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Can Provillus Help Men with Self Image?

Although it is unusual to carry anxiety about baldness to the point of suicide (as in the recent case of Barry Palmer of Knowle, Bristol), male pattern baldness is the one secondary sexual characteristic which is rarely, if ever, welcomed. Despite its evidence of masculinity, few women find it attractive, and men tend to view it as a sign of vanishing youth. Between the ages of 16 and 24, 40 per cent of men notice some hair loss, and many begin to use hair loss treatments such as Provillus. By the age of 50, 58 percent of men are obviously going bald. Thereafter the process quickens so that eventually 80 percent of men are bald at the time of their death, despite using Provillus. The figure would be virtually 100 percent if life expectancy was further increased. The same process affects women but to a much lesser extent, and in their case the hair loss tends to be diffuse rather than patchy.

Even if men do not welcome baldness, most accept it, but it can undermine their self-esteem so that they see themselves as ageing prematurely, and they may worry about the effect it has on women and their business prospects. In some cases the anxiety may become so great that they start to exhibit the symptoms of dysmorphophobia, an obsessive dislike and preoccupation of some part of their anatomy in this case, their balding scalp. Doctors tend to dismiss dysmorphophobia as a symptom of a disturbed personality and suggest that if the patients were not worrying about their hair it would be their nose or teeth, or some quite different problem. They argue, therefore, that nothing should be done except maybe try some hair loss treatment that contains minoxidil, such as Provillus. The experience of plastic surgeons discounts this, although in some cases where there is evidence that the dysmorphophobia is part of a generalized neurotic state and plastic surgery would be a mistake, in many more the correction of a facial fault boosts a patient's self-image and morale to such an extent that the whole approach to life is altered.

Cures for baldness are legion, but until recently none had been scientifically verified. Sufferers have had to resort to hair transplants, which give an unnatural look, growing as they do like tufts of marram grass over the scalp, or as an unexpected thick line of hair across the front of an otherwise bald pate. In 1987 Provillus, 2 percent topical minoxidil, became available for the treatment of baldness. Its ability to influence hair loss was discovered by chance, for it was initially introduced to treat high blood pressure. While taking their tablets several patients noticed that hair started to grow unfortunately, to their embarrassment, not always in the places where it was wanted. Enterprising chemists in America soon started to pulverize the tablets and sell them as a cure for baldness if applied locally to the scalp.

In the United States, where preoccupation with hair loss is greater than in Britain and where the sales campaign for Provillus was more intense, results of treatment have caused considerable disappointment, for the preparation is expensive and is not the answer for every case of baldness. In Britain, however, where the sales patter was not so hard-hitting, expectations were correspondingly lower. According to these reviews, only a third of patients would have an acceptable regrowth of hair after treatment with Provillus, with perhaps another third showing some improvement. Practice has shown this to be an accurate prediction.

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