I was intrigued to find out more
I was chatting with a lady last week through my network group. She had a lovely, happy face, with a great smile, but she was looking up at people through such thick bangs, which was hiding her face. I thought this was sad and wondered why she would you want to hide away under her thick fringe. The longer we spent chatting, the more I noticed small patches of skin showing through her hair.
I was desperately trying not to look, but I was also curious and wanted to ask her if she had always had this problem, or if it was something new.
I was intrigued to find out more information after our meeting, to discover more about the cause of this ladies patches.
She was clearly suffering from alopecia, or from what is more commonly known, as hair loss.
I remembered when studying hair design, and completing a module on the causes of hair loss, the biology and chemistry, as well as learning how to style hair to best hide the problem. We learnt about the best ways to stop hair loss, and even how to make wigs and hair pieces.
Hair today…..gone tomorrow
The most common condition known, and one which we are all aware of is male pattern baldness.
There are different genetic conditions which cause hair loss, some more common than others. It can happen to everyone across genders, any ethnic group, hair type and at any age.
It is, of course, natural for hair to fall out, and we all experience this on a daily basis.
There are four cycles to the life of a single hair follicle:
Anagen – natural growth phase of the hair in the follicle – lasts 2 – 8 years
Catagen – a transition phase signalling the end of the active growth – lasts 2 -3 weeks
Telogen – resting phase when the hair will rest before falling outlasts 3 – 4 months
Exogen – the hair falls out and makes a place for the new hair growing in the follicle
Alopecia (hair loss) derived from the Greek word for fox, it is thought that its origin is due to the fox shedding its coat each year.
More commonly known as balding, an English word “Bade” meaning “pale.”
There different types of hair loss, so let’s take a look at the contributing factors.
Male Pattern Hair Loss (MPHL)
As previously mentioned this is one of the most common types and one to which we can all relate. The chances are we either have somebody in our own family,(in my case my father) or know somebody who has MPHL.
It is characteristic by its pattern (hence the name) in which their hair is lost by receding at the front hairline and or at the crown or vertex (top of the scalp).
One or the other may occur with no further hair loss or it will sometimes continue to recede until they join causing the well-known horseshoe shape, leaving the hair at the sides unaffected.
Always considered to be the result of genes passed down in the family. If your father it is bald it will be passed through the male line from grandfather to father, to son. There may be some connection to this as the actual physical reason for the loss is the hormone testosterone or more specifically a by-product of testosterone call dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
The hair shrinks when DHT attaches itself to the hair follicle causing it to become thinner over time until eventually going bald.
Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL) (Androgenic Alopecia)
Although we know the reason for male pattern hair loss being linked to DHT, the reason for FPHL is not confirmed. Where we see the characteristic receding frontal hairline and thinning crown of male hair loss, for females, this is different in that the hair thins out on top of the head and at the crown, or vertex.
Where some women may experience thinning of the hair as early as 30 years of age with FPHL, this becomes more noticeable after menopause where up to 50% of women will notice thinner hair. Hence the reason for certain shampoos being marketed to this age group.
Factors which may cause thinning hair in women may be due to pregnancy, illness, stress and even medication and diet. Hormone changes during the lifetime of females may present thinning, such as after childbirth with a decrease in oestrogen levels, which have been higher during pregnancy, returning to normal
These are the two main reasons for hair loss, but there are many other forms such as illness and stress which can affect the temporary loss.
Alopecia Areata – an autoimmune disorder which causes hair loss in patches or one large patch. Unlike the previous conditions mentioned this can cause hair loss on the body too. It is unknown as to what causes it, but it is believed that the hair follicle becomes dormant and may in time correct itself.
Telogen Effluvium – as mentioned earlier in this post, telogen is the resting phase of the hair cycle. With this disorder, the hair enters into this phase prematurely usually as a result of emotional or psychological stress. Causes which may be associated with eating disorders, emotional disorders, chronic illness, Hypothyroidism or anaemia.
Hypothyroidism – is an over or underactive thyroid which causes hair loss either in the parietal or frontal area.
Traction alopecia – usually found in people who wear their hair in either a ponytail, braids or cornrows. This causes stress on the hair due to the constant tension.
Medication – temporary loss may be present while taking medication. The most obvious one is found in cancer patients who are treated with chemotherapy, they will often experience hair loss. Other medication which may also affect loss, are blood pressure, cholesterol, hormone replacement therapy, steroids and even birth control pills.
The best way to get results
Now we have a better understanding of the symptoms and disorders which cause hair loss.
What can we do about it?
How can we control the loss?
How can we reverse the signs of hair loss?
There is a number of ways this may be achieved with both natural treatments, medications, topical creams and shampoos to a more permanent solution of surgery.
Let’s explore some of these options.
Many men suffering from male pattern hair loss choose to go with the flow and style their hair short or even shave the remaining hair to go completely bald.
Some will opt for the comb over where the hair is parted low on the side and the longer strands are combed over the bald area. Others will look at the option of a wig or toupee which is attached to the head and blended with the natural hair to look like their real hair.
Vitamins and a special diet in some cases will have a beneficial effect on the growth of hair.
A common cause of diet deficiency related to hair loss will be iron deficiency or amenia. A diet which is too restrictive, for example in the case of anorexia sufferers, will result in a lack of iron in the blood affecting the production of haemoglobin, this, in turn, restricts the amount of oxygen being transported throughout the body.
A diet deficient in zinc may cause hair loss. This metallic element found in food such as meat fish and eggs is important as it helps to rebuild the hair follicle and prevents hair shedding
Biotin & B5 another very important vitamin for the protection of hair as this increases cell renewal and protection of the hair shaft from oil loss through chemical and heat exposure.
Commonly used medical treatments to help are immunosuppressants which are used to reverse alopecia areata by applying to the scalp directly.
Others will be in the form of hormonal modulators or contraceptive pill which will aid the repair of hair loss through Hyperandrogenemia.
Monthly corticosteroids injections to the scalp will aid with FPHL (female pattern hair loss), or for extensive use, this may be taken orally and may take up to a month to show results.
A key treatment for providing clinically proven results for androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern hair loss) is Minoxidil. A topical liquid usually applied to the scalp twice daily.
Finesteride 1mg is another clinically proven treatment for hair loss, however, this one is only effective for (MPHL) male pattern hair loss.
Surgical procedures are often chosen by those who are very self-conscious of the hair loss. Options of FUT Follicle Unit Transplant involving a strip of skin which has been removed from the back of the scalp containing hair follicles which are then transplanted into other areas
FUE Follicle Unit Extraction is where each hair follicle is directly removed from the scalp to be implanted into another area
It’s a matter of choice
It’s a matter of choice and of course what type of hair loss needs to be treated as to which course of action one wants to pursue.
Many men these days opt to go “au natural” and leave the hair to recede, as was the decision of my father when his started to recede in his earlier years. In fact, I have only ever known him to look this way!
The good news is, all hope is not lost. There are many options available to all suffering from hair loss, with many benefits and of course some negatives, but there is no need to feel helpless when confronted with this dilemma.
You may wish to investigate the option of diets and vitamins, to begin with as these are the more cost-effective and least evasive of treatments, from there, if the desired result is not achieved, then a medicine may be prescribed or even surgery.
I hope you have found this information to be of some help, and invite you to leave comments on your story and what has worked for you. Or please feel free to ask any questions you may have.