Reader's Digest UK|August 2020
For many balding men, wigs, dark humour and stoicism often mask deep distress. What options do they have in the battle against hair loss?
Rhodri Marsden

When I was a teenager, my mother reassured me that I wouldn’t go bald in my twenties like my father had. “Look,” she said, pushing back her hair from her forehead, “You’ve got my hairline, not your dad’s.” Within ten years her argument was revealed to be magnificently wrong. My hairline began its slow march north, a clear sign that I’d inherited male-pattern hair loss from one of my parents, if not both of them. As the years went by I persuaded myself that ever-shorter haircuts made me look better than I used to. But deep down it felt unfair, a genetic quirk I didn’t deserve. I’d wince as the barber held up the mirror behind me, revealing an ever-expanding bald patch.

I pretended not to be bothered, and that pretence continues today, in my forties. But while stoically accepting hair loss as my destiny, I don’t like it. I’ve found myself wearing hats and growing a beard, attempts at misdirection that fool nobody, least of all me.

Androgenetic alopecia is the medical term for my inherited form of hair loss. While it affects both men and women, marketing by hairloss treatment companies mostly targets male anxieties. The industry is estimated to be worth at least £1.2 billion a year worldwide.

According to the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), male-pattern hair loss affects 30 per cent of men under 30, increasing to around 80 per cent of men over 70. Its causes are well-established, if poorly understood by those of us who have it. The hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is synthesised from testosterone by an enzyme, 5-alpha-reductase, that's found at the base of the hair follicle. This sets off a process of miniaturisation in hormonally sensitive areas such as the forehead and crown. The follicles shrink and, as the American Hair Loss Association puts it, they stop producing “cosmetically acceptable hair”.

The first consequence of this is progressive baldness. The second, and arguably more important, consequence is the psychological effect it has on many men. A 2005 study of men with hair loss in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK found that 43 per cent were concerned about its effect on personal attractiveness, 22 per cent worried about its impact on their social life, and 21 per cent linked it with feelings of depression.

“I’d say that the most desperate emails, the people who sound like they’re at their absolute lowest ebb, tend to be from men,” says Amy Johnson at Alopecia UK, a charity that offers support and advice to men and women with all types of alopecia. “When people say it’s much harder for women, and for men it’s all right, I say actually, no, that’s not what I find.”

An internet search returns a disorienting array of options that promise to alleviate the misery of the balding man: herbal remedies, surgeries, hair pieces, shampoos and nanofibre sprays that “colour in” bald patches. Some of them work, in that the hair loss might be less apparent, but what works for one person might pan out disastrously for another.

Here are some of the options available to balding men.


Jay Patel, the co-founder of wig company MH2Go, sits in his office in central London, fiddling with a pen as he recounts his tale of hair loss. “About four or five years ago I tried to commit suicide,” he says, adding that his state of mind was worsened by body dysmorphia. “I was in hospital for three weeks, and I got a lot of support. After that I told everyone that I wore a wig, and the whole burden just lifted. I stopped feeling ashamed.”

Patel is a good-looking chap, and he’d look great with or without hair. But having told me about his wig, he forces a smile. He knows that I know.

“I’ve turned something that was an issue into my livelihood,” he says.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine



Over the past year, while the world has been combating a global health care crisis with the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a simultaneous ongoing crisis for Black women: health care discrimination

5 mins read
Reader's Digest UK
March 2021


Before I adopted Dyngo, he spent nine months sniffing bombs and saving lives in Afghanistan. Could I help him settle back into civilian life?

10 mins read
Reader's Digest UK
March 2021

Olivia Newton-John On Family, Fulfilment And Fuelling Your Own Health

Acclaimed actress and singer, Dame Olivia Newton-John, talks lockdown, finding her voice again and how alternative medicine has changed her life

6 mins read
Reader's Digest UK
March 2021


More and more swimmers are embracing ice swimming as an actual sport. To make sense of the lunacy, writer Marty Munson dives in FROM MEN’S HEALTH

9 mins read
Reader's Digest UK
March 2021

Body, Heal Thyself

Why do wounds mend more slowly as we age?

3 mins read
Reader's Digest UK
March 2021

Comfort Food

A difficult diagnosis leaves the Mann family in a tough spot this month, but Olly has his coping mechanisms…

4 mins read
Reader's Digest UK
March 2021

How To Paint Wooden Floorboards

Revive tired flooring with a lick of paint to give any room a quick and affordable makeover in just a few steps

1 min read
Reader's Digest UK
March 2021

The Great Restaurant Reinvention

The past year has been turbulent for the restaurant industry but, writes Lizzie Enfield, the restaurant was born after a period of chaos and will survive this one, too

6 mins read
Reader's Digest UK
March 2021

9 Ways To Get Sleepy

Struggling to get some shut eye? You're not alone. These tips will help you to get some much-needed rest

2 mins read
Reader's Digest UK
March 2021

Kate Moss I Remember…

Household name Kate Moss rose to fame in 1990 when her striking face caught the imaginations of fashion photographers everywhere. Countless Vogue covers and hundreds of runways later, the supermodel looks back on growing up in Croydon, being secretly shy and mastering the art of a shoot

4 mins read
Reader's Digest UK
March 2021


As the pandemic has unfolded, questions have swirled around franchising. Can food service, its biggest category, survive in a time of social distancing? Will people continue to buy franchises in uncertain times? And can brands make large, expensive changes across hundreds or thousands of units? So far, the answer seems to be: Yes! The pandemic has shown just how resilient and adaptable franchising can be. Here’s what comes next.

10+ mins read
July - August 2020

Does a Danish Clinic Have A Cure For the Follicularly Challenged?

 Does a Danish clinic have a cure for the follicularly challenged? 

3 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
March 28 - April 3, 2016

El gran tabú de la pérdida de pelo

Tenerlo largo, grueso y sano ha sido durante mucho tiempo un verdadero placer para una mujer. Pero, ¿qué sucede cuando esa melena sedosa y brillante ya no está allí? Kate Pasola llega al fondo del problema.

10+ mins read
Cosmopolitan en Español - México
Marzo 2021

Lurking between the lewd & the logo


2 mins read
The New Indian Express Chennai
February 04, 2021

Patel gets tough on violent crime

SUSPECTED violent criminals and sex offenders will face greater restrictions on their movements under reforms announced today.

1 min read
Daily Express
January 14, 2021


The search for a new version of the late Ahmed Patel is on in the Congress. But with the party out of power and a generational shift in the works, the post comes with huge challenges

6 mins read
India Today
December 21, 2020

A permanent void

With Ahmed Patel’s death, there is confusion in the Congress ranks on where to go with grievances

4 mins read
December 13, 2020


Draft of inquiry’s findings revealed

1 min read
Daily Mirror
November 20, 2020

NO Reservations

In Ravi Patel’s jocular, ever-expanding universe, any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely intentional. It is also a means to find answers to the big questions, discover parts unknown and build community. The American actor-creator of Indian origin weighs in on his extraordinary journey so far – from an investment banker to a stint in Wonder Woman 1984 – and his future capers on the road to world domination

8 mins read
GQ India
November 2020

The picture that means SO MUCH

Wendy Pullan was astounded by her daughter’s bravery over her hair loss

3 mins read
November 02, 2020