811,363 men and women worldwide suffer hair loss, according to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery. Based on the same data, hair loss starts at age 30 to 39 years old.
Noticeable or not, hair loss is a concern widely shared between the sexes. What causes hair loss, and what can be done to treat and prevent it from coming back?
Causes of Hair Loss
Of the many different causes of hair loss, genetics is the most common. Androgenetic alopecia or genetic hair thinning happens as a person ages. To know if you have androgenetic alopecia, simply observe your parents, your aunt, and uncles or your grandparents. Do they have similar or greater amounts of hair loss? One way a dermatologist can diagnose if you have androgenetic alopecia is by magnifying your scalp. A variation in follicle size is an indication that you may have genetic hair loss.
Stress is also a major cause of hair loss. In fact, there are three types of hair loss associated with stress, and these are telogen effluvium, trichotillomania, and alopecia areata.
Hair growth occurs in two stages – the growing stage and the resting stage. In telogen effluvium, stress pushes hair follicles into its resting stage, which over time, makes affected hair strands weak, causing it to fall.
Trichotillomania is hair loss associated with hair pulling. Although uncommon, hair pulling is one way people deal with stress.
In alopecia areata, the body’s immune system, in reaction to stress, attacks the hair follicles, which then causes hair to fall.
Another cause of hair loss is the use of certain medicines, such as birth control pills, anti-depressants, and anabolic steroids. The good news about this is that hair loss is only temporary. Check with your GP if hair loss is a side effect of a medicine you are taking. You can ask for a prescription for a similar drug that does not have hair loss as a side effect.
The lack of Vitamin D in the body is also a cause of hair loss. Vitamin D is responsible for regulating hair follicle growth, and without a substantial amount of it in the body can cause hair to thin and fall out.
Hair Loss in Men
More than 95% of hair loss in men is caused by androgenetic alopecia, according to the American Hair Loss Association. Considerable hair loss starts at age 35, and by the age of 50, men will significantly have thin hair.
Hair loss in men starts at the crown. It is characterized by a receding hairline or a frontal recession, followed by baldness at the vertex, then near-total baldness. Hair loss is said to have already advanced once only a rim of hair is left on the sides of the scalp.
While hair loss in men is mainly hereditary, medical treatments can be done to improve its condition.
Hair Loss in Women
Unlike in men, hair loss in women is more hidden but tends to be more widespread. It starts in the hairline and spreads out overtime. Only at such time will the bald area be noticeable.
Aside from heredity, a variety of conditions also causes hair loss in women.
Hormonal imbalance and change have been known to cause temporary hair loss. It has been common among women to experience hair loss during pregnancy, childbirth or just before the onset of menopause.
Alopecia areata is also common among women wherein the immune system attacks hair follicles, which leaves round and smooth bald patches on the scalp. Skin infections, such as ringworms, and skin disorders, such as lupus and sarcoidosis, are also common causes of hair loss in women.
Additionally, poor hair care and hairstyling have been found to cause hair loss. Traction alopecia is a form of hair loss caused by tight ponytails and wrongly applied hair extensions.
Aside from these two, blow drying wet hair, regularly using hair irons, and applying chemicals on the scalp frequently, can damage hair follicles, which leads to hair loss overtime.
Hair Loss Treatments
A popular treatment for hair loss is through medication. The application of minoxidil lotion on the scalp twice a day has been known to stimulate hair growth. It is a lotion that can be easily bought over the counter, and can be used by both men and women. Although there are side effects to its use, such as scalp irritation and rapid heart rate, the effects of minoxidil can be seen after four months. The application of minoxidil lotion must be regular to achieve lasting results. Discontinuing minoxidil lotion halts the improvement as well.
Finasteride is a tablet that has been scientifically tested to promote hair re-growth and slow down hair loss. A prescription is needed to purchase finasteride, and a tablet must be taken once a day. Additionally, finasteride is an option available only for men. Finasteride works by decreasing the blood and scalp concentrations of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is associated with androgenetic alopecia. However, unwanted side effects include cold sweats, dizziness, and chills. And like minoxidil lotion, finasteride must be taken continuously to sustain hair growth and improve the effects of hair loss.
Another approach to treat male and female hair loss is through medical procedures.
Hair transplants or hair restoration surgeries are done to make the most out of the remaining hair. Tiny plugs of skin containing a few hairs are removed from the back or sides of the scalp and are then planted to its bald sections.
Laser therapy is also a medical procedure to treat hair loss. A low-level laser device is used on the scalp, and based on cases; laser therapy is effective in minimizing hair loss.
Drastic as it is, it is important to decide how you feel about hair loss first before seeking hair transplant and laser therapy since both are expensive and can cause side effects. Also, did you know that if hair loss is due to a medical prescription, a wig can be covered by your health insurance?
Hair Loss Prevention
Hair loss can be prevented provided that stress, the use of certain medicines, vitamin D deficiency, and certain hairstyles are its causes.
Regulate your daily stressors, and if needed, practice breathing exercises to keep your mind and body calm and at ease.
Get a prescription for alternative medicine that does not have hair loss as its side effects, and get adequate vitamin D from the sun and certain fruits and vegetables.
Be careful with hairstyles and hair products that you use as well. Especially when it comes to hair care for women, make it a point to reduce pressure on your scalp whenever you comb, brush or style your hair.
Additionally, ensure that you have adequate protein and iron in your diet. Nuts, eggs, green leafy vegetables, poultry, dried fruits, figs, and spirulina are great sources for these nutrients.
For women who experience temporary hair loss due to hormonal imbalances and changes, rest assured that hair will go back to its healthy state once your body has recovered. Regulate your stress levels too as stress coupled with irregularities in hormones may lead to longer periods of hair loss.
Hair loss caused by genetics may not be prevented, but a positive attitude towards natural hair loss can lead to clarity and higher self-esteem. After all, attitudes have changed over the years. Even men without androgenic alopecia sport clean shaven heads, too.