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Science has come a long way since the days of egg-yolk massages, so what are the options – and dangers – if you find you’re losing your hair? Bess Manson looks for the bald truth in this week’s cover story.

Her feature begins:

Going bald can be a killer. Just consider the plight of ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus. Apocryphal as it might be, the “Father of Greek Tragedy” is said to have met his own tragic end when an eagle mistook his bald head for a rock and dropped a tortoise on it. Ouch! The eagle got its reward of fresh tortoise flesh. Poor old Aeschylus met his maker.

For men nowadays, androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, might not be as dangerous, but it’s still pretty damn depressing. According to clinical psychologist Duncan Thomson, whether we like it or not, our hair affects how others perceive us.

“Our hair sends messages to other people about our gender, our individuality, and affects perceptions of our age and attractiveness. Research suggests we see men with more hair as more dominant, masculine and aggressive.

“Losing hair can make men feel old and unattractive and make them think they will be at a disadvantage in both their social and working lives. It can cause genuine distress, especially in younger men who are at an age when they are heavily invested in feeling young and attractive and are at a critical stage in forming relationships, both privately and at work.”

Diana Wichtel talks to the polarising, and distinctly hirsute, comedian Russell Brand, who says performance is his drug of choice.

The other Brand – Jo Brand - gets the two-minute-interview treatment.

As Christmas bells jingle, the hunt begins for the perfect Christmas underwear for boyfriends, husbands and dads. And this year, the choices are eye-boggling, writes Douglas Lloyd Jenkins.

Cooking up potentially lifesaving compounds has won Margaret Brimble the country’s top science award. Rebecca Priestley meets her.

The diarist is Richard Prebble.

Jane Stafford and Mark Williams’s landmark anthology gathers together more than 200 years of New Zealand literature – but with some notable absences, including Janet Frame, writes Guy Somerset.

Also in the arts and books pages, New Zealand Books celebrates its 100th issue, the new work by Howard Jacobson, our monthly roundup of crime and thrillers, and reviews of Listener Book Club choice The Phoenix Song and two books on union radicals in New Zealand.

Alt-J are coming to January’s Laneway, while Kendrick Lamar, Heart Attack Alley and Keb Darge & Little Edith are reviewed.

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