I began combing my soap dish and harvesting the bathtub twenty-five years ago in college. I could glance at my father’s growing tonsure and see the future, a gradually widening vacant lot on the back of the head, an expanding forehead in front. For my loss 1 blamed the government, specifically the army; all those years of wearing that heavy helmet and liner denied those tiny hair follicles sun and air and squashed them flatter than a tortilla forever.
Hearing my complaint. Dr. Coleman Jacobson. a Dallas dermatologist for thirty-four years and administrative director of the new Baylor Hair Research and Treatment Center, smiled tolerantly. “No. it’s simple male pattern hair loss.” (’”Baldness” is eschewed these days for “significant hair loss”)
Jacobson and his partner, Dr. David Whiting, medical director of the hair clinic, do believe, however, that medical researchers will be able to significantly arrest hair loss in the near future. For four years, they have been planning their facility in Wadley Tower, which opened in April, the first complete hair treatment clinic in the Southwest to provide diagnosis, counseling, electrolysis, surgical hair transplants, and. more important in the long run. a place to study patients and collect data to see what really works. Great, but what can they do for me?
First, a very thorough examination and history, including history of hair loss, scalp disorders, hair care history, past illnesses affecting hair, and lab tests if needed.
“Well, let’s see.” said Dr. Whiting as he examined my vast wasteland. “You are over forty, suffered lots of hair loss on top, and your hair is very fine. I’d say you’re a five ” he said, pointing to a chart of profile and aerial drawings of men’s domes. One is normal; seven is Friar Tuck, bald as a billiard ball. And the remedies?
Option One: Regularly use a drug to stop the male sex hormone action. Dr. Whiting mentioned several, including a German product developed to control male sex offenders. Uh, no thanks.
Option Two: Minoxidil, the talk of the hair-loss world, is a drug used to control high blood pressure. It has the side effect of causing hair growth. “It’s better for younger men. say twenty-five, just beginning to lose hair.” Hair will grow on a third of those who use the drug; another third will raise some fuzz; and the remaining one-third will keep the status quo on top. “I tell my patients it’s perfectly safe. All you have to lose is your money.” A lot of money: $50 a month, $600 a year. The drug, Rogaine. will be on the market early next year.
Option Three: Hair transplants, scalp reduction, or flap surgery. Once again the doctor fingered the inadequate hair veil across my scalp. “A lot of area to cover; you’d need at least 500 plugs, five to twenty hairs per plug, at least four sessions, about $7,000-$8,000 total.” And, uh, scalp reduction? “A really neat thing to do,” said Dr. Whiting in his charming South African accent. “Not adding hair but reducing the hair loss area; we just cut out a nice big island of skin here.” he said, fingering my crown, “bring the sides together, and stitch ” With flap surgery, a flap of hair-bearing skin on the side of the head is transplanted to the front. It’s expensive. $5,000 to $6,000 per flap, and has to be done by an expert. “If it’s botched, it’s a disaster: you can’t undo the damage.”’ Whiting says. Gad. Resembling a member of the Quest for Fire” cast or sporting a wad of hair that looks like it came from the rear end of a living buffalo isn’t on my agenda.
Option four: A wig or toupee. Sorry. I mean “hair replacement product.” For me. not an option. Maybe for four figures you can buy one that’s more subtle than a parading Shriner. but I haven’t seen it. Bald is one thing, but looking silly enough to make your cat laugh is another. Anyway, if you are an active, outdoor person, you’ll need a replacement in two years. But if you are determined. Dr. Whiting can wisely advise you.
Surveying the choices. I realize that at this point nothing much can be done for me; the time when I will need a weedeater | to cut my hair is far in the future. It’s enough to bring on an attack of trichot-illomania, a neurotic urge to pull out one”s own hair. However, I do feel good that my city has one of the few places in America where responsible hair loss treatment and research is being conducted. Meanwhile. I heard this rumor about a doctor overseas who successfully transplanted a dead man’s scalpto a baldie and is setting up ascalp bank. Anybody have histelephone number?