OK, so you don't look like Telly Savalas -- yet -- but you have noticed some tell-tale thinning on the top of your head.
And lately itseems like you've got a whole lot more forehead than you used to.
Considering that your father, and his father before him, ended upwith a nice shiny dome by the time he reached middle age, chances are that you, too, are headed down the path to, well, baldness.
Malepattern baldness, as the most common type of hair loss is called, affects at least 40 percent of the adult male population, said LawrenceR. Feldman, a dermatologist with a practice in Westminster.
Less commonly, the condition also affects women, he said, addding that 10 percent to 15 percent of the female population experiences some degree of hair loss unrelated to an illness or some type of medical treatment.
Years ago, there weren't many options for a person losing hair. But times have changed.
Today, there are many ways to treat or conceal hair loss, including hairpieces, a topical chemical treatmentcalled minoxidil, and surgical procedures, such as hair transplants and scalp reductions.
Earle H. Brewer, owner of the Esquire Salon and Hair Replacement Center in Westminster, said he believes treatingmale pattern baldness with any one of the many options available hasbecome a lot more acceptable in recent years.
The increased interest in treating baldness probably has occurred because the new therapies produce more natural results, he said.
"When I first started, it was very crude," he said. "But it has become so sophisticated since then."
Though toupees of the early days often could be spotted at a distance, well-done hairpieces of today are virtually undetectable, he said.
"We pass by dozens of people every day and have no idea they've had a hair replacement," he said.
Feldman said he thinksmore people are seeking treatment because they see friends and acquaintances who have had good results, then decide to give it a try themselves.
Although the Esquire Salon specializes in hair replacement, a non-medical process, Brewer said he tells clients about all the available options during the first consultation, before they commit toanything.
"I don't hard sell anyone," he said. "It's a big investment. You don't want to talk anyone into it because then they'd be unhappy. And it's very important to me that my people are happy with the results."
There are three basic ways of treating or concealing male pattern baldness, with several variations for two of them. All have pros and cons, Brewer said, and none of them comes cheap.
* Hair Replacement: Hair replacement, which is actually a method of concealing baldness, is probably the most economical route.
It is the modern equivalent of the toupee, a term Brewer doesn't even like to usebecause it conjures up images of unnatural-looking tufts of hair plopped on top of someone's head.
"We don't like to use that term anymore," he said, adding that professionals now refer to toupees as "cranium prostheses."
Brewer, who has been doing hair replacements since 1971, said the cost of having a custom "unit" made ranges from $500 to several thousand dollars. His custom hairpieces typically cost about $650 to $700.
A hair-replacement professional decides what type of hairpiece is needed based on a customer's lifestyle. He then takes hair samples to ensure an exact match and helps a client select the method of attachment and type of fiber to be used.
Hairpieces are made with natural hair or three types of synthetic fibers, he said. Natural hair is not always the first choice because human hair eventually breaks down when exposed to sunlight and the outdoors. A person with an active, outdoor lifestyle would probably be better off with a synthetic hairpiece, he said.
The hairpieces are made in China, South Korea or Japan, Brewer said, adding that few, if any, are made in the United States any more because the cost became prohibitive. It typically takes four to eight weeks for a custom hairpiece to be made.
There are many ways to attach a hairpiece, he said. Brewer, who has hundreds of customers each year, said he uses five or six methods, including tying, gluing, clipping and taping the pieces in place.
Most clients come in every six to eight weeks to have the "semipermanent" hairpieces tightened, since they generally are attached to existing hair.
As the real hair grows out, the attached hairpiece becomes loose and must be tightened to the scalp again. The cost is about $30 each time, Brewer said. Most men have the maintenance taken care of during regularly scheduled haircuts, he said.
* Chemical Treatments: The chemical treatment of choice is undoubtedly minoxidil,marketed under the trade name Rogaine by the Upjohn Co.
A 2 percent solution of minoxidil, originally used as a blood pressure medicine, is applied to the scalp twice daily, said Laura B. Harwin, spokeswoman for Upjohn, based in Kalamazoo, Mich.