The Blog

Prince William Will Be Bald by the Time He's 40 - But Not if He Follows Wayne Rooney's Example

Until recently, the impact baldness might have on confidence and well-being was little understood or recognised by the medical profession at large.

You don't have to look far in history and legend to understand the fundamental importance hair has always played in the lives of men.

In Homer's Iliad, the Greeks spent hours combing and oiling their locks before battling the Trojans. And Samson reputedly lost his mythical strength after being shorn of his treasured mane by Delilah.

In the Biblical story and, throughout the ages since, the loss of hair has been equated to a feeling of weakness, a lack of masculinity, even impotence.

Modern men may no longer comb their locks before battle and Greek-style ponytails are out of fashion.

But we remain equally vulnerable to the vagaries of our hair, and its loss - usually by some combination of receding hairline at the temples and a thinning crown - can cause genuine agonies.

Male pattern baldness (MPB), the main cause of hair loss, affects an estimated quarter of men by the age of 30 and two thirds by the age of 60.

Until recently, the impact baldness might have on confidence and well-being was little understood or recognised by the medical profession at large.

Baldness was best left unmentioned, a taboo to be borne bravely and without comment. Wigs were poorly made and unsightly. More recently, the art of hair transplantation was in its infancy and the results could be patchy at best.

Thankfully times have changed, both in the understanding of MPB, its underlying causes and its impact, and its treatment. Medical technology has finally caught up, along with an increased and vital understanding of the importance of hair to feelings of self-confidence and masculinity.

And like so many fascinating aspects of the modern age, it has taken a celebrity to open people's eyes.

By taking the plunge, the footballer Wayne Rooney almost single-handedly helped transform British attitudes towards male hair loss, its treatment and prevention.

Last year the Manchester United striker went public following successful follicular unit extraction (FUE) surgery - where surgeons extract thousands of individual hair follicles before replanting them in the scalp where needed - taking to Twitter to post a picture of the results of his hair transplant.

Previously writing in his autobiography, Rooney had admitted staring at himself in the mirror and thinking: "Bloody hell, you're going bald and you're only a young lad."

Inevitably there was some sneering among rival fans when he went public. Just as previously there had been terrace chants about his hair loss.

In my own clinic, as a direct result of Rooney's example, I have seen a 25% rise in men coming to see me to restore their hair. He has become an unlikely example to those men who had previously suffered their own loss of hair in silence.

I have had patients who have felt their lives and even careers have been affected by their hair loss, more so than ever in the current tough economic times.

Another person who could learn from Wayne Rooney is Prince William. Sadly, our future king will be completely bald on top of his head by the time he is 40. William has been losing his hair since he was 25. His hair loss is even worse than his father Charles. And obviously his grand-father Philip is bald - and the family gene on his later mother Diana's side is not good.

There is a strong likelihood that any male child he has with Kate will also have the bald gene. Prince William has quite fine light brown hair. To restore the hair on top of his head to a reasonable level of density, he would need at least 3,000 or 4,000 hair grafts where hair is taken from the back of the scalp and moved to his crown - similar to the treatment Rooney had.

Commenting on the future king, the pop star Justin Bieber wondered aloud in the magazine Rollercoaster: 'I mean, there are things to prevent that nowadays, like Propecia. You just take Propecia and your hair grows back. Haven't you got it over there?'

Bieber didn't quite get his facts right. While the drug Propecia will halt hair loss, it will not help William's hair grow back. The only way he is going to cover that growing bald patch is with a transplant.

Among my own patients has been another celebrity, Dr Christian Jessen. The Embarrassing Bodies presenter might be better known for helping others confront their awkward ailments head on in the Channel 4 show. About his own case, he was equally forthright and took action to remedy MPB.

Sadly hair transplants are not available on the NHS except in the most acute circumstances. And they are not cheap. Rooney's operation, where follicles can be painstakingly matched over two days to the surrounding hair for a totally natural procedure, cost in the region of £15,000. Pocket money to a footballer perhaps, but a significant outlay nonetheless to Joe Bloggs.

The good news is that treatments will become cheaper over time as the procedures advance ever further. The results will be even better and they will become even more widespread.

Until then, hair transplants should not be seen as vanity measures, akin to a face lift or tummy tuck. I strongly believe a man's hair can affect his confidence, his dignity and even perhaps his livelihood.

Thanks to Wayne Rooney, many more men who would have suffered their hair loss in silence are plucking up the courage to do something about their thinning locks. Whether you're a Manchester United fan (as I am) or not, that's got to be something to applaud. I hope Prince William is listening.