Male pattern baldness terrifies many gay men. But it can be treated if caught early enough, as Alex Hopkins found out.


Guys say so much with their hair (or lack of it), and for those of us who lose our hair, the shaven-headed look is perhaps the easiest option. Well, it’s either that or sporting a comb-over, which is never a good idea. But the truth is that baldness suits some men more than others, and for the majority of gay men, losing their hair is second only to being castrated.

I've had a complicated relationship with my hair. Born a redhead, at eighteen I began dyeing it. Coming out signaled a new start, and changing your hair is the cheapest way to fiddle with your identity. The results varied – once it turned purple – but who cared? I was shunning my biological roots and even went as far as ensuring my pubes matched. 

Just when I thought I finally looked good, along came the dreaded male pattern baldness. How I convinced myself it would never happen to me, is hard to fathom given that my father is practically bald, as were my grandfathers on both sides. But to start losing my hair at age 28 seemed impossibly cruel. At seventeen, I developed chronic acne, but at least I could try (and mostly fail) to cover up the horror. Staring compulsively at my receding hairline in the mirror, I almost wished the spots came back. 

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Losing hair can have a big impact on confidence levels

What were the options open to me? Could I just let it all fall out gracefully and accept it? I contemplated that for five minutes and then looked at my father. No, thanks. 

What about a wig? The only gay men I knew of with those were Elton John and Liberace. Neither particularly appealed. I whipped myself into turmoil, unable to talk to anyone about this for fear they’d (correctly) think my vanity knew no bounds.

And then along came Propecia – the only clinically proven treatment for hair loss, which when combined with Minoxidil fluid can, I was told, have amazing effects. I reached for my credit card and hurried along to The Belgravia Centre, the UK’s leading hair loss clinic. I was about as nervous walking in there as I had been when I came out to my father. Confronting reality – in this case with a mirror held to my head by a physician – is never easy.

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Propecia in a bottle

Ever a cynic, I didn’t expect the private prescriptions I received for the year ahead to work – but each month on returning to the clinic, I saw an improvement – my ginger locks were sprouting back.  If I’d left it much later, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s crucial, you see, to hit the Propecia as quickly as possible to turn back time, as Cher would say. 

Ten years later and I’m astonished the drugs are still working – and my hair is as thick as ever. Just beware: stop taking it for two weeks, and you can expect to start losing it again, this is a treatment for life. But you don’t have to spend thousands getting prescriptions from clinics: Finasteride, generic Propecia, is widely and safely available online, and it does the same job.

The period I initially undertook the treatment coincided with a significant change of direction in my life - striking out as a full-time writer.  The hair on my head mirrored my mindset – it bolstered my confidence and nerve.  And you know the biggest surprise of all? I finally accepted being ginger, and even grew to like it – as, to my even greater surprise, have many others!
 


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