As hair loss rises, bald males in Asia grapple with cultural stigmas

Written by Oscar Holland, CNNHong Kong

Regardless of his father having an “m-shaped” hairline, Alex Han from northeast China by no means thought he’d expertise hair loss in his 20s.

Whereas research have advised virtually all Caucasian males will finally face a point of male sample baldness — and round half can expect to lose their hair by center age — Asian males, and East Asians specifically, have traditionally skilled the bottom incidence of hair loss on the earth.
A 2010 study from six Chinese language cities discovered that fewer than 3% of males aged 18-29, and simply over 13% of these of their 30s, skilled male sample baldness. Earlier research from South Korea advised that solely 14.1% of the whole male inhabitants was affected, whereas Japanese males were found to develop male sample baldness roughly a decade later than their European counterparts.
However as Han, now 34, later found, genetics is not every little thing. Stress, poor eating regimen, lack of sleep and smoking can all contribute to hair loss. And with life in China altering dramatically in latest many years, so too are the nation’s hairlines.

“I used to be prepping my masters entrance examinations and there was quite a lot of strain, so I most likely did not sleep very effectively,” Han mentioned in a cellphone interview. “At the moment, (my receding hairline) was beneath management, however after three years in Beijing getting my masters, I moved to Germany for PHD research … and never solely me, however different Asian college students there, had an issue with hair loss.”

Commuters crowd the subway in Beijing in July 2008. China has traditionally had some of the world's lowest rates of baldness, though changes to people's lifestyles are contributing to an increase in hair loss.

Commuters crowd the subway in Beijing in July 2008. China has historically had among the world’s lowest charges of baldness, although adjustments to folks’s life are contributing to a rise in hair loss. Credit score: Guang Niu/Getty Photographs

It is a problem confronted by many in Han’s technology, and youthful. A 50,000-person survey by the China Affiliation of Well being Promotion and Schooling reportedly discovered that the nation’s 30-somethings had been going bald sooner than some other group. Virtually a 3rd of respondents who had been born in or after 1990 reported thinning hair, in response to Chinese state media. The same ballot by Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua College reportedly discovered that an astonishing 60% of scholars had skilled a point of hair loss.
Chinese language state broadcaster CGTN went as far as to explain hair loss among the many younger as an “epidemic.” However life-style adjustments have been accompanied by transformations in each know-how and disposable earnings. Hair transplants are a viable resolution for a rising variety of males, and the Chinese language marketplace for the process is anticipated to hit 20.8 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) in 2020, greater than 4 instances what it was 4 years in the past, according to market analysis agency Statistica.

Han opted to journey to Thailand for the transplant, which sees hundreds of hair follicles grafted from different components of the physique — such because the chest, or again of the neck — onto the top. The eight- to 10-hour process price him round $9,000, although he discovered clinics in China quoting “a sixth of that.” The transplant could take months to take impact, although Han expressed hope that he’ll “see the outcomes and see my hair return to regular within the subsequent two or three months,” including, “then I will behave as if nothing has occurred.”

Navigating stigmas

Han’s fears mirror these skilled by males with receding hairlines all over the world, particularly the affect on his confidence, skilled prospects and first impressions. “Hairstyles, for me, are critically essential for males’s first impressions,” he mentioned.

However dropping your hair could also be particularly troublesome in international locations the place it is much less widespread. The male magnificence requirements in East Asian widespread tradition — from Korean Okay-pop to Hong Kong’s film business — usually favor massive hair and boyish appears. “In Asian cultures the youthful technology actually like idols like (Chinese language pop band) TFBoys,” Han mentioned, including that requirements for white or black males are sometimes totally different.

For 37-year-old David Ko, a Seoul-based reporter who has beforehand written about his experience of hair loss, the shortage of visibility of hairless males in South Korea “actually performs a task in folks feeling uncomfortable about going bald.”

“Each time there’s a precedent, folks are likely to really feel (extra assured) to observe,” he mentioned in an electronic mail interview.

A man looks at a robotic hair transplant machine at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai in 2019.

A person appears at a robotic hair transplant machine on the China Worldwide Import Expo in Shanghai in 2019. Credit score: China Information Service/Visible China Group/Getty Photographs

A Korean study within the Worldwide Journal of Dermatology discovered that balding males had been thought of older and fewer engaging by 90% of non-bald respondents. In 2018, Nationwide Human Rights Fee of Korea needed to urge employers to not discriminate in opposition to hairless males, after a constructing administration firm was accused of asking a job applicant to put on a wig throughout his interview and rejecting him on account of his bald head, in response to the Yonhap News Agency. (The unnamed firm denied doing so).
Research within the West — whereas not all the time constructive about how baldness is perceived by others — recommend that the stigma could also be lessened in international locations the place hair loss is extra widespread. Research from the College of Pennsylvania, as an example, discovered that males had been perceived as “extra dominant, taller and stronger” when contributors had been proven their photographs with the hair digitally eliminated.

Chinese language American entrepreneur Saul Trejo, who has lived in numerous cities round Asia since 2011, started dropping his hair whereas learning in Beijing. The 30-year-old mentioned he “undoubtedly seen” the decrease proportion of bald males within the metropolis, in comparison with the US, and “it most likely bothered me, however I attempted to not let it.” He additionally discovered that individuals had been extra comfy than these within the West to move remark — even when in a wholly observational manner.

“Individuals will let you know straight out,” he mentioned in a cellphone interview from Taipei, recounting situations when his lack of hair was casually identified to him. “Usually after they’re saying it they don’t seem to be making an attempt to be imply, they’re simply commenting, so I am unable to be mad. However you bear in mind.

“I attempted to shave my head, however I did not assume it was appropriate for my head and physique form,” he added, naming Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and actor Jason Statham as non-Asians who can pull off the look. “I believe Asian folks, together with myself, are typically slightly slimmer, so if I had to decide on between bald and slim versus bald and athletic, and even muscular, then I believe it appears higher with the extra measurement you’ve got.”

In 2018, Trejo underwent a hair transplant in Bangkok, the place he was primarily based on the time. Whereas it took virtually a yr to see the ultimate outcomes, Trejo mentioned his new hairline is “a significant blessing,” that “massively improved my relationship life.” Earlier than-and-after pictures shared with CNN present a exceptional quantity of hair restoration on the high and sides of his head.

Chinese American Saul Trejo, pictured before and after undergoing a hair transplant in Thailand.

Chinese language American Saul Trejo, pictured earlier than and after present process a hair transplant in Thailand. Credit score: Saul Trejo

The physician behind Trejo’s process, Damkerng Pathomvanich, is a number one researcher into hair loss. He mentioned that the variety of hair transplant clinics in Asia is “skyrocketing,” and that enterprise amongst Chinese language sufferers at his clinic is “booming.”

“We revealed data (in 2002) exhibiting an alarming enhance in male sample baldness in Asians,” he mentioned over the cellphone, naming eating regimen as a key driver for the change. “I had quite a lot of Caucasian sufferers saying to me, ‘You Asians do not go bald,’ nevertheless it’s not true.”

Various approaches

There are cheaper and fewer invasive remedies available on the market. Chinese language e-commerce big Alibaba shares thousands of restorative shampoos, serums and sprays, and has reported that more than 70% of consumers shopping for anti-hair-loss merchandise had been born after 1980, in response to the South China Morning Submit (a newspaper owned by Alibaba).
Medication like minoxidil and finasteride, obtainable within the US because the Nineteen Eighties and Nineteen Nineties respectively, look like gaining traction within the area too. Gross sales of the previous, which is usually traded as Rogaine, are anticipated to develop 5% per yr in Asia Pacific from 2018 to 2024, in response to an industry report by World Market Insights.
A judge examines finalists at a 1957 baldness competition in Japan, where rates of hair loss have historically been among the world's lowest.

A decide examines finalists at a 1957 baldness competitors in Japan, the place charges of hair loss have traditionally been among the many world’s lowest. Credit score: Keystone Options/Hulton Archive/Getty Photographs

Then there are additionally purported pure cures. In conventional Chinese language drugs, as an example, numerous herbs and plant extracts have lengthy been touted as options to hair loss, although their effectiveness stays a matter of debate (one in every of them, polygonum multiflorum, or tuber fleeceflower, may even induce hepatitis if over-consumed).

In Korea, in the meantime, houttuynia cordata — often known as fish mint, or chameleon plant — might be brewed right into a black liquid that’s utilized to the scalp, in response to the journalist, David Ko, who acquired some from his involved mother-in-law.

“I used it like a shampoo every time I washed my hair,” he mentioned. “After wetting my hair, I poured a handful of the plant-steeped water on my scalp, finger-massaged my scalp for about one minute, then rinsed it off with recent water.

“However as time glided by with out seeing any clear signal of enchancment, I received so uninterested in the treatment that I dumped extra of (it) on my hair every time to complete the jar sooner and get the apply over with.” He then tried different advised residence cures. “My spouse additionally nudged me to sprinkle some sea salts over my scalp as an alternative of the plant water, and one in every of my co-workers instructed me her balding father benefitted from consuming plenty of black sesame seeds as a snack.”

Associated video: Magnificence is protest for younger North Korean ladies

Whereas New York dermatologist Norman Orentreich is extensively often known as the daddy of hair transplants, Japanese physician Shoji Okuda is believed to have carried out the very first process in 1937 (although the breakout of World Warfare II meant that his analysis was largely neglected). With baldness on the rise in Asia, it is maybe no shock that the continent’s scientists — Japan’s and South Korea’s specifically — are once more main among the area’s most promising analysis.

A ground-breaking Japanese study, revealed final yr, grew hair follicles from scratch utilizing stem cells. They had been then efficiently transplanted onto the backs of mice, although any ensuing therapies stay a good distance from ever being authorised for people (and in lots of international locations, stem cell remedies are both extremely restricted or fully outlawed).
Different novel responses to hair loss at the moment are obtainable in Asia. Scalp micropigmentation, as an example, includes tattooing hundreds of tiny dots on sufferers’ heads to present the phantasm of shaved hair. A South Korean study within the peer-reviewed Worldwide Journal of Dermatology described the method as “some of the efficient therapy strategies” for hair loss, reporting a mean satisfaction charge of 4.8 out of 5 among the many 80 sufferers interviewed.

Like ‘a triad’

However, nonetheless, Asia poses distinctive challenges for receding males. Present process the scalp tattoo process requires sufferers to completely sport a shaved-head look, which, because the Korean research advised, could also be “stereotyped in Asian cultures as (being like) a gangster or prison.” In response to Ko, nevertheless, such labels are a factor of the previous.

“Again within the day, when younger males shaved their heads, seniors would mildly chide them with a very unproven and absurd speculation,” he mentioned, suggesting that elders as soon as noticed a skinhead as an indication that somebody was a insurgent, or had “an issue with society.”

“These days (these attitudes) virtually by no means exist, however it’s nonetheless true folks take a look at bald males with a sure awe.”

A model with a shaved head walks the runway at China Fashion Week in 2017. The rise of street style may be helping popularize the skinhead look.

A mannequin with a shaved head walks the runway at China Style Week in 2017. The rise of avenue type could also be serving to popularize the skinhead look. Credit score: Visible China Group / Getty Photographs

Eric However of Synergy Mannequin Administration, which has places of work in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, mentioned that shoppers are nonetheless usually on the lookout for Asian fashions to be “cute (with) lengthy hair — that Korean drama, excellent boyfriend form of look.” However whereas he distinguishes between shaved and bald heads, the modeling agent mentioned that the rise of avenue style is steadily normalizing the skinhead look in Asia.

“For our dad and mom’ technology, a skinhead in Asia is form of like a gangster — if you wish to be a triad, or in case you go to jail, you need to shave your head,” he mentioned over the cellphone. “However now, for folks born within the ’90s or later, they see having a skinhead as a streetwear development. And streetwear is very large in Asia.”

Even within the residence of coiffed Okay-pop, visibility could also be rising steadily. Ko cited restaurateur Hong Seok-cheon (beneath), rapper Gill and actor Kim Kwang-kyu as examples of a slowly-growing variety of high-profile bald celebrities in South Korea.

“It could be extra useful if there have been extra Koreans with hair loss — if there have been extra circumstances (folks) may look as much as and assume they aren’t alone on the market.”

Prime picture: Chinese language artist Fang Lijun pictured with one in every of his work, which because the Nineteen Nineties have usually featured bald-headed protagonists. The artist makes use of the hairless figures as symbols of disillusionment and riot in fashionable China.

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