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Alopecia (hair loss)

Robert Murray started losing his hair at the age of 16 and, more than 10 years later, he's still coming to terms with it.

Robert Murray started losing his hair at the age of 16 and, more than 10 years later, he's still coming to terms with it.

Insults like slaphead, chrome dome and baldie have made it difficult for Robert, from Cheshire, to be bald and proud.

He's not alone. Almost one-third of men are noticeably balding by the age of 30. Most try to hide their receding hairline by shaving off what's left.

Robert decided to test society's perceptions of baldness and sample some of the available treatments for a BBC3 documentary.

He tried several lotions, which promised to stimulate and nourish his hair follicles, as well as help them regrow hair. "All they did was redden my scalp, discolour the skin and leave a sticky residue," he says.

He tried an alternative treatment, which involved having his head regularly rubbed for 30 minutes by an Ayurvedic practitioner.

"While it was certainly pleasant, my hair failed to reappear," Robert says.

With the ointments and tablets having no effect, Robert tested whether a hairpiece would change how people treated him.

Wigs have come a long way since the days of TV magician Paul Daniels. It's been said that his decision to get rid of his toupée kept the Chernobyl nuclear disaster off the front pages in 1986.

"The first difference I noticed was how the wig made me feel about myself," says Robert. "Being fitted with false hair, I was surprised at how irate I felt towards the man reflected in the mirror.

"It felt like a slur on my integrity, but also made me wonder: if I hadn't lost my hair, would I be a different man?"

To put the toupée to the test, Robert took his wig to a speed dating event in Manchester. During the course of the evening, he spoke to eight women with his hairpiece on and eight women without it.

Robert felt a little self-conscious. "I couldn't stop patting my head every few minutes to ensure the toupée hadn't slipped to an awkward angle," he says.

Robert asked several women what qualities they looked for in a man. Personality and a sense of humour were among the answers.

Hair was never mentioned – until the wig came off. "I love bald men," Robert heard from two different women. "Vin Diesel is well fit," said another.

"The event ended with hugs and saucy compliments about my naked scalp, helping me realise that bald could be sexy," says Robert.

"The wig made me feel like a traitor to myself. It was time to embrace my baldness."

He remembers going to his doctor in his teens to ask for help with his hair loss. "He suggested a crew cut," says Robert.

But he now realises his GP was right. "I just needed to get over losing my hair," he says.

While surveys show that British bald men are more ashamed of their hair loss than European men, women think there's nothing to be ashamed of.

But Robert believes society has some way to go before balding men can feel at ease with their thinning hair.

"We will only walk tall when the insults fade and there are no more false promises from dodgy treatments," he says.

"In the meantime, if my confidence wavers, I just look at the shaved domes of Freddie Ljungberg and Billy Zane."

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