At 19-years-old, I was finally able to fly a “mission accomplished” banner to mark the end of my war with acne. I didn’t have much time to celebrate, though. There was another problem at my doorstep – actually, on my pillow. While acne chipped away at my confidence with a pick ax, this new problem was about to destroy my self-image with a battering ram.
It started with a few extra hairs on my pillow in the morning. Of course, it’s completely normal to lose a few hairs here and there, but there was now a noticeable amount accumulating every single day. The same thing was happening on the shower drain.
Male pattern baldness did not cross my mind. I thought maybe I wasn’t getting enough nutrition, or maybe I was too stressed. I changed my diet and started working out more, hoping to see some results in a few weeks. After two months of healthy eating and regular workouts, the hair kept falling.
Dandruff was my next culprit. It was my barber that actually told me dandruff could cause my hair to fall out. Based on his advice, I changed up my shampoo a few different times. No luck.
I went down the internet rabbit hole next, learning about every hair loss condition under the sun. At the time, I still thought that baldness had to come from your mother’s side of the family (no one was bald on either side of my family except for one uncle on my dad’s side), so I skipped over all of the male pattern baldness material. Instead, I focused on rare conditions, such as alopecia areata. Turns out, I didn’t have any of these rare conditions, either.
After a while, I simply stopped worrying about my hair loss. I thought maybe it was something that would get better over time.
The reality check occurred during a standard physical with my doctor. He took one look at my head and casually remarked that I had a little bit of “male pattern baldness.” He might as well have tossed a grenade at me.
The doctor wrote me a prescription for Propecia and told me that it was currently the most effective way to slow down or in some cases, stop hair loss. I didn’t do anything with the prescription at first. I think I was in shock more than anything else.
After a few weeks, I filled the prescription, but I didn’t stay on Propecia for long. I suffered terrifying sexual side effects several days after I started taking it. My doctor told me that there was a chance that they would go away with time. They didn’t, and I stopped taking it. I later read stories online of guys who are still experiencing side effects years after stopping the medication.
I tried a few other treatments. Special shampoos, saw palmetto (a DHT inhibitor like Propecia), green tea extract. Nothing worked. I didn’t even bother with Rogaine after I learned that it was more of a band-aid than anything else. Rogaine just forces dormant hairs into action. It doesn’t actually do anything to solve the root cause of hair loss. Propecia does solve the root cause, but its hormone tinkering was catastrophic for me.
And then I stopped trying to treat it. I didn’t accept it, either. I just continued trying to cover it up. I got very precise haircuts. I carefully combed my hair in the mirror.
This was not a long-term strategy, and I eventually got to the point where there was nothing I could do to hide my male pattern baldness. It was one of those tube of toothpaste situations. You know what I’m talking about. You have your toothpaste, and it always seems like you can squeeze something out of that tube. But one day, it runs out, and there’s nothing else you can get out of it.
I was traveling in West Africa at the time. I threw my hands up in the air and said “what the hell.” I went to a roadside barber and had him shave my hair down to almost nothing.
Two things happened right away.
The first: I felt liberated. I don’t know how else to describe the feeling. Yes, a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and all that jazz. I was free. Free from the burden of hair loss. And I was empowered. If you have ever faced up to something that you were hiding from, you can relate to this.
The second: I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. The image was jarring, actually. I certainly didn’t think I looked good with a shaved head. I was pale and skinny as it was. I probably didn’t need to throw this in the mix. So there I was, liberated, yet shocked by my appearance.
After a couple of weeks, I started growing into the look. After a couple of months, I started to forget what I looked like with hair. I actually liked how I looked when I saw myself in the mirror now, and I was feeling more self-confident by the day.
Then it was time to return home. No one had seen me with my shaved head, and I began to worry that I would face a hearty round of rejection from all my friends and family. Wrong.
There were a few jokes here and there, but most people accepted my new look without making a fuss. One of my friends actually exclaimed, “FINALLY” (he had been waiting for me to shave my head ever since he noticed I had a receding hairline).
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. I did have to put in work to build my self-confidence, and it took me a while to get up the courage to approach women. It didn’t happen overnight, and I’m not going to lie to you and say that there is any quick fix in any of this.
Here’s what I will say, though. It has never been easier to be a bald guy than it is right now. No one is surprised by a guy with a shaved head. It is not some radical look. There are athletes, actors and musicians that all openly sport the look, and in some cases, their attractiveness is actually attributed to their shaved head. Twenty to thirty years ago, this was not the case. The hair loss industry is still a multi-billion dollar affair, but things aren’t how they used to be.
But here is the point I really want to make: owning your hair loss is empowering. It sends a message to everyone around you that you took the courage to accept something that most guys fear. This is good for your well-being and your self-confidence.
Guys worry about losing their hair, because they think they will be judged for it. What they don’t realize is that people make their judgments based on a person’s confidence, their presence and their personality. A guy who has presence, who is comfortable in his own skin, a guy who can put other people at ease – it doesn’t matter how much hair this guy has, people will be drawn to him.
If you are losing your hair, you have three options. You can try to stop it or treat it. You can hide from it. Or you can accept it. The first option is costly and possibly unsafe, and the second is untenable. The third option frees you of ever having to think about the issue again.
I shaved my head because I was desperate. I was in a corner, and I didn’t know what else to do. As it turns out, what I feared most never materialized. I have embraced baldness and my life is unimaginably better for it. There is a whole industry that is preying on your insecurity when it comes to male pattern baldness, yet there is a long-term solution that costs nothing, except for a bit of courage.
Bonus: Patrick Stewart of Xmen talking about baldness: