Receding Hairlines

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Almost thirty per cent of the male population is literally carrying a crisis on their heads as baldness is impacting their self-esteem and confidence. Saima Bhat visits the crisis and details a way-out

Not long ago, Irfan Ahmad, 32, was literally more in love with his hair than the head it grows on. Every morning, managing his long hair was an elaborate, time-consuming affair and devoured a good part of his monthly budget. He would go to the best and expensive salons in the city. His fluffy hair on his forehead was his signature shot in his friend circle.

Working with a Multi National Company in Delhi, Irfan got a shock one morning when he noticed hair strands on his pillow. Before he could see a doctor, he noticed shedding of his hair during combing. As the doctor started hunting for the reasons, his skull skin was visible.

Frustrated, he started visiting many doctors. He had prescriptions and medicine but little impact. Depressed on being asked about his long hairs by his friends and colleagues, he avoided going out and restricted himself to his office.

What was worrying was that he was losing self-confidence. His normal team meetings and client interactions started taking a toll. Finally, he left his job and came back home.

A Shehr-e-Khas resident, Irfan now works with his brother at a local shop. Shy of being bald, Irfan says, “It hurts if somebody makes fun of you and that too for something which once you were proud of.” He is planning to go for a hair transplant.

A few years younger Mohammad Younis was enthusiastic about his appointment as an officer in a regional bank. He finally had an assured growth trajectory and was happy over better marriage prospects.
Well-built and tall, Younis had his own imagination about his would-be bride. Earning handsomely, his family started to look for a match three years ago. With already over one lakh spent on matchmakers, there is no success. Younis is bald and faces rejection.

Not able to comprehend what is happening in his life, the receding hairline is worrisome for this young banker. Facing volley of questions at his workplace and equal ‘torture’ by friends and relatives, he, at times, agitate while answering about his marriage. “I am facing rejections only, and for anyone, it is not easy. Whenever I meet people, be it, my colleagues or relatives, everybody asks when I am getting married,” Younis says.

The crisis for this 27-year-old banker is that he looks aged. “The baldness adds at least five years to my person,” he laments.

Presently having M-shape, Younis is suffering from male pattern baldness, the disease that survived in Kashmir for ages. Around 30 per cent of the population is suffering from baldness.

Male pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia (AGA) is a common disease in adolescent and young adult males throughout the world, says Dr Imran Majid, a senior dermatologist, who says he manages most of the bald patients in Kashmir.

He says baldness arises as a result of the effect of androgens (male sex hormones) on the scalp hair. The secretion of male hormones (collectively known as androgens) starts at a particular age, and most important androgens are testosterone and it is this hormone that is responsible for the male pattern baldness (patterned hair loss) that males develop.

Initially, the hair loss can be treated with medicines but if the scalp becomes bald, then it can be treated with a surgical procedure, hair transplant.

Dr Majid says the hair loss depends upon how sensitive hair roots (follicles) are to testosterone. It is not the abnormal amounts of testosterone secretions that cause the hair loss in males. It is only the effect of normal levels of this hormone on really sensitive hair follicles that are responsible for baldness.

Younis was suggested to go for a hair transplant treatment. A surgical procedure that involves hair roots (follicles) removal from one part of the scalp, usually from the back of the skull, and transplanting them in the bald area.

In Kashmir, the treatment of hair transplant started in 2006 when Dr Imran Majid flew a hair transplant pioneers, Dr Rajesh Rajput from Mumbai. He continued visiting Kashmir till 2008 when the unrest started in Kashmir.

After unrest, Dr Imran says doctors refused to come to Kashmir. A few transplants were done in 2009 when the situation improved but then in 2010, the process stopped again. Now, he is tackling most of these surgical procedures.

The procedure is less expensive but time-consuming. It takes around 8 hours for the hair transplant. “It is spine breaking job,” Dr Imran said.

“The treatment is not scary, it is safe. The only thing that people going for transplants must do is that they must be handled by experts so that hair roots are not wasted. If any root is wasted, it cannot re-grow.” Almost 90 per cent of the transplanted hair grows.

Entire costs for hair transplant range between Rs 40,000 to Rs two lakh, depending upon the baldness. Better experts cost more, though.

In a single session of hair transplantation, 1000 to even 4000 hair follicles are transplanted. When doctors transplant more than 2000 or 2500 follicles in a single session, they call it a mega-session or even a giga-session. The number of roots to be transplanted basically depends upon the area that needs to be covered. If there is a small bald area, one may just need about a thousand follicles. Larger bald areas need even 3000 to 4000 follicles or even more. And normally it takes from four to six months for the transplanted hair to grow back to normal length after the surgical procedure.

Since his childhood, Muhammad Iqbal, 26, was willing to opt for a job in airlines. “Everybody used to say I am handsome and I will be easily selected as a crew member for any airlines,” he said.

While he was in the middle of his bachelor’s degree, he saw his hairline receding. Within the next six months, he saw gradual disappearance of hair from the crown and frontal scalp. “It was a shocker and obviously an end to my dream.”

In his mid-forties, a KAS officer took a month’s leave. Posted in Srinagar, his colleagues did not know the reason. A month after, when he joined back, he had bruises over his head covered with a cap. Though he did not speak about his condition, later it was known that he had gone to Mumbai for transplantation.

Hair loss is not a concern for males only; there are females facing the crisis as well. Though the reasons are not the same, a doctor said it could be due to age or family history.

Fehmeeda, 44, has started having thin hair due to the shrinking of hair follicles. Her scalp is visible. The doctor treating her has given her medicine and it has started undoing baldness. She, off late, is suffering from patchy hair loss. A mother of three, Fehmeeda covers her head before moving out of her house.

For Adil, 30, who has recently got engaged, is set to marry in next spring. Managing things for his marriage, Adil says the additional cost is of transplantation. Already tried PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) technique, Adil is not satisfied with the results.

PRP, the doctor says is a technique which involves withdrawing a patient’s own blood, process it so that only the enriched cells (platelet-rich plasma) remain, and injecting it into the scalp. This is completed in three sittings and has the cost of around Rs 10,000.

However, Adil is going to Delhi for treating his baldness. This he says has an additional cost which he thinks is part of the marriage.

Adil has a reason. His fiancée has insisted that when he will come as a groom, nobody should talk about his scanty-haired head. “It is mandatory to remove turban while having meals and she feels awkward about my thin hairline.

“I do not want to annoy my fiancée and I am going to Delhi for transplantation,” Adil said. “Not only transplantation cost, there is the cost of boarding, lodging and transport as well.”

Why is hair so important in a person’s marriage?

Atiya, a management student has the answer. “Hair is the first thing noticed by anybody,” she said. She believes there are many more things a girl wants to have in her husband, but hair is an aesthetic feature which is being noticed by everybody.

She has told her family to see a guy for her with a good look, which, she insists, includes a significant hairline.

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