Hi there :), It’s 10th August, about 8:57 PM, I am sitting in the Bengaluru airport’s lounge, and for the first time I am writing this page of my diary to post it. I usually keep it private, but today, I realised how I feel would be relatable to a handful of people out there, and for those who cannot relate to it, it will be important to know how a lot of men like me feel.

The journey

2013 - The Beginning

It was sometime in 2013, 10 years back. I was 17, sitting on my desk in my school’s classroom, solving a mathematics problem for the IIT-JEE exam. We used pencils to solve problems on the desks and then erased them. It was fast, fun, and made us look cooler(or so I think). Suddenly, my mathematics professor stood next to me, and brushed his hand across my head. I asked, curiously, “What happened, sir?”, to which he replied, “Sahil, your hair is thinning, you are getting bald”. Hair loss had started for me when I was 15. At that time, I was learning to swim, and hair had started to thin and fall, but it was not noticeable to anyone except my family. I was 17 then when this incident happened. I am 27.5 years old now, and this one thing has been something which has single-handedly impacted me so much that I cannot even begin to express. I am only beginning to express now, and it took my 10+ years to just acknowledge how big of a problem this has been for me and specially my mental health. I was scared to talk about it because a lot of my friends or family cannot relate to it, and I would be labelled as weak, and worrying on trivial thoughts.

I’ve been made fun of all this time. During my school time, it wasn’t very prevalent, so there were very less people who made such comments. This is how I looked in 2012, class 10. This was the passport sized photo I used everywhere. My facial hair had started to come up, and life had very little stress, except for competing for marks and figuring out how to make my handwriting more readable(it’s still incomprehensible though):

Mid 2014 - Preparing to enter college

In the next two years(circa mid 2014), I started seeing white strands of hair and they had also started thinning. I started keeping long hair to cover up for the thinning. You can see how some white hair strands are significantly visible. My hairline had also started to recede:

I had started seeing doctors and taking Biotin and Minoxidil to tackle the hair loss. FYI, Minoxidil is a completely safe medication, and biotin is nothing but a multi-vitamin. However, nobody understands how Minoxidil works, and the best it does is stop excessive hair loss, it doesn’t promote hair regrowth. Moreover, there is a high chance it does not work. It did not work for me. The doctor I saw first said “There is nothing that can be done. We can give it a shot, and these are the only medicines. If this works out, great, but if they have to shed, they will shed.”

2014 - Mid 2015 - Transitionary Phase, messy hair

As I reached my college, which was 2014, things started to get worse. I lived in the Himalayas, Himachal Pradesh to be exact, during my college days, and I feel extremely lucky to have lived there and experience a life like that. The water there was sourced directly from the Uhl river, it was hard and further accelerated the hair loss. Hair used to fall like crazy whenever I used to wash my head. On top of that, since it was really cold, only warm or hot water showers were possible, which made the hair loss even worse. I was so scared that I used to not bathe for days, worried that whatever hair are left on the head, those too might just get washed away. My hair style had changed and I used to get my hair spiked up so that from the front the hair loss would not be visible. People started noticing and making fun. I used to smile and wave, but it hurt. I still used Minoxidil and Biotin. Here is how I was in 2015, June:

This was me, extremely scared of bathing or running a comb, or even my hand through my head, which made my hair look like this. I was happy, but this was a constant source of stress and worry. The jokes on my head started increasing. I never used to make fun of someone even in retaliation because I knew how it felt. Very recently, I made fun of a close friend of mine, in retaliation, just to make them feel how I feel when made fun of, and I regretted this. I used to ignore when my peers made fun of me, but it hurt, every time. Sometimes, I used to think about it for an hour and then resumed with life, while sometimes it took me days or weeks thinking about it.

End of 2015 - Fun and Games

By November 2015, I made a huge mistake. Whatever facial hair I had, I decided to let go of them. It was a mistake, but I was so happy I did it. This is me with my grandmother. I was carefree, and although I did worry what people thought about me, my risk appetite was high. I have always lived by the principle that whatever you should do, there must be a story which you can laugh about later in life, and I had got an awesome story. Here I was:

Haha, loved going back through the memory lane. The hair had become very thin and it looked like some hair were sticking on the top of the head just to cover up for the others.

End of 2016 - 2017 - Experiments

I tried a new beard and hairstyle, circa December, 2016:

And again went beardless, June, 2017:

Haha I just love how I made decisions, very spontaneous. At that time, I knew a beard suited me, but I used to get it trimmed just so that I can have a week of fun and be the kid back again. I was mostly broke in college, and my family did not like my beard initially, so on special occasions, I used to get my beard shaved just to make them happy. I started to care very less what people thought. My friends did make fun of me, but I smiled and waved :).

Then I grew the beard back(circa July 2017):

By now you can see the scalp. I used to worry, a lot. It was in phases to be honest. Sometimes I used to tell myself that if doesn’t matter, and then I used to cry in solitude, that why is this happening to me, what wrong did I do. More people had started noticing, the jokes never stopped.

2018 - The hairline has gone

By May, 2018, most of the hair had gone and it started to look really bad. Now I was a constant source of jokes. But who cared, me? Nah, I was a rebel. I shaved my beard again :P

I used to visit the doctors constantly, tried minoxidil, weird onion oils, shampoos, nothing worked. I had also been a bit on the chubbier side since birth, and it always added to the misery. And had become part of the vicious cycle stress eating cycle. I used to eat when I was stressed, and the hair gave me a lot of stress, more than I wanted or could handle then. To cope up, I used to eat, it used to give me peace.

In 2018, I made a trip to New York, and that was such an amazing amazing experience. Here is me with the crew of Phantom of Opera, the longest running Broadway show:

I used to take risks, and you know that by my ability to shave my beard at will. I even entered the backstage of the opera secretly, alone, before being kicked out(politely) by a security crew. I waited for the actors outside the exit for long, just for this piece of memory.

2019 - 2020 Beginning - Fitness first

I went on with life, smiling and waving at all the jokes made at me. By 2018 end, I had begun my weight loss journey and wanted to fight this stress eating habit. I had become fitter and lost a lot of weight. This is from May, 2019, I had lost close to 7 kgs:

And here is December, 2019, close to new year. I had also started gaining muscle. The dog looked stressed though:

I don’t remember caring about hair during this time. Life was good, I was growing, I was learning. There were moments of stress, but don’t remember stressing about hair. By 2020, February, I turned 24, and had lost a good amount of weight, and if I remember correctly, this was when I had lost close to 12 kgs:

2020 - 2021 - Extreme Stress, but with good things as well

Then, COVID, as we know it, happened. I broke up with my then girlfriend, who was also one of my best friends, in January of 2021. Things were not very good at home and I had a ton of things to take care of, stress was at it’s peak. I managed to perform well at life, but lost at maintaining my own self. For a long time after my breakup, I had to take care of so many things at home that I never even thought I will get to date someone, there was always something more important. I used to smile a lot less, take care of myself a lot less, and worried a lot more. This is how I looked in February, 2021. I smiled on camera, but internally, I was always stressed and sad. The stress was not from the hair, but in general things in life. This is the photo from when I turned 25, February, 2021:

But I have this habit of never giving up. During this time, my mom got admitted to the hospital during the 2nd wave of Covid, and we were successfully able to get her back, alive. Every day was a battle. That’s a long story altogether, but we won. Not only this, I was able to save hundreds of other lives by starting an entire help group called GWarriors at Google. I was one of those at the forefront of the war I never thought I will fight. I sent emails to Sundar Pichai about how we could contribute better, and talked with the CFO of Verily, helped ideate how we could save more lives, all while at the hospital taking care of things and living from the car. We came out strong. The hair had gone though. You can see my entire head now, but I had more important things to take care of. I promised I would get my beard shaved if everything was fine, and here is the winning photograph from when I got mom back from the hospital after a 10 day battle:

Things started to stabilise, and I was at a stage where I wanted to date. I made an account on all dating websites, but never got a single swipe, let alone a date. My insecurities about hair started to kick in. During the time I was in a relationship, I did not care how I was perceived by other women, but this had changed drastically. Meeting someone in person during Covid was next to impossible, and people would just swipe left on me from my photos. And mind you these photos were not the one in this blog, but the good ones, the best ones. Months passed by and any person I used to talk to romantically, or even give them a hint that I am interested, they would back off. I started having conversations with my friends as to what’s going wrong, am I missing something, did I say or do something which made them not be interested in me, and what not. I used to buy premium memberships of all the dating apps, and nothing worked in my favour. My hairline? It was going back. I suspected this to be a reason why I don’t get dates, but my friends said it does not matter. Somehow I could not figure out what’s correct and what’s not, because I had everything, a good job, a strong mind, great humour(just kidding), a fit body, and great communication skills. But nobody wanted to even talk to me romantically. This is how I looked in December, 2021:

The worry

I have been researching on hair loss medications, listening to podcasts, and talking to a lot of doctors since I don’t remember when. Once, a doctor prescribed to me Finasteride, and I had read about its side effects, both in the short and long term. Then I talked to other doctors about it, some said it’s absolutely safe. Some said there is a 1% chance it will have long term ill-side effects, and asked me if I was okay taking that 1% chance. One doctor strictly told me not to do it, the reward is not worth the risk, and suggested that if I really want, hair transplant is the only long term and safe(relatively safer) solution which works. Here is what one article said on side effects of Finasteride. I got goosebumps just going through the list of side effects. And Finasteride is expected to have a market cap of $500+ million(USD) by the next 8 years globally! Just imagine the sheer number of men going through this drug even when it can have long term life altering side effects. I never opted for it, and also blocked the doctor who suggested it(sorry sir if you are reading this). By 2016 mid I had also stopped Minoxidil and Biotin after years of trying, because there were absolutely no results.

While all my friends now were in stable relationships, some were thinking about getting married, some got married, I was here getting rejected for reasons out of my understanding. Rejection made me feel extremely bad about myself, so much that it overwhelmed all the good feelings I had about myself. I always loved how I looked, but my relatives, who used to tell me how I would never get a girl to marry me, my friends who used to make fun of my hair(with no intention to make me feel bad, it’s alright if you are reading this) and also tell me how it would be impossible for me to get someone to date, my office mates sometimes if I used to get close to them, even strangers. I remember during my first job at Goldman Sachs, 2019, when I was at the gym working out. I used to do handstand pushups then, with support, and wanted to do one without any support. On one fine day, a random girl who was working by my side looks at me while I was practicing handstand push ups, and asked me this - “Why do you work so hard when you know you don’t look good and you would probably never look good?”. I laughed it off again, but from the inside, it killed me. I didn’t even reply, I did not know what to say. When this incident happened, it did not affect me so much because I was not single, but this started popping up every now and then every time I got rejected. On dating apps, I would start to swipe hundreds of times, or maybe thousands, then delete my profile. I used to send my profile to my friends for reviews, made amends, changed prompts, changed photos, read articles and videos on how the dating algorithm works, delete the profile and recreate it again, show as “Interested in men” to get more score on the algorithms after a friend of mine recommended me to try this, every possible combination for years, until I gave up about 6 months back. When I met people with the intention to date in real life, some would really enjoy the time with me, but they would either show absolutely no interest romantically, or back off after one conversation. When they said no, they would never even once tell the reason. I used to ask them how I could do better(I regret this, just for the record), and if there is something else they are looking for. I always got abstract answers with no meaning.

Then I met two more women, both of them told me this, in person, that they would never date a bald guy, ever. I felt really really bad. Now that I look at it, it was very good that they told the truth, otherwise I would have kept guessing what I am doing wrong. Previously, I used to believe that hair did not matter as per how my friends believe, but I realised how my friends see me is not the same as how someone looking for a potential partner sees me.

Very recently, I had a conversation with someone in my office, and it went great. The next day, I asked them for a coffee, they came, with their bowl of fruits. We stood in the lobby facing each other, and behind me was the coffee machine. I tell her - “Give me one second, I will just get my coffee”, and I turn around to get my coffee. When I have my coffee and turn back around to see her, all of which took less than 1 minute, she is gone, disappeared, poof! There are some magic tricks I have seen in life which I really remember well, this was one of them for sure. I asked what happened, and she replied that she had some urgent meeting. She never replied after the incident. I never messaged back.

By now, I have been told in person by multiple women that they would never in this life date someone bald. I smiled and waved, every time. It felt extremely bad initially, and if you are hoping that I’ve become immune to this, then you’d be disappointed. I still feel bad, every time. But I have learnt to live with it, and the bad feelings go away in a day or so. Sometimes they last weeks, but at other times, they fade away quickly.

Yesterday, before writing this, I was having a conversation with another friend, trying to figure out what is missing in me, why is my dating life so dry, why I have never ever experienced the feeling of being wanted, why all the women tell that you are amazing but at the same time not for them. So I asked this friend to send some of my best pictures randomly to some single friends of his in his contact list, and ask if they would date or pass, just a mathematical survey. He asked four women, all of them said no. One was kind enough to let him know that it’s because I was bald. Interestingly, the person who said she would not date me, also has a brother who was bald. My friend asked that why would you not date this guy, even when your brother is bald, to which she replied, “Yes, that’s why we got my brother a hair transplant”. It felt good, more so because this was the first time my friend agreed that hair mattered more than he and I wanted them to matter. We then debated whether I should go for a hair transplant and he started giving me the address of the clinic from where the brother of this girl got a transplant. Hilarious how the conversation drifted. This debate will hopefully last for a couple of years now :).

I’ve had this conversation so many times with so many people, trying to figure out what should I change, what I should get better at, where should I improve. Every time I have a rejection story, I try to reconcile what went wrong, and I try to figure out how could this have been avoided. But by now, I know what the reason is.

The message

This is me again, by the way, fast forward to July, 2023:

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve started getting time to focus on myself. This is me, running, and completing 25km in under 3 hours. This photo was taken at 12.5km mark, and it felt easy till here. I have been starting to lose weight again and getting to my fittest self. :)

So after years of going through this mental turmoil trying to figure out why I am unacceptable, why I am unlikeable, why I am unattractive, why am I writing this down today, you ask?

Today, I decided to go all out and clean my head. This is today, 10th August, 2023, a couple of hours after I started writing this page:

It was hard to smile in this photo to be honest, because I did feel a burden, what if people feel it’s even worse than before, and a couple more of what ifs. But while I am completing this post, it feels better with each word.

If you have reached here, first of all, thank you for reading so far and thank you for your time. And if you ask me why did I write down all of this, why get vulnerable in front of total strangers and show them you are weak, you have emotions, you feel bad, why show someone you have been rejected, multiple times, right? What’s the purpose of all of this? Well, how I feel, and how I have been feeling for 10 years now, a lot of people are going through the same feeling right now, and for years probably. A lot of people increasingly will feel the same as we are exposed to more chemicals every day. Just go through any Youtube video on balding and see the comments:

Some embraced it as well(I have just jumped the bandwagon):

There are videos made by companies like Traya on do Indian Girls Reveal the TRUTH! Are Bald Guys Attractive - Street Interview, this was really cheap playing on insecurities of men out there, in a society where balding is not something a lot of people are okay with. But whatever it is, everybody who has lost hair felt extremely bad. Some have coped well, some had very good support systems, while others are still struggling.

I might to be able to afford a hair transplant, but that’s not the point of this article. I am sure that with my genetics, my future kids and grand-kids will definitely feel the same. There will be millions of people who are feeling this way this very second, wondering if they are enough, and looking at the mirror and asking the question that what was their fault in all of this. My only aim to document my journey is for people feeling this way to realise that you cannot make someone like you forcibly. I know I still would be unacceptable to a lot of people out there, but there is nothing I can or I want to do about it now. In all of this, I did my best, and nothing worked out.

To people who have lush, thick hair, and reading this, I really hope you never experience what people going bald experience, and all I ask is that we be kind. If you see someone losing hair, just make sure you are not a part of making a joke out of them. They might smile and wave, but you never know how these supposedly harmless jokes affect them and their self esteem. A lot of these men will take medicines which might have harmful effects on their lives, just to feel accepted, just to feel confident. And it’s usually not the person who feels bad about them initially, it’s everyone around them who make them feel bad, and then they start to believe there is something wrong with them, when there absolutely isn’t. If that wasn’t the case, these medicines which can potentially grow hair while also giving significant side-effects would not sell in millions, and neither would the hair-transplant industry boom to billions of dollars every year.

And to whosoever reading this and going through the same feelings, I am sorry that you feel this way, I can totally relate to it. This is not your fault, and this is not even a fault to be honest. There is nobody to blame, and probably part of the evolution. It doesn’t really affect your capability to do anything. Just do your best and don’t worry, your hair doesn’t define you. I really hope that the world acknowledges this problem and gets a little bit kinder. It’s futile to change how someone thinks, but wonderful to change our our perception on this. Stay strong, stay positive, grow a beard, shave it every now and then, and just do what makes you happy. And if you cannot grow a beard, you know what to do :)

Disclaimer: The thoughts are my own and not of my employer.