Why Is There a Stigma Around Hair Loss?

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Good or bad, right or wrong, there’s a certain stigma that comes with hair loss. And as someone who is losing hair and/or on the verge of balding, it begs the question: Why does this stigma exist in the first place?

The Origins of the Hair Loss Stigma

Hair loss for men isn’t inevitable – but it’s certainly quite likely. Male pattern baldness affects most men at some point in their lives. According to the American Hair Loss Association, 25 percent of men start losing hair before the age of 21. By the age of 35, 66 percent of men have experienced some amount of hair loss. And by the time a man reaches the age of 50, there’s an 85 percent chance that he’ll have “significantly thinner hair.”

In other words, hair loss and balding are very common in today’s culture. So why is it that so many men are fearful of going bald? In fact, according to one study of thousands of men, 94 percent put balding at the very top of their fear list (even above impotence). The fear is so deep-rooted for some men that they even develop phalacrophobia – aka, the fear of losing hair.

To understand the fear of hair loss, you have to first understand the stigma. Over the past several centuries, the stigma of losing hair and going bald has become so predominant in the culture that it’s led many men to approach this health issue with a high degree of trepidation.

The origins of the stigma of hair loss can be traced all the way back to biblical times. There’s even a story in the Bible where 42 young boys mock the prophet Elisha who has lost his hair. The group of boys call him “baldy” and are eventually mauled by two hungry bears because of their teasing.

As crazy as that story is, it’s not the only mention of the stigmatization of balding throughout history. It’s also believed that Julius Caesar, the Roman general, was borderline “obsessed” with trying to cure his baldness.

“He reportedly attempted all manner of tonics and treatments to cure his hair loss,” journalist Darren Toogood reports. “There are plenty of other historical mentions of men trying to find a cure for baldness too. The Vikings used a lotion of goose guano, and the ancient Greek Hippocrates used pigeon droppings combined with cumin, horseradish, and nettles.”

Fast forward to the 17th century and hairlines were an important part of fashion in the Western world. It was said that a good hairline was the mark of a “well-bred man.” However, diseases like syphilis were also on the rise. One of the primary side effects of syphilis was patchy hair loss.  To combat this, many of the aristocrats and people of wealth would wear white wigs. These wigs became extremely popular when King Louis XIV of France began suffering hair loss at the early age of 17. He had 48 wigmakers hired to help him find a respectable look. From this point onward, wigs became a fashion staple in France, England, and eventually the United States.

While white wigs have (thankfully) gone out of style since the 17th and 18th centuries, they certainly intensified the stigma around balding. It had the effect of making hair loss an even more undesirable health condition. And while many have embraced it in today’s culture, millions have not.

How to Fight Back Against Hair Loss

The good news is that we have more methods for fighting hair loss today than we’ve ever had. So if you are one of the millions of men experiencing hair loss, there are plenty of ways to fight back.

One of the best (and safest) methods of combating hair loss is through low level laser therapy, also known as LLLT. This method, which is administered using a laser cap system, uses cold lasers (LEDs) to regenerate hair follicles and increase energy and blood flow to thinning areas of the scalp. It’s safe, FDA-approved, and painless. Doctors typically recommend wearing the cap for 30 minutes daily (every other day).

In addition to laser therapy, other popular hair loss treatments consist of medication (finasteride and propecia), DHT-blocking hair care products, and even hair loss procedures like follicular unit extraction (FUE).

Don’t Let Your Hair Define You

While there are more hair loss treatment options than ever – potentially allowing you to fight back against premature balding – you shouldn’t let the stigma of hair loss affect your day-to-day life. Balding is becoming more and more socially “acceptable,” as many top athletes, celebrities, and even politicians embrace the look.

At the end of the day, you’re more than your hair – though it’s nice to know you have options!


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