading international business research company, total approximately $5.8 billion per year. Women consume more than their proportion compared with men, but the guys are increasing their share of looks-enhancing products every year.
Is it any wonder that gay men will experiment with hair loss concealers, preventers or replacements?
“Gay men are just more open about caring for themselves,” concludes Sterling-Vete.