I used to think I was OK-looking. I was never particularly proud of my hair. Varying from dark-blonde to brown depending on the season and time spent in the sun, it was just…there. It was good enough to not have to worry about, but certainly not a distinguishing mark of my good looks.
Up until around 25 years of age, I had no inclination of baldness beyond a pretty big forehead. My father had been bald for a long as I could remember, but that was no reason to worry at the time.
Approaching 30, I started to notice my receding hairline. In fact, it was my grandmother who told me and started the conversation around how my father had gone bald at a similar age.
That was the point in time I started researching male-pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia, as the symptom is scientifically known. I was still quite happy with my looks and had no intention of taking any radical steps such as implant surgery, but I wanted to keep things as they were. Any further than that would start to look ridiculous pretty quickly, I feared.
I ended up with Propecia, which contains finasteride. In short and very simplified terms, finasteride suppresses dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is largely responsible for hair loss in men. I took a blue pill a day, and while I did not re-grow any hair (apparently a certain percentage of Propecia users experienced regrowth…), it certainly fulfilled its promise to keep the hairline in place.
I took Propecia (but switched to a generic product with the same ingredients as soon as they became available) for about 3 years and managed to keep my forehead-hair ratio at an acceptable level. Whilst I did not suffer any of the known side effects of Propecia (turns out many other men did), I began wondering if I really wanted to be taking a pill a day for the rest of my life just to maintain a hairstyle.
So approaching my 30th birthday, I started to cautiously approach baldness. I suspected my jawline was not strong enough to look good naked in the absence of top hair, so I opted for a more “even” distribution of hair on my head: I trimmed my hair to the second-lowest setting on my trimmer, but at the same time grew a beard roughly the same length. The result was visually satisfactory to me and provided the additional benefit of being extremely easy to maintain: A 3-minute trim all around every 2 weeks or so did the trick.
That style worked just fine for a while. It was rather neutral, nothing particularly exciting or offensive about it. I did not mind the hair at all, but I did grow very fond of the concept of a beard.
Turns out that what I lack on the top of my head, I more than make up for with my beard. Because I had never done it before, I was completely unaware that I could rock a very solid beard in no time, without any patchiness or other issues some guys struggle with.
That did make me wonder: With my beard growing skills so much superior to my hair growing skills, could I risk going all-in?
During a one-year backpacking trip around the world with my wife, I figured I had nothing to lose: She’d said “yes” at that stage already, and every single person we met had never seen me before and therefore had no point of comparison.
So in January 2015, aged 32, I took the leap.
It felt strange – but literally only for a few minutes – that day and the next day when I woke up and felt my naked head.
That moment was over 6 years ago and I’ve never looked back. I threw out the remaining Propecia pills and bought a pack of safety razors. I’ve kept my head shaven clean ever since, and have experimented wildly with a variety of beard styles.
And guess what? I get compliments for my beard. People dig it. My wife loves it – she calls it a “bada** look”. I cannot recall a single time people have complimented me on my hair when I still had some, but the times people have mentioned my cool beard must be in the dozens by now.
Sometimes people ask me why I shave my head, or if I’d grow hair again if there was a way to make it happen. My answer is always the same: I’ve been dealt a certain hand by life and this hand includes not having great hair. I could be angry about that and try to fight it with chemistry or even surgery – or I can accept it, roll with it and focus on what I can do instead.
I’ve chosen the latter and today, I’m more confident than I’ve ever been before.