Hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia to give it its correct name, is something that around half of men over 50 will experience in some form or another. While women can also lose their hair, – studies suggest that eight million women in the UK have this issue – the condition is more prevalent in men.
The commonly shared social belief is that hair loss is just ‘one of those things’ which happens due to genetics. However, there is a greater understanding of the causes of hair loss, giving way to revolutionary treatments available to slow down or halt hair loss in both men and women.
Reasons To Prevent Hair Loss
For some, the idea of losing their hair is a cause of deep upset and anxiety. In society, hair is often seen as a sign of vitality and youthfulness. Furthermore, hair can be an iconic part of your personality and be used as a form of self-expression.
To some, losing your hair can be a sobering reminder of ageing, and thus a depressing prospect. Additionally, hair loss can bring down your confidence and adversely affect your self-esteem. So it’s unsurprising why people want to protect the hair they have and prevent their hair from falling out.
The Hair Loss Cycle
Everyone goes through a hair loss cycle which ends, as mentioned above, in losing some hair – around 100 strands per day.
The anagen phase is the growth phase, and it is the time between the start of the hair growth and when the hair reaches its full length.
The catagen phase is the transitional phase that lasts only about 10 days. It’s where the hair begins to get weaker.
The telogen phase is where the hair falls out. The follicle left behind will not grow hair again for around three months, and after that the cycle repeats.
Causes of Hair Loss
Human beings naturally lose up to 100 hairs every day, and it doesn’t leave a physical mark although mentally it can be a strain. Causes of hair loss include:
- Iron deficiency
- Lifestyle choices such as smoking
- Stress and anxiety
- Medication (side effects)
- Rapid weight loss
If the hair loss you are suffering from is hereditary, then there are drugs that can be taken such as Finasteride which will prevent further hair loss.
The stress hormone, cortisol, makes the hair that is already grown move into the telogen part of the cycle much more quickly. Some stress sufferers also develop the habit of playing with their hair, or even pulling it out completely, as a coping mechanism. This is called trichotillomania and this will remove hair or weaken it as well. Plus, stress can cause problems with appetite, and if you aren’t consuming enough vitamins and minerals your hair will become weak and fall out more readily.
Reducing the stress in your life is perhaps easier said than done, but it is something to look into more thoroughly, with expert help, if this is an issue.
Many people who smoke don’t notice any considerable hair loss at all but it can cause issues and may exacerbate hair loss for some people, particularly if they are already suffering from stress, hormonal changes, or illness.
Smoking can cause issues with circulation. Your blood carries vitamins, nutrients and, most importantly, hormones around your body. So it’s understandable that poor circulation can affect the amount of nutrients delivered to your hair follicles and affect hair growth. This can mean that the scalp is unable to get enough blood to it to form complete follicles and grow hair, and it can weaken the follicles that are already there.
Quitting smoking is an excellent idea for many reasons and if you are particularly prone to hair loss it may help you.
The male sex hormone known as testosterone, which is present in both men and women, plays a vital part in the maintenance of hair. Testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone which can cause hair follicles to become inactive – hair will no longer grow.
When women go through the menopause they will produce less oestrogen and more testosterone. In turn, the testosterone will be turned into dihydrotestosterone, which can effect the hair follicles and cause the hair follicles to shrink.
It is wise to speak to your doctor if you feel that you are going through the menopause; there are drugs and therapies which can ease the symptoms, balance your hormones, and reduce the hair loss you may be suffering.
The causes of hair loss begin much deeper down than any hair care product can reach – it starts in the very roots and follicles. However, using the wrong shampoo and conditioner for your hair type can cause your hair to look thinner, even if it is not.
Always ensure that you are using the correct hair care products for your hair type. If you are unsure, speak to your hairdresser to get professional information.
A hot shower is also bad for the hair, making it brittle and dehydrated. When washing your hair, turn the temperature down a little so that you are using warm water instead of hot. Interestingly, not washing your hair enough can cause hair loss. The build up of grease and dirt can cause follicles to become weak and even inactive.
Using hot tools on your hair including straightening irons and hair dryers can dry out the strands and lead to hair loss. Don’t use these tools every day, but instead use them two or three times a week. This will help your hair to become stronger.
While hair styles can be expressive of your personality, they can pose a threat to your hair. Over time, mechanical stress on hair strands can damage hair follicles. Hair styles such as buns, ponytails, cornrows and other hair styles which pull your hair back can cause stress on your hair follicles.
It is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatologists to loosen hair styles around the hair line to relieve excessive stress which might damage hair follicles.
Treating Hair Loss
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, and the stage of your hair loss, there are a number of treatments for hair loss.
Wigs, toupees and hair extensions are the simplest treatment for both men and women. Synthetic wigs can be relatively inexpensive, though may need to be replaced regularly. While there are wigs made from real human hair, they are much more expensive and require a high level of maintenance.
Hair transplants are another option, though these are only available from private clinics and can cost upwards of £20,000, depending on the severity of hair loss. Moreover, they are only suitable for people with hereditary baldness and not for people with patches of balding (alopecia areata).
Finally, there are medicines which can be taken to treat hair loss.
For men, there’s Finasteride (Propecia) – a prescription medicine which is taken daily to slow down the hair loss cycle. This treatment is statistically proven to slow down the rate of hair loss and has shown to regrow hairs in some cases. Finasteride is only suitable for men and should not be taken by women.
Alternatively, there’s Minoxidil. Unlike Finasteride, Minoxidil is available over-the-counter and is often sold under the brand Regaine and is available as a foam or a topical solution which is directly applied to the hair. Minoxidil is suitable for both men and women.
Before seeking any treatment for hair loss, it is incredibly important to seek medical advice from your doctor beforehand. Your doctor will not only be able to provide information on hair loss treatments to ascertain which treatment is most suitable for you, but can also offer practical advice for managing stress and anxiety, which may be attributed to your hair loss.