In a new documentary series uncovering stories from the left field, Jolyon Jenkins reports on the extreme treatments bald men are putting themselves through. They are commissioning laboratories in China to manufacture unproven, untested, and potentially dangerous drugs to cure their hair loss. Is it a hiding to nothing or will they succeed where the drug companies haven't?
Men have always gone bald but now they're not putting up with it. An explosion of online forums has created a "hair loss community". "It's a silent epidemic", says Spencer Kobren, founder of The Bald Truth forum. "Hair loss doesn't physically hurt, but we liken it to a cancer of the spirit". Kobren runs a weekly radio show in which callers express their pain and frustration. Joe isn't sure whether it would be worse to have actual cancer: "I'd rather have one or two good years of hair," he says. "I want to hear the birds sing, I want to walk on the beach, I want to be free of this terrible disease."
In an attempt to deal with encroaching baldness, some young men are reading up on the latest medical research into hair loss and seeking out chemists to manufacture molecules they hope will work. There's no guarantee that the chemicals they are buying are pure, and the buyers have no real idea of the correct dose; but it speaks to their desperation. Some of them report unpleasant side effects. Few of them can show convincing hair regrowth.
Presenter Jolyon Jenkins, a "hair loss sufferer" for two decades, investigates this subculture. Along the way he has a consultation for a hair transplant (£10-£15,000) and looks into "hair systems" - or as some call them, wigs. Does loss of hair really decrease a man's attractiveness significantly? And how did a normal part of being a man become a debilitating disease?