Back In Theaters:

Nicolas Cage's hairline

In “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” actor Nicolas Cage struggles to retain the integrity of his family name.  In real life, Cage battles to preserve the integrity of his mane.  The hairs of his scalp, that is. 

Over the years, Cage's hairline went from full in "Moonstruck"...
...To full retreat.

In the 1990’s, this versatile thespian’s career advanced with a variety of challenging roles.  At the same time, the hairline of his scalp receded.  Slowly, the troops of hairs along his brow retreated, surrendering in the war against male patterned hair loss.  For a Hollywood leading man, thinning hair can affect available movie roles. At one point, Cage was considered to star in a remake of “Superman.”  This version did not move forward, and it is rumored that Cage was turned down because of his sparse scalp coverage.  After this, Cage’s hair loss pattern changed. 

Recent photos show that over the years a frontal tuft of hair has remained steadfast, despite the natural tendency for some men’s front and central scalp hair to signal the white flag. Somehow Cage’s hair has not done the way of boldly bald action stars like Bruce Willis and Jason Statham. And candid shots show that Cage is not wearing a wig.  How has Cage preserved this national treasure?

Now is as good a time as any to clarify:  Dr. Reese does not treat any of the individuals listed at  So we can only speculate what treatments may have been used.  First of all, there are two medicines approved by the US FDA to slow and stop male hair loss, fortifying the follicular troops in the baldness battle.  Rogaine (minoxidil) is topical, available over the counter, and can be used as long as a dandruff-like reaction does not occur.  Propecia (finasteride), is a prescribed pill.  It is only for men and usually free of side effects. Occasionally the libido is suppressed, which most film heroes would like to avoid.  Both Rogaine and Propecia can resuscitate the entire scalp, especially the central portion.

Yet occasionally a candid photo shows a thinning patch behind Cage’s frontal forest.  This would raise the possibility that Cage has undergone a hair transplant procedure.  The most common technique is to surgically remove hair follicles from the back of the scalp and implant them in the central or frontal scalp.  Genetically, these follicles resist the effect of testosterone over time and retain their strength in the face of adversity. Images that show a thinning pate behind Cage’s frontlines are consistent with hair transplantation.

Would Cage’s career differ if his dome were as hair-free as his “Ghost Rider” character?  Would he still play the hero, following Bruce Willis' deforested lead?  Or would he opt to play the villain, as relatively hairless Ed Harris does in the “National Treasure” sequel?  Perhaps the answer lies in the presidential "Book of Secrets.”

Runner-up, Back in Theaters:
Brad Pitt’s acne scars in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.”
Whew!  It takes more time to read this indie flick’s name than it spent in movie houses.

After being concealed with makeup and lighting in blockbusters like “Ocean’s 13,” Brad Pitt’s pitted acne scars are on full display as he plays the criminal gunslinger Jesse James.  Back in those days, lasers weren’t available to clear deep facial scarring.  But aren’t those devices available today, claiming to eradicate facial defects? Perhaps they don’t work as well as promised!

© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.