RIP Bryan Shelton — Hair Loss Researcher Extraordinaire

I would have preferred to continue making optimistic posts related to new hair loss cure related developments, and was in fact not planning to post at all today.  However, I just learnt that one of the all-time legendary personalities of the hair loss forums, Bryan Shelton, passed away on September 16th, 2013.  He was only 63, and had stopped posting on hair loss forums during the past year.   I was curious as to what had happened to him and guessed he must be sick, since in all the years I have frequented hair loss forums, Bryan was one of the few constants.  Perhaps the only constant, when excluding the people who ran or owned these forums.

Bryan seemed to have more hair loss and hair related knowledge than any other poster out there.  I say “seemed to” because once people such as Bryan cross a certain threshold of expertise in this field, I am not the best person to figure out the legitimacy of what they are saying.  Some of Bryan’s posts were at a level that was too complicated for me to comprehend fully.  Luckily, most of Bryan’s posts involved presenting interesting ideas, offering advice when asked, or legitimately correcting people.  Bryan was almost always correct as far as I could tell.

I was surprised to learn that Bryan had no college education.  Even more impressive, Bryan  tended to do a lot of his research at libraries.  I suppose it is not surprising, considering that he grew up in an era without the internet.  When a journal article could not be found online, Bryan would find it at a library.

I encourage readers to search for Bryan Shelton’s posts on all the hair loss forums and message boards out there.  On several, he has close to 9,000 posts!  As you will see from his posts, Bryan’s expertise will be greatly missed.  For me, Bryan’s demise represents the end of an era during which hair loss medications, hair transplants, and wigs were our best hope.  Hair multiplication, hair cloning and stem cell related treatments now seem close to a reality.  It is too bad Bryan will not witness the final cure when it arrives.

It says a lot that I never met Bryan, never saw his picture, and maybe only interacted with him on the forum 1-2 times in all these years.  Yet I think enough of him to type such a lengthy post.

4 thoughts on “RIP Bryan Shelton — Hair Loss Researcher Extraordinaire”

  1. I know that several months have now gone by since Bryan’s death, but I’ve only just heard the tragic news. Although – like you – I never met the man or even saw his picture, I felt similarly moved to write. I was a regular on the hair loss forums a few years ago, and remember Bryan as one of the foremost contributors on several of the most well-known sites.

    As you say Bryan was one of the few constants in the world of hair loss forums, as I understand it going all the way back to the newsgroups of the 1990s. I feel like I must be part of a whole generation of worried young men who, at some time in the last 15 or so years, scoured the internet in search of explanations and solutions for their receding hairlines and expanding bald spots, and ended up benefiting from Bryan’s knowledge and wisdom.

    It’s amazing to me that, if the reports of his last few months are accurate, Bryan didn’t apply the same care and good sense he showed in his forum posts to other aspects of his health. I know that this is futile speculation, but I can’t help but wonder whether, if he had sought professional medical advice sooner, he might still be with us.

    Bryan’s passing is also a timely reminder – if one were needed – that there are bigger concerns in life than hair loss. I largely lost my old obsession with follicles and androgens, Propecia and Regaine after having a family, but I’ll always be grateful to Bryan for his efforts as a diligent and rigorous armchair researcher who helped me and many others to understand better what was happening to our appearances, why it was happening and what we could really do about it.

    Sadly I don’t share your optimism that Bryan’s death marks the end of an era in the treatment of hair loss. Revolutionary new treatments seem to have been “ten years away” ever since I got interested in this topic… roughly ten years ago. In a strange way though (and this is just a personal view), Bryan’s demise does seem to signify something about the changing face of technology, the internet and communications. With his apparent love of classic 90s game ‘Doom’, his ubiquity on the Baldspot newsgroup before the forums, Bryan seems to me very much like a desktop kind of guy in an increasingly post-PC, social media-driven world. A world that will be an emptier and much less well-informed place without him.

  2. Hi Jon, thanks for your great comment. And congratulations on moving ahead with your life and starting a family.

    Did you read my most recent blog posts (three hair loss research related studies in December 2013, Kurzweil)? I really believe that progress is happening faster today than 10 years ago. Easier to see this when it comes to electronics, materials, 3D printing, nanotechnology and so on…harder to see in biology beyond just the release of studies, but I am very hopeful.

    1. Thanks – I saw those posts, and yes, there’s definitely some interesting new research out there. I’m still not confident of seeing any major breakthrough treatments any time soon, however, and the reason is not just the science of hair loss but the economics and even the politics of modern medicine. By which I mean the regulatory costs and barriers to any new therapies are so high these days – years of clinical trials are required, enrolling thousands of subjects – it’s getting ever harder and more expensive to launch new products. One reference that I saw from a few years back cited a cost of $1bn and a drug development period of 12.5 years. As I understand it, Propecia was not a tremendous commercial success so I wonder whether Big Pharma will continue to see male pattern baldness as a economically-viable field of exploration.

      More generally, there’s a counterpoint to the optimistic, Kurzweil-style view of rapid scientific progress into an ever-more prosperous future. I have a geeky side interest in economics and recently economists like Tyler Cowen and Robert Gordon have been arguing that the rate of innovation is falling and that recent new technologies (such as the internet and 3d printing) don’t have the same potential to transform our standard of living as the old breakthroughs such as, say, refrigeration or electricity. I’m kind of agnostic about the stagnation thesis but it’s an interesting perspective to bear in mind.

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