Baldness involves the state of lacking hair where it often grows, especially on the head. The most common form of baldness is a progressive hair thinning condition called androgenic alopecia or 'male pattern baldness' that occurs in adult male humans and other species. The severity and nature of baldness can vary greatly; it ranges from male and female pattern alopecia (androgenetic alopecia, also called androgenetic alopecia or alopecia androgenetica), alopecia areata, which involves the loss of some of the hair from the head, and alopecia totalis, which involves the loss of all head hair, to the most extreme form, alopecia universalis, which involves the loss of all hair from the head and the body. Treatments for the various forms alopecia have limited success. Some hair loss sufferers make use of so-called "clinically proven treatments" such as finasteride and topically applied minoxidil (in solution) in an attempt to prevent further loss and regrow hair. As a general rule, it is easier to maintain remaining hair than it is to regrow; however, the treatments mentioned will help some of the users suffering from Androgenetic alopecia, and there are new technologies in cosmetic transplant surgery and hair replacement systems that can be completely undetectable. The effectiveness of finasteride and minoxidil is not universally accepted.
Background, cause and incidence
The average human head has about 100,000 hair follicles. Each follicle can grow about 20 individual hairs in a person's lifetime. Average hair loss is about 100 strands a day.
Incidence of pattern baldness varies from population to population based on genetic background. Environmental factors do not seem to affect this type of baldness greatly. One large scale study in Maryborough, in central Victoria (Australia) showed the prevalence of mid-frontal hair loss increases with age and affects 57% of women and 73.5% of men aged 80 and over.
Male pattern is characterized by hair receding from the lateral sides of the forehead, known as "receding hairline". Receding hairlines are usually seen in males above the ages of 25.
An additional bald patch may develop on top (vertex). The trigger for this type of baldness (called androgenetic alopecia) is DHT, a powerful sex hormone, body, and facial hair growth promoter that can adversely affect the hair on the head and prostate.
The mechanism by which DHT accomplishes this is not yet understood. In genetically-prone scalps, DHT initiates a process of follicular miniaturization. Through the process of follicular miniaturization, hair shaft width is progressively decreased until scalp hair resembles fragile vellus hair or "peach fuzz" or else becomes non-existent. Onset of hair loss sometimes begins as early as end of puberty, and is mostly genetically determined. Male pattern baldness is classified on the Hamilton-Norwood scale I-VII.
It was previously believed that baldness was inherited. While there is some basis for this belief, both parents contribute to their offspring's likelihood of hair loss. Most likely, inheritance is technically "autosomal dominant with mixed penetrance" (see 'baldness folklore' below)
There are several other kinds of baldness:
- Traction alopecia is most commonly found in people with ponytails or cornrows who pull on their hair with excessive force.
- Trichotillomania is the loss of hair caused by compulsive pulling and bending of the hairs. It tends to occur more in children than in adults. In this condition the hairs are not absent from the scalp but are broken. Where they break near the scalp they cause typical, short, "exclamation mark" hairs.
- Traumas such as chemotherapy, childbirth, major surgery, poisoning, and severe stress may cause a hair loss condition known as telogen effluvium.
- Worrisome hair loss often follows childbirth without causing actual baldness. In this situation, the hair is actually thicker during pregnancy due to increased circulating oestrogens. After the baby is born, the oestrogen levels fall back to normal pre-pregnancy levels and the additional hair foliage drops out. A similar situation occurs in women taking the fertility-stimulating drug clomiphene.
- Iron deficiency is a common cause of thinning of the hair, though frank baldness is not usually seen.
- Radiation to the scalp, as happens when radiotherapy is applied to the head for the treatment of certain cancers there, can cause baldness of the irradiated areas.
- Some mycotic infections can cause massive hair loss.
- Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder also known as "spot baldness" that can result in hair loss ranging from just one location (Alopecia areata monolocularis) to every hair on the entire body (Alopecia areata universalis).
- Localized or diffuse hair loss may also occur in cicatricial alopecia (lupus erythematosus, lichen plano pilaris, folliculitis decalvans, central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, postmenopausal frontal fibrosing alopecia, etc.). Tumours and skin outgrowths also induce localized baldness (sebaceous nevus, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma).
- Hypothyroidism can cause hair loss, typically frontal, and is particularly associated with thinning of the outer third of the eyebrows (syphilis also can cause loss of the outer third of the eyebrows)
- Hyperthyroidism can also cause hair loss, which is parietal rather than frontal.
Tem Approaches to baldness
The psychological effects for individuals experiencing hair loss vary widely. Some people adapt to the change comfortably, while others have severe problems relating to anxiety, depression, social phobia, and in some cases, identity change.
Alopecia induced by cancer chemotherapy has been reported to cause changes in self-concept and body image. Body image does not return to the previous state after regrowth of hair for a majority of patients. In such cases, patients have difficulties expressing their feelings (alexithymia) and may be more prone to avoiding family conflicts. Family therapy can help families to cope with these psychological problems if they arise.
Psychological problems due to baldness, if present, are typically most severe at the onset of symptoms.
Some balding men may feel proud of their baldness, feeling a kindred relationship with famous charismatic bald men, much of whose perceived masculinity and handsomeness derives from their most obvious distinguishing feature. Baldness has, in recent years, in any case become less of a (supposed) liability due to an increasing fashionable prevalence of very short, or even completely shaven, hair among men, at least in western countries. This is even true for women, as shown by the case of singers Sinead O'Connor and Meshell Ndegeocello, who both have a shaven head. Other female celebrities whose baldness is involuntary include Kylie Minogue (induced by chemotherapy) and Gail Porter (believed to be of psychosomatic origin).
Many companies have built a successful business selling products that reverse baldness, by allegedly regrowing hair, transplanting hair or selling hairpieces. There is very little evidence that any of those which claim hair regrowth actually work.
Preventing and reversing hair loss
In the USA, there are only two drug-based treatments that have been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and one product that has been cleared by the FDA for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia, otherwise known as male or female pattern hair loss. The two FDA approved treatments are finasteride (marketed for hair loss as Propecia) and minoxidil.
A pharmaceutical company reportedly sought to find the smallest effective quantity of finasteride and test its long-term effects on 1,553 men between ages 18 and 41 with mild to moderate thinning hair. Based on their research, 1 mg. daily was selected, and after two years of daily treatment, over 83% of the 1,553 men experiencing male hair loss had actually maintained or increased their hair count from baseline. Visual assessments concluded that over 80% had improved appearances. 
Minoxidil was first used in tablet form as a medicine to treat high blood pressure, but it was noticed that some patients being treated with Minoxidil experienced excessive hair growth (hypertrichosis) as a side-effect. Further research showed that by applying topical Minoxidil solution directly to the scalp, it could prove to be beneficial to those experiencing hair loss.
FDA clinical trials showed that 65% of men with androgenetic alopecia maintained or increased their hair count from the use of minoxidil 5% in liquid form. 54% of these men experienced moderate to dense regrowth and 46% experienced hair loss stabilisation and mild regrowth.
In controlled clinical studies of women aged 18-45, two out of three women with moderate degrees of hereditary hair loss reported re-growth after using 2% minoxidil. Initial results occur at four months with maximum results occurring at eight months.
Low-level laser therapy
A low level laser is shone directly on the scalp to stimulate hair growth through "Photo-Biostimulation" of the hair follicles. One product of these low level laser therapies is the "Hairmax Lasercomb". There is no peer-reviewed evidence to support this claim. There is some debate over the FDA's acknowledgment of the Lasercomb, but it has been accepted by the FDA as effective in the submitted claims. The Lasercomb was cleared by the FDA as being Substantially Equivalent (SE) to predicate devices legally marketed before May 28, 1978. This clearance is not the same as approval because it only applies to the lasercomb and not to any other similar laser based hair devices. The devices that the lasercomb proved itself equivalent to were a variety of FDA approved laser based/non hair growth devices intended for hair removal and pain relief, and two non FDA approved non laser based/hair growth devices such as the Raydo & Wonder Brush and the Vacuum Cap. These last two devices were sold in the early 1900's and are well established as medical quackery, but they were legal to market at the time which does satisfy the FDA's 510k SE criterea. The 510k number for the Lasercomb is K060305.
The Leimo laser was recently approved by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) of Australia as a Class IIa Medical Device that regrows hair. Its ARTG number is 139 456.
Surgery is another method of reversing hair loss and baldness, although it may be considered an extreme measure. The surgical methods used include hair transplantation, whereby hair-producing follicles are taken from the back and sides of the head and injected into bald or thinning areas.
Looking forward, the prospective treatment of hair multiplication/hair cloning, which extracts self-replenishing follicle stem cells, multiplies them many times over in the lab, and microinjects them into the scalp, has been shown to work in mice, and is currently under development, expected by some scientists to be available to the public in 2009–2015. Subsequent versions of the treatment are expected by some scientists to be able to cause these follicle stem cells to simply signal the surrounding hair follicles to rejuvenate. See Baldness treatments
In October 2006, UK biotechnology firm Intercytex announced they have successfully tested a method of removing hair follicles from the back of the neck, multiplying them and then reimplanting the cells into the scalp (Hair multiplication). The initial testing resulted in 70% of male patients regrowing hair. This treatment method is expected to be available to the public by 2009 .
In January 2007, Italian stem-cell researchers say they've come up with a new technique for curing baldness. Pierluigi Santi of a Genoa clinic said stem cells could be used to "multiply" hair roots. He said the clinic would be ready to perform its first hair transplants on priority patients - those who have lost their hair in fires or other accidents - within a few months. After that, he said, "we'll open our doors to paying customers". Santi's approach works by splitting roots and growing new follicles.
Topical application of ketoconazole, which is both an anti-fungal and a potent 5-alpha reductase inhibitor, is often used as a supplement to other approaches.
Unsaturated fatty acids
Particular unsaturated fatty acids such as gamma linolenic acid are 5 alpha reductase inhibitors if taken internally. 
Interestingly, placebo treatments in studies often have reasonable success rates, though not as high as the products being tested, and even similar side-effects as the products. For example, in Finasteride (Propecia) studies, the percent of patients with any drug-related sexual adverse experience was 3.8% compared with 2.0% in the placebo group.
Regular aerobic exercise can help keep androgen levels (particularly free testosterone levels) naturally lower while maintaining overall health, lowering stress and increasing SHBG.  
Weight training without aerobic exercise may increase testosterone. ;    One study suggests that both heavy exercise and increased fat intake, in combination, are required for increased free testosterone in strength trainers. Increased total or free testosterone would help them build and repair muscle, but may cause susceptible individuals to lose hair. 
However, there is at least one study that indicates a decline in free testosterone combined with an increase in strength due to an (unspecified) strength training regime.
Stress reduction can be helpful in slowing hair loss. (see Baldness Folklore)
Immunosuppressants applied to the scalp have been shown to temporarily reverse alopecia areata, though the side effects of some of these drugs make such therapy questionable. 
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) is an herbal DHT inhibitor often claimed to be cheaper and have fewer side effects than finasteride and dutasteride. Unlike other 5alpha-reductase inhibitors, Serenoa repens induces its effects without interfering with the cellular capacity to secrete PSA. Saw palmetto extract has been demonstrated to inhibit both isoforms of 5-alpha-reductase unlike finasteride which only inhibits the (predominant) type 2 isoenzyme of 5-alpha-reductase.
Polygonum Multiflorum is a traditional Chinese cure for hair loss. P. multiflorum contains stilbene glycosides similar to resveratrol. 
Beta sitosterol, which is a constituent in many seed oils, can help to treat BHP by lowering cholesterol. If used for this purpose, an extract is best. Consuming large amounts of oil to get at small quantities of beta sitosterol is likely to exacerbate male pattern baldness.
While drastic, broad spectrum anti-androgens such as flutamide are sometimes used topically. Flutamide is potent enough to have a feminizing effect in men, including growth of the breasts.
Through 2006, a drug development company spent $1,000,000 on a hair growth program focused on the potential development of a topical hedgehog agonist for hair growth disorders such as male pattern baldness and female hair loss. The hair loss research program was shut down in May 2007 because the process did not meet the proper safety standards.
WNT gene related
In May 2007, US company Follica Inc, announced they have licensed technology from the University of Pennsylvania which can regenerate hair follicles by reawakening genes which were once active only in the embryo stage of human development.    
Concealing hair loss
One method of hiding hair loss is the "comb over", which involves restyling the remaining hair to cover the balding area. It is usually a temporary solution, useful only while the area of hair loss is small. As the hair loss increases, a comb over becomes less effective. When this reaches a stage of extreme effort with little effect — it can make the person the object of teasing or scorn.
Another method is to wear a hat or a hairpiece — a wig or toupee. The wig is a layer of artificial or natural hair made to resemble a typical hair style. In most cases the hair is artificial. Wigs vary widely in quality and cost. In the United States, the best wigs — those that look like real hair — cost up to tens of thousands of dollars. Organizations also collect individuals' donations of their own natural hair to be made into wigs for young cancer patients who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy or other cancer treatment in addition to any type of hair loss.
Though not as common as the loss of hair on the head, chemotherapy, hormone imbalance, forms of alopecia, and other factors can also cause loss of hair in the eyebrows. Artificial eyebrows are available to replace missing eyebrows or to cover patchy eyebrows. Micro tattooing is also available.
Of course, instead of concealing hair loss, one may embrace it. A shaved head will grow stubble in the same manner and at the same rate as a shaved face. Many celebrities and athletes shave their heads[dubious ]. The general public has become accepting of the shaved head also. Female baldness is less socially accepted.
- temporary loss of hair can occur in areas where sebaceous cysts are present for considerable duration; normally one to several weeks in length.