When Pierre the Penguin started going bald, the blow to his ego was as jarring as the cold water against his newly bare skin.
That is because a penguin’s waterproof feathers serve as insulation, and without them, swimming is virtually impossible. Pierre, 25, was distraught. He moped by the side of his tank at the California Academy of Science in San Francisco, his pink rear end almost completely bare.
Senior aquatic biologist Pam Schaller came to the rescue and contacted Oceanic Worldwide, a Bay Area diving outfitter, to design a one-of-a-kind penguin sized wetsuit. Six weeks after the penguin started sporting the suit, he’s back in the water and even growing new feathers again. His confidence is back, too. According to reports, Pierre is now mating with a female half his age.
It is too bad balding isn’t as easy to overcome for Pierre’s human counterparts. Hair loss is an estimated $1-billion-a-year industry, with Rogaine (JNJ) and Propecia (MRK), considered the most effective (but not 100% effective) medical interventions. And, while a few celebrities like Bruce Willis might be bald and proud, most people find hair loss distressing. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology concluded that most men consider balding “an unwanted distressing experience that diminishes their body image.”“For both men and women, hair loss can be devastating and adversely affect one's overall quality of life,” says Dr. Amy McMichael, associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “As with most medical conditions, the key to controlling the hair loss cycle is to seek treatment early. The problem is that most people tend to ignore the first signs of hair loss or delay treatment, hoping that their hair will re-grow on its own.”
Laura Bzowy, who runs the website Baldiness: The Truthiness about Baldness, says that taking action is understandable. “If you aren’t comfortable with being bald—and lets face it, it isn't always easy—there is no shame in covering it up if you aren't quite ready to show your bald head to the world,” says Bzowy. And according to Dr. John Hotard, a career counselor based in New York City, taking control of how you look can translate into performing better on the job, too. "A person that feels better about their appearance will often be more decisive in the office," says Hotard. "In addition to wigs people even get braces in their 40s; it is about reducing anxiety and regaining a sense of control."