Aside from growing a beard and a mustache, the only basic way for a guy to alter his looks is to change his hair. The problem is that most men don't know which hairstyle looks best. Women rave about Brad Pitt's buzz cut or Antonio Banderas' luxurious locks, but hair textures differ, so one man's no-care style could be another man's high-maintenance nightmare. And, of course, a look doesn't always translate. Imagine Lyle Lovett with Kato Kaelin's do (or vice versa). To get to the root of the problem, we asked three of the country's leading hairstylists to talk about the latest trends. Cristophe, a Beverly Hills stylist who has trimmed the heads of the high and mighty, including President Clinton's--remember Clinton's runway haircut?--says short haircuts are back, "but not so short or closely cropped that you look as if you just got out of the barber's chair." Cristophe maintains that hair shouldn't appear too finished or styled. "It should be a little shaggy. A short haircut that looks as if it's about two months old is ideal. If you have medium-length hair, grow it out a little." In New York, stylist Frédéric Fekkai (who charges $290 for a haircut at his salon in Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue) says the look is "clean and sharp." He recommends going short on the sides and either short or long on top--as long as the overall presentation is "neat and structured."
Fekkai also prefers a side part, lining it up with the middle of the eye it's above to balance the face. And he's adamant about sporting sideburns as a means of framing your face. Use your cheekbones as a guide when trimming, Fekkai says. Sideburns should hit the middle of the cheekbone on average-sized faces, the bottom of the cheekbone on wide faces and the top on narrow ones.
Thomas Morrissey, who has salons in New York and Palm Beach, considers a client's age when recommending cuts. "Extremely short or long hair is still great for the under-30 crowd," he says, "but men who are older look best in more styled haircuts that don't look recently clipped."
Once you have the right cut, you'll want to stock up on a few products to keep your hair looking good. The most popular are body-building shampoos, conditioners and gels that coat the hair with substances which make it feel and appear thicker. For shine, Morrissey suggests using a leave-in conditioner, while Cristophe opts for pomades and brilliantines.
Leave-in conditioners are the latest in the long string of conditioning products. They work best on dry hair or when you're trying to protect your hair from the elements.
The original work-in, rinse-out conditioners can still be very helpful. Products such as Kiehl's Extra Strength Conditioning Rinse with Coconut, Aveda's Rosemary and Mint Equalizing Hair Conditioning Rinse and Redken's CAT Daily Remoisturizing Conditioner will do the job. However, it's important to go easy with any hair conditioner. Too much of a good thing can leave your hair flat. And conditioners are very handy if you have dry hair and choose not to shampoo every day. Instead, simply use a conditioner on days you don't shampoo.
Rather than balance shampoo and conditioner, some men prefer one of the new shampoo-conditioners, such as Eternity for Men Revitalizing Shampoo by Calvin Klein.
Color Me Youthful
Hair coloring is no longer just a female thing. In fact, many traditional barbershops now offer color consultations. Morrissey says, "Men should color their hair so it looks absolutely natural or not at all." (Tell that to Dennis Rodman.) For the best results, visit a professional. He or she can mix colors to match (or change) your individual shade better than you can and a pro can offer a wide variety of hair-coloring techniques. Some highlight hair, adding blond streaks to achieve a sundrenched look, or they perform reverse highlighting, which works well on men whose hair has started turning gray. With the latter procedure, a darker color is worked through the hair, covering most, but not all, of the gray. The goal is subtlety. A good colorist can leave as little or as much gray as you want--coloring all the hair except the temple area, for instance, or darkening the whole head.
If you choose to color your hair by yourself, Morrissey says to avoid trying to match your own natural color to the shade on the box. Coloring products almost always come out darker than they appear in pictures, so choose one that's at least a shade lighter than that of your own hair. And finally, Morrissey points out that hair coloring is a commitment: "One should never have dark roots," he says.
Clairol also has some suggestions. Its recently launched Men's Choice for Beard, Mustache and Sideburns, Too is the first hair-color product to take your whole head into account. This shampoo-in, semipermanent gel can help you blend away the gray in both your head and facial hair with the same treatment.
The leader in men's hair-coloring products, Just for Men, offers a range of different shades, from light brown to black. This company also makes a separate collection of hair-coloring products for beards and mustaches.
Gone Today, Hair Tomorrow
Male-pattern baldness, with its telltale receding hairline and thinning on the crown, can begin as early as the late teens. According to Dr. Gary Hitzig of Long Island Medical Associates, a man who experiences hair loss can either ignore it or try one of two options: Get a hairpiece or undergo hair-restoration surgery.
Wigs and hairpieces are available in a variety of forms and range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Stretch wigs are the least expensive--and they look it. Hairpieces, or toupees, are better choices. Some are clipped onto the head with barrettes or bonded with glue. Others are secured to the head with metal clips. Some are even secured to metal cylinders surgically implanted into the scalp. Hardware aside, the key is to choose a natural-looking hairpiece that attaches firmly.
A hair flap is a surgical procedure usually done under general anesthetic. With this operation, a one- to one-and-a-half-inch-wide section of hair from the side of the scalp is rotated, while still connected to the scalp at one end, and placed on the front of the head, thus putting a strip of hair directly across the front of the scalp. The procedure is ideal for individuals who have limited areas of baldness and the benefits are twofold: The patient has hair immediately and the hair grows quickly and is usually very thick. But unless the hair flap is performed by an expert, you could end up with an Eddie Munster-style hairline.
Another option is the hair transplant, a procedure that involves removing hair from a growth area (usually the sides or the back of the head) and placing it where it's been lost. In most cases, doctors prefer transplanting minigrafts of four to six hairs, or micrografts of up to three hairs, as they provide greater control and a more natural look.
A typical hair transplant requires a series of sessions. Because you need to allow at least four months between sessions for the head to heal and the grafts to settle, it could take more than a year to finish the procedure. Some practitioners charge per session for the process, others per graft. Fees range from about $30 for four- to six-strand grafts to as high as $15 for single-strand ones.
Scalp reduction is another procedure that is especially effective on horseshoe-pattern balding. It involves removing a portion of the balding area of the scalp and then pulling the surrounding hair-bearing areas together.
A scalp reduction costs between $2000 and $5000. And according to New York City dermatologist Dr. Robert Berger, the technique is more effective when it is preceded by a procedure that actually increases the size of the hair-growth area before it is stretched over the balding part. There are several ways to do this. The tissue-expander operation, which is one of the most effective, calls for the surgical implantation of a latex bag under the hair-bearing scalp. Once in place, the bag is injected with water over a period of about three months. As the bag enlarges, the surrounding skin stretches accordingly.
Proceed with Caution
Before undergoing a hair transplant, Dr. Mark Glasgold of New Jersey's Center for Facial Plastic Surgery says to keep in mind the following.
(1) Be realistic. Hair grafts have to be slightly separated, so a transplant--even when performed by the best practitioner--won't transform you from baldie to Banderas. You'll have the impression that the head is covered, but your hair won't have that youthful thickness.
(2) Being young isn't a benefit when undergoing a transplant. As Dr. Kenneth Buchwach of the Head and Neck Group in Kansas City, Missouri explains, male-pattern baldness is progressive. If a 30-year-old man with extensive hair loss achieves the hairline of a 20-year-old, chances are good that the hair behind the transplant will start (concluded on page 136)Great Head(continued from page 114) to disappear, leaving him with a patch of hair in front and nothing behind.
(3) Use care when choosing a practitioner. Meet with a physician (not a salesman) when discussing your options and be sure to ask how many times he or she has performed the procedures.
Dr. Matt Leavitt, founder of Medical Hair Restoration headquartered in Orlando, Florida, points out that the mechanics of the procedure aren't that difficult, but there is no board-certification requirement for the skill of hair grafting.
In fact, Dr. L. Lee Bosley, founder and director of the Bosley Medical Institute, claims that "a doctor trained in a skill can, after a short instruction period, begin performing hair surgery." For that reason, Dr. Bosley and other reputable practitioners require associates to be board-certified in either dermatologic surgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, or general surgery.
(4) Ask to see before-and-after pictures of patients--with transplants combed back so that you can see the grafts. "The location, direction and angle in which the hair is placed is the key to achieving natural results," says Dr. Leavitt.
The Solution Solution
Some men aren't willing to undergo surgery, so they look to topical hair-growth solutions as alternatives. Over-the-counter treatments are based on one of two theories about how to encourage growth: You can clean the scalp to open hair follicles or rub a substance, such as a vitamin or herbal preparation, into the scalp. Because there's little medical evidence supporting either theory, these solutions are considered to be placebos.
The one topical product that has shown results is minoxidil. Pharmacia & Upjohn, the maker of Rogaine Topical Solution (which contains two percent minoxidil) points to its clinical studies, which indicate that of a group of men using Rogaine, 48 percent reported moderate or better hair regrowth, 36 percent experienced minimal regrowth and 16 percent had no regrowth at all. The company doesn't have a study about the ability of Rogaine to help men keep their hair. But it points out that the earlier a man begins treatment, the better his chances are of keeping or regaining his hair.
By the time you read this, you may be able to buy over-the-counter minoxidil. FDA approval of the product is expected and will no doubt lower the price. Currently, when prescribed by a doctor, it costs between $55 and $60 a month. It is estimated that OTC status will bring the price down one third to one half.
But, before investing in any hair-restoration treatment or product, do plenty of research. That way, you won't end up watching your hair--and your cash--go down the drain.