Male Pattern Baldness

NOTE: This article/page uses the terms ‘male/man/men’ and/or ‘female/woman/women’. Please note, this is in reference to the sex assigned at birth.

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Losing hair is a normal process that many men experience, especially with age. In fact, around half of all men over 50 in the UK have a receding hairline or thinning hair, which is commonly known as male pattern baldness. However, it's not just age that can cause hair loss: illness, stress, rapid weight loss or an incomplete diet can also be factors.

If you're experiencing hair loss and are unsure of the cause, it's important to speak to your GP. They will be able to help identify the reason behind your hair loss and recommend the most suitable treatment for you.


It's surprising to know that on average, we lose between 50 to 100 hairs every day. After 50, almost half of men experience male pattern baldness due to improper regeneration of hair in certain areas of the scalp. By age 60, most men suffer from some degree of hair loss. Though treatments to prevent hair loss are available, they may not be effective for everyone. Many men choose to accept hair loss as a natural part of ageing instead of seeking treatment.

Male pattern baldness is the most common form of hair loss in men and affects half of all men over 50 years old in the UK although it can start at a younger age. Male pattern baldness is a condition which can be caused by both genetic and hormonal factors, but in many cases, it can be managed successfully. If you’ve inherited the genes for male pattern baldness, this means your body is more sensitive to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT can lead to a shorter cycle of hair growth, thinner strands of hair, or even cause your hair follicles to shrink, which can stop new hair from growing.

Male pattern baldness (medically known as androgenic alopecia), usually starts becoming noticeable in men who are in their late 20s or early 30s. However, it can begin affecting males at any time after the onset of puberty. Pattern baldness progresses at different rates in different men. Early onset male pattern baldness tends to progress more quickly than in men who begin losing their hair later in life. The most common pattern of hair loss is a receding hairline. This is followed by thinning of the hair on the crown and the temples. This hair loss continues to progress until all that's left is a horseshoe-shaped area of hair covering the back and sides of the head. Occasionally, male pattern baldness can leave the head completely bald. Pattern baldness can also affect women, although this is far less common. Women usually experience hair loss as a general thinning of hair on top of the head.

Male pattern baldness is a condition which can be caused by both genetic and hormonal factors, but in many cases, it can be managed successfully. If you’ve inherited the genes for male pattern baldness, this means your body is more sensitive to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT can lead to a shorter cycle of hair growth, thinner strands of hair or even cause your hair follicles to shrink, which can stop new hair from growing.

Male pattern baldness runs in families and can be inherited from one or both parents. The changes to hair are caused by male hormones. In male pattern baldness, hair follicles become more sensitive to dihydrotestosterone, which is made from the main male hormone testosterone. This sensitivity causes them to shrink. Over time, hair produced by follicles affected by these hormones becomes increasingly finer, shorter and lighter, until no more hair is visible. The causes of female pattern hair loss are less understood.

Hair loss in men can be a natural part of getting older. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. There are treatment options available that may help to prevent further hair loss and encourage hair regrowth.

Minoxidil is a topical hair loss product for male pattern baldness, usually supplied as a liquid or foam which is applied directly to the scalp to areas where you have experienced hair loss. Minoxidil is the active ingredient and works by increasing the blood supply to the hair follicles which helps to slow down hair loss. Minoxidil is not a prescription-only treatment, you can buy the product through your local Boots store, or online. Minoxidil is the active ingredient in Regaine and is available in two strengths; regular strength (2%) and extra strength (5%) and different products are recommended for men. Ask your pharmacist for advice on which one to choose. Different brands and strengths have different usage instructions, so always read the patient information leaflet carefully. It takes around four months of daily treatment to see hair regrowth. If you stop using minoxidil, any areas of hair regrowth will disappear in around three to four months, so you need to keep using it regularly for the best results. If no regrowth occurs after 12 months of use, you should stop using this medicine.

Minoxidil is designed to treat hair loss that runs in your family. It's not intended to treat hair loss due to other causes, such as stress, illness, iron deficiency or treatments for cancer. It's recommended that you see your GP or pharmacist before starting treatment with minoxidil, to make sure your hair loss is due to male pattern baldness rather than any other cause. You can also check with your pharmacist if you're not sure what's in any medicines you're taking, or whether they may interact with minoxidil. 

Finasteride is another men’s hair loss treatment. It helps to block the hormones that cause hair loss, preventing more hair from falling out. Finasteride is a prescription-only medicine. To find out if it is a suitable treatment, you can speak to your GP or visit Boots Online Doctor Hair Loss Treatment Service2 to find out more.

Although male pattern baldness won’t cause you any medical problems, for many, hair is an important part of our identity. Going bald can therefore be upsetting, particularly for young men. Some men are so distressed by hair loss that they'll consider paying for expensive cosmetic procedures, which can be painful and aren’t always effective.

Such procedures may include:

• Scalp reduction. Sections of the hairless scalp are replaced with the hair-bearing scalp, which is stretched and stitched together

• Hair transplant. Hair cells are moved to thinning areas

• Artificial hair transplant. Artificial hairs are surgically inserted into the scalp

• Tattooing. The scalp is tattooed to resemble hair stubble

If your hair loss is causing you distress, speak to your GP straight away. They may be able to refer you for counselling, or to a support group. If you're experiencing sudden hair loss, or you're losing it in clumps, visit your GP. You might have an underlying (and treatable) condition that needs addressing.

A receding hairline happens when the line where your hair starts on your scalp starts to move back from hair loss. It most commonly happens at the temples and at the top of the head and is typically a symptom of male pattern baldness. 

Alopecia is a general term used to refer to several different types of hair loss. Roughly 2% of the population will experience autoimmune alopecia, known as alopecia areata. Alopecia can be triggered by extreme stress, which may cause your body’s own immune system to attack your hair follicles. If you think you’re experiencing alopecia you should speak to your GP. There are also support groups that can help. Find a support group near you.

One possible cause of hair loss can be due to not getting enough of certain important vitamins and minerals. For example, anaemia iron deficiency is a nutritional deficiency and is thought to contribute to some hair loss. If you are not getting enough iron through your diet, you may experience some hair fall, also called Telogen Effluvium. If this is the case, we have supplements that might help*. Find out what’s available in store. It is important to note that if you do not have a deficiency, then taking vitamins will have no effect on hair growth. If you are unsure what is causing your hair loss it is important that you speak to your GP.



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Some types of hair loss, such as male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) can have both genetic and hormonal factors. Where the factor is genetic, it can be passed down through families. Whilst the genetics linked to male pattern baldness, or female pattern baldness are not well understood, it is thought to be the result of more than one gene (polygenic). Other types of hair loss can be caused by illness, stress, poor diet, or simply ageing. It’s important to identify what type of hair loss you’re experiencing so that you can find the most suitable treatment.

Although not all types of hair loss can be prevented, in some cases you can slow down hair loss and even encourage the regrowth of new hair. If you’re experiencing male pattern baldness, there are treatments available that can block the hormones causing hair loss, reducing the amount of hair you shed. There are also treatments that increase the blood flow to your scalp, nourishing the hair follicles and encouraging hair to regrow. 

There is no cure for male pattern baldness. In some cases, treatment can reduce further hair loss and for some, can lead to new hair growth. It’s important to remember that you need to use the treatments every day as advised and that you’re likely to see results after three/four months. It’s also important to remember that you might start to experience further hair loss if you stop treatment or use it irregularly. 

Finasteride works as a tablet that you take once a day, every day. It slows down hair loss by blocking the effects of your testosterone (male hormone) on the hair follicles in your scalp. Finasteride can prevent further hair loss and cause some new hair growth but it’s important to take the medications as directed by your prescriber. Finasteride is also sometimes used to treat the symptoms of benign prostate enlargement, a condition called benign prostate hyperplasia. 

* Regaine for Men Extra Strength Scalp Foam 5% w/w Cutaneous Foam. Contains Minoxidil for treatment of male pattern baldness. Always read the label

Access to prescription-only treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.

3Subject to availability. Eligibility criteria apply.

Please note free delivery via Royal Mail is only available to patients registered with a GP in England. However, the option to collect in-store is available for all customers registered with a participating GP anywhere in the UK. For patients registered with a participating GP surgery only.

Page last reviewed by Boots Pharmacy team on 29/12/2023

Looking to tackle male pattern baldness? At Boots, we understand how important it is to find effective solutions that make you feel confident and comfortable. Explore our range of hair regrowth treatments, expert advice, and services that cater to your unique needs. Let's find the right solution together and help you reclaim your confidence.