Young Men and Hair Loss

Man with hair loss
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Q: Hello, I'm 18 (nearly 19) and have a question about hair loss. Up until about a year and a half ago, I had extremely thick hair. It was ridiculous, people used to say it looked like a hat it was so thick! I liked it, despite its uncontrollable nature, because it was really thick, and I knew I'd have it for a long time. Silly me!
From the summer of 2004 onward, it started getting thinner. I didn't notice at first. But eventually I could see the scalp through parts of it, and it seemed much easier to manage. This concerned me. It was so much thinner. It's been getting progressively thinner since then. Originally it was all over the head, now it's all over and also specifically in the normal areas, i.e. crown of head and temples. The reason? Who knows?
Firstly, I know of no member of my family who started losing hair at my age. In fact, my oldest relatives lost their hair around their 60s. My dad has a thick clump of hair on his head, as does my mum and all their relatives. Secondly, I am and have always been very healthy. I have a good balanced diet and a calm mind (well before this!). Thirdly, I wasn't one of those neurotic people who fuss over tiny things about themselves. I just knew I had thick hair, and that was it. No stress at all. There's no way I inflicted this upon myself. Anyway, even if I did, surely it would grow back.
Fourthly, I never pulled on my hair or tortured it with braids and corn rows and things like that. Fifthly, I used gel but not very often, nor wax. Sixthly, and this is really strange, I never noticed any abnormal hair loss. It was as if the normal hairs that fall out every day weren't replaced. Now, as I am developing a nice bald spot on my crown and around my temples, I can see my scalp all over my head.
Naturally when these signs first became evident I began to become a bit stressed. I felt I was ageing without having experienced youth. I am quite a restrained person. I've never even had a girlfriend. I felt that my chances with girls were narrowing. I didn't even want a girlfriend, but the idea of the rising difficulties of finding one scared me, though. Of course, this is ridiculous, as girls aren't so shallow as to care about some guy's head, but these thoughts ran through my immature head.
The thing that got me was there was no answer to why it happened. If I'd have had an explanation, i.e. illness, genetic, something I was doing. I would have just accepted it. I mentioned it to my parents, but they laughed at me, said I was a neurotic scoundrel with not enough on my mind (which is probably true), and that I probably needed a girlfriend. They said I'd never lose my hair. Now, they don't say anything (I think they're realizing).
Someone said go to a doctor. I wanted to, but that's a bit over the top. I'm still very healthy, so why bother. This is only cosmetic, I'm not vain. I AM curious, though. I've read loads of stuff, but nothing relates to my experience. And as my hair is getting thinner, I am becoming progressively more insecure about it. I'm not even vain; I just don't like inexplicable things. I like answers. And I can just see my dad taking the piss out of me for having thinner hair than him (a man in his mid 50s) when I return home from university next term. It wouldn't be too bad, as I can take ridiculing quite well, but it wouldn't be particularly pleasant either.
A: First of all, I sympathize with you. For many men, particularly men of your age, hair loss can be a traumatic experience. It's particularly frustrating when the loss seems unprecedented in your family history.
The hair loss you describe could simply be a matter of genetics. In spite of a few generations of full-haired family members, if there have been any balding men in your family tree, there is likely the genetic potential there. It's possible you were just unlucky enough to get the short end of the genetic stick when it comes to hair.
One thing that concerns me is that you seem certain that the hair loss is not genetic, has no possible relation to illness, poor diet or environmental sensitivities, and is not the result of habit or behaviors on your part, but are unwilling to see a physician about the problem. The situation is obviously troubling to you, or you wouldn't have written in about it, and certainly not such a long, explanatory letter.
Being concerned about abnormal hair loss is not a matter of vanity. It' possibly a symptom of another, possibly serious problem. Yes, the symptom is cosmetic, but the cause may be less innocuous. Look at it this way: if you suddenly began developing red spots on your face - no pain, itch or other sign of illness, just areas of redness and discoloration - would you see your doctor? The red spots would only be cosmetic. My guess is you wouldn't hesitate to give your doctor a call for an appointment.
I am not licensed to give medical advice, or to even speculate on potential diagnoses. Therefore, I can't tell you why you are losing your hair. However, based on your insistence that the hair loss you are experiencing has no genetic, health, dietary, environmental, or behavioral origin, I think you should consult your physician to rule out possible unknown health concerns.
A general practitioner will possibly want to refer you to a dermatologist who specializes in skin and hair disorders. If you already have a dermatologist, you may want to simply make an appointment with him from the start.
Seeing your doctor will either confirm that there is no medical cause for the hair loss, in which case it is likely a matter of androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness), or a potential cause will be discovered and, hopefully, treated.
I wish you the very best.
See also:
Hair loss
Androgenetic alopecia