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Bald pride; Losing your hair isn't the end of the world.

GREGOR FISHER turned the follicly-challenged into a running joke with his infamous Baldy Man.

The very sight of those strands of hair clinging for dear life across the gleaming dome guaranteed laughs.

But baldness is a serious business. In Britain, 7.5 million men have receding hairlines.

A quarter of men would sacrifice five years of their lives in return for a good head of hair, according to a survey in America.

And this week scientists breathlessly announced they were on the verge of a "cure", with the development of the "miracle" chemical beta catenin which helped mice sprout more hair.

The chemical re-programmes hairless adult skin to grow new follicles - normally a once-in-a-lifetime event in the womb.

This latest "breakthrough" has only been tested in mice and has unpleasant side-effects. The rodents were hairier, but suffered skin tumours -- and their feet were bigger than normal.

But even in the face of all this research, more men are wearing their bald pates with pride, asking: What is so terrible about going bald?

Even the brains behind The Baldy Man, producer Colin Gilbert, says there is nothing wrong with being bald.

Gilbert says: "The Baldy Man lets his vanity get the better of him and pretends he is really not bald at all. That is why he is a loser.

"People's behaviour is funny when they try and disguise their weaknesses.

"For instance, the office romance is only funny when two people are sneaking away to meet each other and deliberately avoiding each other.

"The whole of the office knows about it and kills themselves watching the couple who think they are fooling everyone.

"Bald men themselves aren't funny - you only have to look at Sean Connery and see how dignified and attractive he is."

Hairdresser George Sanderson embraces his baldness. He is so proud of his shiny dome that he shaves his head completely every day. He did not see any point in having straggly wisps of hair plastered to his scalp, so he decided to go the whole hog.

George, 37, of Edinburgh, started losing his hair when he was 25.

He said: "When my hair started thinning, it wasn't such a huge deal. I work with hair all the time and I believe in accepting what kind of hair you have.

"The saddest thing is to see these guys who grow their hair long at the sides and the back and sweep it over their bald patches.

"That is probably the worst thing you can do to disguise your baldness.

"If you have only a little hair, the temptation is to grow what you do have.

"But that seems to make you look older and is not very attractive.

"My advice to men who are going bald is to accept the reality of their situation and have a short haircut."

For four years, George followed his own advice, sporting a closely-trimmed style.

But when he reached the age of 30, he started losing even more hair, and decided to take the drastic step of shaving it all off.

He said: "I loved the look - it is so modern and strong. I also grew a goatee beard to balance up my face.

"Without it, I look a bit like a potato. Having facial hair when you have a completely bald head also gives you something to change your appearance.

"You can grow a moustache, or a fuller beard, and so on. The other thing you can play with is having hair extensions which can give you a Mohican effect. Or you can experiment by trying on loads of funky hats.

GEORGE has a huge hat collection, not only to look good but to keep his head warm. He says it can be pretty unpleasant having a bare head when it's cold and raining.

Like many men anxious about being prematurely bald, he did toy with the idea of having a hairpiece - and even tried one out.

He said: "It was very realistic and they made it quite thin in a short, Caesar cut. It was quite brilliant and really effective.

"But it just wasn't me. I had grown into being bald and it seemed too weird to have hair again. I also hated the idea of being able to take it on and off.

"Anyway, I'm quite happy being bald. I don't think there is the stigma that there used to be about men losing their hair.

"People can pretty much wear any look they like now and there isn't so much pressure for everyone to live up to the same ideal look."

If you do decide to take a razor to your thinning locks, George has some advice.

He said: "Don't do it if you have really pale skin, as this can look a bit spooky. Guys with darker skin seem to suit it better.

"You also have to have quite strong features, or wear a little beard or moustache to soften your look, and to prevent you looking something like a boiled egg.

"I wet-shave my head every day and you have to use moisturiser as shaving dries out the scalp and can make it flaky.

"But remember to wear sun-screen on your head in the summer, or you might end up with a nastily burned scalp."

As a photographer, Travis McBain, 36, from Glasgow, is perhaps more aware than most of people's appearances in his daily work.

Not for him the tacky cover-up job. He is proud to be bald and shaves his head regularly.

Travis said: "I love my look and it's certainly far better than having a ring of straggly hair with a bald crown."

But he doesn't pretend that losing his hair when he was 22 wasn't a traumatic experience.

He said: "Although I can smile about it now, it was the most horrible thing to have happened to me.

"Suddenly, at that early age, I looked like my dad - I looked like a middle-aged man. It was as if my youth had been stolen, and in 12 months, I had aged 20 years.

So Travis decided to take the big step of having his head shaved - and immediately realised it was the right thing to do.

He said: "To my delight, it was so much better and strangely I suddenly looked young again. I also grew a moustache to balance out my face.

"As you get older, you seem to grow into your baldness and not care so much about other people's perception of you.

"In fact, I find that women don't seem to mind you being bald, and if you have good self-confidence it doesn't matter if you are as bald as a coot."

TRAVIS says men should wear their baldness with pride. He thinks there is nothing sadder than people who wear hairpieces, have transplants or who plaster what hair they have over their bald patch.

He added: "It's much simpler and far more attractive to go with what you've got."

With hair loss affecting 50 per cent of adult men, it's no wonder that bald men have tried every old wives' tale in the book, from hanging upside- down to letting a cow lick their heads.

Desperate men have been known to rub their naked scalps with everything from Marmite to onions to chicken manure.

Other weird remedies include rubbing curry and Baby Bio into the scalp, and eating Royal Jelly or sesame seeds.

Even Cleopatra had a go at a cure-all for the rapidly balding Julius Caesar.

She prepared a mix of deer's marrow, horse's teeth and bear oil, but it still left the emperor in need of his laurel leaf crown to cover his pate. Experts warn men to be cautious of some of the remedies in the small ads, most of which aren't far removed from Cleopatra's gooey mixture.

Terence Kealey, a lecturer in clinical biochemistry at Cambridge University, is sceptical of all folk remedies, except, rather surprisingly, a lick from a cow.

He said: "It's possible that it would help stimulate growth factors in the epidermis."

Scientists claim to have recently found the gene that causes baldness, and some scientists predict they will find a cure within five years after experimenting on those mutant hairless mice.

During the course of their research, they discovered genes which appear to cause hereditary hair loss.

By knocking out selected genes, the American scientists bred mice with long hair, with greasy matted hair and with no hair at all.

They identified the same baldness genes in humans and the specially-bred mice, paving the way for a treatment. The gene triggers a chain of events that stimulates hair growth.

Scientists are now studying each link in the chain to gather clues to the cause of male pattern baldness and other forms of hair loss.

They believe it will soon be possible to design ways to grow hair, remove hair and even dye hair genetically.

Now they are looking at ways to implant the gene into hair follicles to stimulate fresh growth or restore natural colour.

While we wait for a definitive cure for baldness, Glasgow University senior lecturer in psychology, Dr Geoff Scobie, recommends coming to terms with your baldness.

He said: "It is perfectly understandable that men hate to lose their hair.

"They see it as a sign of ageing, which can be hard if you go bald in your twenties.

"A full head of hair equates with youth, and youth with virility, which is why men fear they will become less attractive and lose some of their manliness when they lose their hair.

"This is patently not so, as the many bald men with huge families can testify."

DR Scobie says men such as Sean Connery have proven you can still be bald and sexually attractive.

He said: "You have to have the maturity to accept you are bald and to focus on other parts of your personality and work on becoming a well-rounded and balanced individual.

"This will make you far more attractive to other people than a head of hair. For those who can't stand having only a few strands of hair, there are other options. Some men cope by shaving their heads so that they take some control back.

"They are also joining the fashionable macho ranks of footballers such as Cantona and Vialli and the Mitchell brothers in EastEnders who shave their heads to look tough."

But Dr Scobie concedes that other men might find that buying a wig is the only way they can feel better about themselves.

He added: "However you rationalise going bald, you should always try to remember it is nothing to be ashamed of.

"But our society is one which worships youth, and until that changes men will always be seeking the cure for baldness."

TREATMENTS THAT CAN HELP BALDIES STAY AHEAD OF THE REST

HAIR TRANSPLANT

MICRO graft surgery costs around pounds 1500 per session and the average person needs three sessions.

Singer Elton John and comedian Russ Abbott both tried this surgery with successful results.

Comedian Clem Dane, 60, had a hair transplant 20 years ago at the Skolas Reform Clinic in Glasgow. He said: "I am very pleased with the results and have no regrets. The operation is done under local anaesthetic and is not painful.

"I don't see that there is a problem with men getting hair transplants - women aren't criticised for having cosmetic surgery, so we should be allowed to improve our looks, too."

HAIRPIECE

HAIR pieces or toupees are detachable and are made of either real or synthetic hair. A hair piece costs between pounds 450 and pounds 900, depending on the material used. Actor Jim Summers, 58, has had a hairpiece for 30 years, and currently gets his from the Skolas hair clinic, in Glasgow. He said: "I know people think wigs are funny but, in my business, your appearance is important. I think it takes 10 years off me, and I feel smarter with hair."

HAIR BONDING

HAIR bonding involves fixing a hair piece to the scalp. The process costs between pounds 450 and pounds 1000, depending on the material used. Michael Baxter, 32, of Aberdeen decided to get a permanent hair piece fused to his own hair after he went bald in his early 20s. He said: "I have a scar on my head from a childhood accident which I didn't like exposing. I'm very pleased with the effect and find it has restored my confidence."

Q&A

Top tips to help you grow for it

WHAT makes men's hair fall out?

Testosterone and genetics. Baldness is caused when the hormone DHT comes into contact with a follicle, and the hair becomes shorter and wispier.

HOW quickly does it go once hair loss begins?

It depends on how early you start. If you start to lose your hair when you're 17 or 18, you'll probably be bald by the time you're 25.

IS there anything I can do to stop it?

Regaine is a drug which can slow, or reverse, hair loss by interfering with the chemical that causes hair follicles to shut down.

MY dad's got a full head of hair - am I in the clear?

Unfortunately not. Male pattern baldness is hereditary, but in most cases, the rogue gene comes from the mother's side.

I'M 38 and haven't lost my hair yet. Am I safe?

Safer, but not completely safe. By the time they retire, two-thirds of men are balding .

WILL less washing or brushing reduce hair loss?

No, the more you wash it the better. Always use a wide-toothed comb and never use it on wet hair.

WHAT else can make your hair fall out?

Stress, illness and poor diet can all take their toll on your hairline. Fevers, major surgery or thyroid problems can all also result in your hair ending up on your pillow.

WHAT`S the best way to style thinning hair?

Shorter hair looks thicker and makes any patchiness less obvious. To disguise a receding hairline, you could try brushing the hair forward or an off-centre parting.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Mallon, Margaret
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 28, 1998
Words:2344
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