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Actor Alan Rickman Explains How Louis XIV Dealt With Hair Loss

Harry Potter actor Alan Rickman is no stranger to wearing wigs for a movie role: his most-famous hair-do – the one he sported when playing menacing Potions teacher Severus Snape – lifted off at the end of every day’s filming, and it’s thought that Rickman’s hair in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves was a wig, too.

But immersing himself in the role of France’s famous ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV made the actor appreciate the history of hair loss and wigs – and how far they had come – for the very first time.

Louis XIV’s historical hair loss fix

Louis XIV With and Without His Famous Wig - as Played by Alan RickmanTalking to the New York Post’s Page Six after a MoMa screening of new film A Little Chaos, in which he both stars and directs, the actor explains how much effort he had to put into playing the French king and what he learned from the role.

Louis XIV didn’t have much hair left at one point in his life, so he invented (the long powdered wig), so then everyone else had to follow suit. Thank God we weren’t filming it then, because those wigs weighed five kilos.”

Modern wigs weigh a fraction of this, though that isn’t to say they are necessarily easy for actors and actresses to slip into for film roles. Actress Gillian Anderson, in fact, recently told of how the wig she wore for a new series of The X Files gave her a punishing headache every day.

Despite being thought of as a way to cover thinning hair, tightly fitted weaves and wigs are known to actually cause hair loss. They can do so by exerting large amounts of prolonged tension on the hair follicles, stretching them out of shape and leading to a condition called Traction Alopecia.

Modern alternatives for thinning hair

Sun King Louis XIV Was Always Painted With Big Hair in His Official PortraitsLouis XIV (pictured) was 77 when he died, though some reports suggest he had been showing signs of male hair loss since he was in his late teens, despite always being depicted with big hair in his official portraits.

Whilst nowadays there are clinically-proven treatments for male pattern baldness that can be used from age 16 (minoxidil) and 18 (finasteride 1mg), back in the seventeenth century, options were limited. Louis XIII was known to wear hairpieces to hide his balding pate and legend has it that Louis XIV took his predecessor’s idea and ran with it.

The king is said to have hired 48 wigmakers to make him some new locks, and when Louis’ cousin Charles II followed suit with an elaborate long wig a few years later, a fashion trend was born.

Had Louis been alive today, in addition to the choice of following a bespoke hair loss treatment plan or having a surgical hair transplant, he could have used any of a number of masking methods that would have been less awkward than a 5kg wig.

Among the current trends for concealing hair loss are scalp tattoo procedures known as micropigmentation, which trick the eye into thinking that thousands of tiny dots are in fact closely-cropped hair, and cosmetic microscopic fibres which are sprinkled on and temporarily mimic the appearance of hair.

The future of hair loss treatment

Hair loss specialists are currently able to recommend bespoke treatment plans that have been shown to produce significant regrowth results in many men. However, with the increasing demands of an ageing population and constant developments in medical knowledge and technology, researchers are constantly looking forward, including trying to improve hair loss treatments.

There are a currently a number of trials and study programmes going on, looking into future hair loss treatments, which include exploring the potential of stem cells and PGD2 inhibitors. It can take many years for hair loss products and treatments to get from the research stage to actual availability due to the rigorous efficacy and safety testing procedures involved.

With this in mind, given male pattern baldness is a progressive condition that will get worse over time if left untreated, it is always better to seek hair loss advice as early as possible.

The Belgravia Centre Hair Loss ClinicThe Belgravia Centre

The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.

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