Two-thirds of all men develop some degree of male pattern baldness. This common condition can lead to thinning hair, a receding hairline, or hair loss around the crown of the head. It occurs when hair follicles shrink. This causes hair to become shorter and finer and eventually fall out. Genetics and hormones play a role in who develops male pattern baldness. It affects some men as early as their 20s. There's no cure for male pattern baldness. But if you're unhappy with your appearance, you have options. There are ways to slow down hair loss and possibly promote growth of new hair. Grooming Aids Among the options to make your hair look fuller are extensions, weaves and hairpieces, such as toupees. Trying a new hairstyle or hair color can also make hair loss less noticeable. These options are usually the least risky and the least expensive. Medication If you think hairstyle changes don't do enough to improve your appearance, medication may be an option. Minoxidil (Rogaine): This is a liquid that you apply directly on your scalp twice a day. It works by stimulating the hair follicles. This drug can slow hair loss. Some men even find they grow new hair while using it. But if you stop putting it on, hair loss will resume. Minoxidil works best for people younger than 40. It also works better when hair loss is recent. It may take up to a year for the drug to work. Using more than the recommended dosage doesn't produce better or faster results. Like any medication, minoxidil may cause side effects including: Dry, itchy scalp Flaking or scaling Irritation More serious side effects of the drug include: Chest pain Rapid heartbeat Swelling Trouble breathing Finasteride (Propecia): This medication slows hair loss by blocking the production of a form of testosterone linked to baldness. Finasteride is a pill you take once a day. It, too, may take up to year to show results and it works for only as long as you take it. Once treatment stops, hair loss will resume. Finasteride may cause such side effects as: Sexual problems Testicle pain Some men may experience other more serious side effects including: Breast changes Hives or itching Rash Swelling of the lips and face Depression Taking finasteride may also increase the risk for an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Surgical Procedures For some men, cosmetic surgery can improve appearance. Depending on the location and extent of your hair loss, you may be a candidate for one of these options: Hair transplants: This is a popular treatment for baldness. Your doctor removes a section of your scalp that has hair growth and moves it to a bald area. The size and shape of this piece of scalp varies. The procedure could lead to some scarring or infection. It can also be expensive. Most men need more than one transplant to give their hair a fuller appearance. The doctor doing the procedure will try to make sure the transplanted hair grows in a natural direction. Scalp reduction: For this procedure, your doctor removes a section of bald scalp. Next to it are sections of scalp that have hair. The doctor brings these sections closer together. You could have this treatment only, or you could have it along with a hair transplant. Scalp expansion: This procedure stretches the skin of the scalp. This usually happens over about a four-week period. Your doctor might suggest doing this before a scalp reduction. It's also used to expand areas of the scalp that have hair. This makes the hair appear fuller. Low-Level Laser Therapy Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a newer treatment available for hair loss. LLLT (also called photobiomodulation or cold laser therapy) involves applying non-heating laser light to reduce inflammation and promote healing. Doctors use LLLT to treat a variety of conditions in addition to hair loss, including tissue injury, arthritis and stroke. LLLT for male pattern baldness involves wearing a cap or using a comb that delivers light energy to the scalp. LLLT works by stimulating hair growth cells—producing denser, thicker hair. You can use LLLT devices for hair loss at home. Doctors typically recommend an LLLT regimen with a certain length and number of treatments. You can buy some LLLT devices directly at stores, and others are available only at doctors’ offices. Scientists are continuing to learn about the most effective light wavelengths, treatment regimens, and devices. LLLT is recommended for certain subtypes of male pattern baldness, so discuss your LLLT options with your doctor. If you’re interested in medical treatments for thinning hair or hair loss, discuss it with your regular doctor first. It’s important to go over your medical history, current conditions you may have, and medicines you take before you begin treatment. You can search Healthgrades.com for dermatologists and other providers who treat hair loss.