Some blame mothers, some fathers and some even blame hats. What we do know is it affects more than 40 per cent of people by middle-age.
Throughout history, scientists and herbalists have sought a way of defeating the scourge once and for all. Now, in Abu Dhabi, an Emirati former fighter pilot believes he might just have discovered the cure.
Omran Al Hallami set up a small laboratory – about 70 square metres – in his house in 2003, with the goal of discovering a cure for hard-to-treat illnesses and conditions.
The project began as a personal one. His pet parrot lost its feathers and fell into poor health. Veterinarians told him there was no cure.
“It [the parrot] really was very weak and had a lot of skin problems,” said Mr Al Hallami. “I couldn’t leave it [outdoors] – it couldn’t fly and something could eat it. But I couldn’t keep it inside the house, because it might transfer its sickness to us.
“So, I said, ‘If there is no cure, I should do something for it’.”
He turned to phytochemistry, the study of chemicals derived from plants, which Arabs have long practised.
After a decade of study, the 50-year-old claims to have discovered a clean and safe formula that could be sprayed on to his bird and stimulate feather growth within one to two weeks.
“Really, it was beautiful news for us – I was really happy with it,” Mr Al Hallami said.
“I took my parrot to the doctor again and he was shocked when he saw it.
“There was a Filipino guy working with him, he wanted to grow a beard. He said, ‘Can you spray the product on my beard?’
“I gave it to him and after a few weeks he called me and said, ‘My beard has started growing’.”
Mr Al Hallami observed a strong relationship between human and bird follicles and started working on a cure for human hair loss.
The result was a formula, he says, that some studies show can provide 4.7 per cent more hair density every month and reduces hair loss by almost 50 per cent – with strong results visible in two to four months.
The product, Biogrow, is made of natural components sourced from plants and trees.
If Mr Al Hallami’s claims about Biogrow can be backed up by results, it will be a victory in a battle that goes back a very long way. The ancient Ebers Papyrus – a compilation of Egyptian medical texts that, at more than 3,550 years old, is reportedly the oldest medical book in the world – even has an entry about dealing with hair loss.
In it, the author recommends boiling the fat of various animals with porcupine hair – with donkey hoof and sauteed female greyhound leg thrown in for good measure – and applying it to the scalp.
It also seems men have always taken hair loss badly. About 2,000 years ago, the Roman poet Ovid, wrote: “There is nothing graceful about becoming bald. Snatched by age, our hairs fall like the autumn leaves torn by a chill wind from the trees.”
For a more contemporary perspective, Lavina Ahuja, a personal development consultant at LifeWorks, a Dubai counselling service, says men often see hair loss as the loss of youth and virility and an indication that one is not in control of one’s life.
“It’s not just about appearance, but it’s almost about what their appearance conveys,” she says.
“For women, on the other hand, hair can also be very much about attractiveness. Having long, thick hair is considered to be the epitome of being feminine and attractive.”