Perhaps more than any other single feature, your hairstyle contributes to the image you project to others. When a person experiences significant hair loss, it can be damaging to his or her self-esteem. There are several types of hair loss that can occur, and there may be a variety of factors involved, including genetics, medications, disease, and cancer treatments. Fortunately, there are a number of hair loss restoration and prevention treatment options currently available for individuals with thinning hair.
Normal Hair Growth
It is completely normal to experience some hair loss. Throughout your lifetime, your hair is in a continuous growth cycle, and all hairs shed sooner or later. At any given time, approximately 85 to 90 percent of your hair is in the anagen phase, constantly growing for anywhere from two to eight years. A small percentage of hair follicles are in the catagen phase, a transitional period that lasts several weeks. The other 10 to 15 percent of your hair is in its resting or telogen phase, which lasts two to three months. Hair is shed at the end of the resting phase, and new hair takes its place to begin the growing phase once again. Hair grows at a rate of one-half inch per month, but this growth slows as we age.
The human scalp sheds about 50 to 100 hairs each day, so normal hair loss should not cause alarm. If your hair appears to be thinning appreciably, however, you may want to consult a hair restoration specialist to discuss hair loss prevention and other treatment options.
Hair Loss in Men
While male hair loss can be caused by a number of factors, the most common is genetics. Male balding, or male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia), is the primary cause of thinning hair in more than 95 percent of cases. Androgenetic alopecia can be inherited from either parent, and it can affect both men and women. Preventing hair loss is a major concern among many people with a family history of baldness. Fortunately, male hair loss treatment is readily available. The information on this page may be useful to men with thinning hair who are experiencing male pattern balding.
About Male Pattern Baldness (Androgenetic Alopecia)
Contrary to some popularly held beliefs about male hair loss, androgenetic alopecia can be inherited from either the mother's or father's side of the family. The manifestation of this genetic condition is also known as male pattern baldness. This balding begins with a receding hairline and thinning of the hair at the crown of the head. Eventually the receding hairline meets the balding crown. This leaves a horseshoe-like pattern of hair around the sides and back of the head.
Causes of Male Pattern Balding
Male hair loss is influenced by three factors: age, a genetic tendency towards baldness, and the presence of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). For men with DHT-sensitive hair follicles (the genetically inherited trait), high levels of DHT in the scalp cause the follicles to gradually shrink. The hair that is produced becomes thinner and loses pigmentation over time. Additionally, the growth phase of the hair follicles becomes shorter, and the individual hair strands do not have a chance to grow to full length. Eventually, some follicles will die and remaining hair will resemble peach fuzz. Interestingly, the hair follicles on the sides and lower back of the head are not affected by DHT, which is why the hair in these locations can be used for hair transplantation.
Hair Loss in Women
While there are a variety of factors that can cause female hair loss, the most common is genetics. Like men, hair loss in women can be caused by an inherited condition called androgenetic alopecia. Thinning hair in women can lead to female baldness. While this can be an unpleasant and emotionally draining condition, female hair loss treatment can help. This page discusses female hair loss and its various forms.
Androgenetic Alopecia - The Leading Cause of Hair Loss in Women
Androgenetic alopecia can be inherited from either side of the family. Hair loss in women usually begins after menopause, but it has been known to affect women in puberty as well. Overall, thinning hair in women is a common result of androgenetic alopecia, though female hair loss can be more pronounced on top of the head.
The reasons for female hair loss may have to do with declining levels of estrogen. Before menopause, estrogen counteracts a set of hormones called androgens, which turn into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). After menopause, more androgens are converted to DHT, which adversely affects some hair follicles in women who are genetically predisposed to this form of female hair loss. It is not known why female hair loss is diffuse, whereas male hair loss follows a distinct pattern.
Other Causes of Thinning Hair in Women
In addition to androgenetic alopecia, there are two other causes of female hair loss:
- Anagen Effluvium - Hair loss in women can be caused by medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, that poison the hair follicle, resulting in excessive hair loss.
- Telogen Effluvium - In certain cases, some women may experience excessive hair loss when an increased number of hairs enter the resting phase at the same time. This causes the hair to fall out and a new hair begins to grow in its place. This type of female hair loss can be caused by dieting, surgery, illness, thyroid problems, emotional stress, blood pressure medications, childbirth, or birth control pills.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Skin conditions such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis
- Physical trauma such surgery or serious medical problems
- Significant weight loss within a short timespan
- Overconsumption of vitamin A
Female Hair Loss Treatment
Hair loss in women can be remedied. There are a large number of options for female hair loss treatment. Surgical hair loss solutions such as hair transplants are becoming more and more common. There are non-surgical treatments available as well, such as laser hair loss treatment, hair loss products, and hair replacement pieces.
Hair Loss Causes
Hair loss is a naturally occurring phenomenon. As some hair falls out, new hair will grow to replace it. However, hair loss may be accelerated by a number of conditions, such as menopause, alopecia areata, and physiological changes after chemotherapy, pregnancy, or surgery. Hair loss can affect men or women, as well as children.
Although there are treatments for hair loss, including the use of hair loss medications, laser hair restoration, and hair transplants, hair loss can seriously affect a person's confidence. Below you will find information on a variety of possible hair loss causes. Knowing the cause of your hair loss can help specialists formulate a hair restoration plan that will work for you.
Highly unpredictable, alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin disease that causes hair loss on the scalp as well as other areas of the body. This disease affects more than 5 million people in the United States alone. In people who suffer from alopecia areata, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, which halts hair growth.
Alopecia areata often begins with small, smooth, round bald spots that appear on the scalp. This can develop into total hair loss on a person's scalp and may result in the loss of all body hair. Alopecia areata occurs in males and females of all ages and races and often begins in childhood.
After Major Surgery
Hair loss may occur in patients who undergo major surgery. About three or four months after major surgery or a serious illness, patients may lose a large amount of hair. This type of hair loss is the result of stress associated with the illness, and the hair loss is often temporary.
Hair loss is normal after major surgery, so it is important for patients to speak to their surgeon about this possible side effect before undergoing the surgery. If you would like to know more about hair loss after major surgery and ways to treat it, consult a hair restoration specialist.
Cancer Treatment - Chemotherapy
Hair loss is a common and unfortunate side effect of chemotherapy. Hair loss after chemotherapy can cause hair loss on many different areas of the body, including the scalp, the face, the underarms, and the pubic area. Hair loss after chemotherapy occurs over a period of days or weeks and can result in either thinning and slight hair loss or complete loss of hair. Hair loss after chemotherapy is temporary, and growth of new hair usually occurs six to eight weeks after treatment.
Approximately one-third of women report noticeable hair loss during menopause. Hair loss during menopause is caused by a drop in estrogen, resulting in an imbalance in testosterone. This hormonal imbalance causes a loss of hair on the head and hair growth in other areas. Hair loss caused by menopause is usually temporary and generally improves over time.
After Pregnancy and Childbirth
During pregnancy, increased estrogen levels cause women to experience a period of stimulated hair growth. Because of this, many women notice increased hair loss after pregnancy, experiencing some level of hair loss approximately three to six months after delivery. Hair loss after pregnancy is common and shows that the body is adjusting as hormone levels return to normal.
When the body is in crisis, as it is during hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, the body's hair cells may shut down as the energy is redirected to other parts of the body. During thyroid disease, the hair thins, falls out, and often changes in texture. Hair loss as a result of thyroid disease is treatable and should therefore be considered a temporary condition.
Yasmin® and Other Birth Control Pills
Changes in women's hormone levels can affect both hair growth and hair loss. Birth control pills contain estrogen and may result in a hormonal imbalance. Hair loss caused by contraceptives typically doesn't last long, and any hair that is lost will grow back. If a person does experience hair loss due to the use of Yasmin® or other birth control pills, this hair loss can usually be corrected by switching to another brand of oral contraceptive. Hair loss has also been known to occur when a person discontinues use of certain birth control pills.
Accutane® and Other Prescription Medication
Certain prescription drugs such as Accutane® can result in different levels of hair loss. Before taking any type of prescription medication, it is important to ask the physician about any potential side effects. Apart from hair loss, certain prescription drugs may also cause depression, heart problems, high blood pressure, arthritis, and other side effects.
Hair loss caused by iron deficiency or anemia can take place suddenly or over a long period of time. If the amount of iron needed by the body is not replaced through proper nourishment, non-essential stores will be used up, resulting in hair loss. Iron deficiency is common to women during menstruation and pregnancy and can be corrected through proper diet or iron supplements.
Hereditary hair loss is known as androgenetic alopecia. This genetic hair loss condition commonly referred to as pattern balding or pattern baldness can occur in both men and women.
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a derivative of testosterone. Elevated levels of DHT can cause hair follicles to shrink and perhaps stop producing hair. DHT can sometimes be a factor in genetic hair loss and can result in the loss of hair located in the front of the scalp. Hair on the back and sides of a person's scalp will not be affected by DHT.
Improper Hair Care
If used too often, a variety of chemical treatments (e.g., hair dyes, perms, bleaches, tints, and hair straighteners) can damage a person's hair and result in some level of hair loss. In addition, hairstyles that pull at the hair such as braids or ponytails can also result in hair loss.
Severe illnesses (often those which are accompanied by high fever) can also cause hair loss. A high fever or similar illness causes the hair cells to shut down, resulting in hair shedding. This type of hair loss is temporary, and lost hair should eventually grow back.
As with hair loss caused by severe illness, those who suffer chronic illnesses may experience some level of hair loss or hair shedding. Hair loss caused by chronic illness is often related to stress associated with the illness. Hair loss that occurs following chronic illness is usually temporary.
Protein deficiencies can cause a person's body to conserve protein by signaling hair to switch to a resting phase, halting hair growth and potentially causing hair loss. Protein malnutrition causes similar hair loss and hair growth problems as iron deficiency. Hair loss due to protein deficiency can be corrected with a proper diet.
A contagious fungal infection, ringworm can affect a person's scalp, body, feet, and nails. Ringworm can cause hair loss if the infection invades the skin of the scalp. Once the infection is treated, hair growth will resume.
Hair Loss Prevention
Hair loss is a circumstance that literally affects millions of men and women in the United States, as well as across the globe. While female hair loss may not be as apparent as male pattern baldness, there are a number of different hair loss causes and corresponding hair restoration remedies available to women. In some cases, the conditions that cause female hair loss can be treated with a doctor-prescribed medication, preventing further hair loss. For males, hair loss treatment options include hair restoration products and medical hair restoration.
Hair Loss Treatment Products
While there are a multitude of products purporting to be the next "hair loss cure," there are only two FDA-approved, non-surgical hair restoration treatments available: Rogaine® (minoxidil) and Propecia® (finasteride). These two products can be effective in hair loss prevention, and may even help to regrow hair for some men. However, once you start using Rogaine® or Propecia®, you must continue to use these products indefinitely, otherwise any new hair will fall out. Fortunately, there are other, more permanent treatments available to improve the appearance of thinning hair.
Medical Hair Restoration
Medical hair restoration is the name given to a group of surgical hair loss treatments designed to reduce baldness in men. There are several hair replacement procedures used to accomplish this, including hair transplant grafting, flap surgery, scalp reduction, and scalp expansion.
Locate a Hair Loss Specialist through DocShop
The information presented above is intended to describe the basics of hair loss and hair loss prevention and restoration treatment options. If you are experiencing thinning hair or hair loss, DocShop can locate a skilled hair loss treatment specialist near you.