Hair Loss Prevention
The complexities of hair loss is something that subject matter experts have been debating for years. Although hair loss is more common in males – with the American Hair Loss Association estimating that two-thirds of men will likely experience some form of hair loss by the age of thirty-five, it is also common in females.
There is no hard and fast rule as to why we loss hair, as the underlying causes can include a range of different factors, some more related than others. This can include genetics, gender, age, medical conditions and hormonal changes, amongst others. In this comprehensive guide on hair loss prevention, we are going to cover the fundamentals.
This will begin by presenting an overview of why we experience hair loss, alongside some of the most common causes. Next, we will then explore some potential actions you can take to slow down the hair loss process. Finally, we will conclude by discussing some of the key cosmetic treatments that may be able to assist in hair loss prevention.
The most common types of hair loss
It is important to recognize that there are different type of hair loss patterns. Whilst these most commonly affect the hair on our scalp, more serious conditions can result in hair loss that affect other areas of the body. Let’s focus further on the most commonly seen types:
Male pattern baldness
When it comes to males, it is estimated that more than 95% of hair loss symptoms are associated with male pattern baldness (also known as Androgenetic Alopecia). Male pattern baldness most commonly begins at the hairline. Over the course of time, hair loss occurs gradually by receding backwards, subsequently forming an “M” shape.
As male pattern baldness becomes more severe, individuals often experience thinner, shorter and finer hair, which sometimes results in a “U” shaped pattern at the sides of the head.
Female pattern baldness
Androgenetic Alopecia can refer to a branch of hair loss that affects both males and females. Whilst Androgenetic Alopecia in males is known as male pattern baldness, in females it is commonly referred to as female pattern baldness.
Furthermore, although male pattern baldness most commonly starts to form at the front hairline and can result in complete baldness, female pattern baldness differs. This is because females rarely go completely bald, and hair loss is likely to begin at their part line, as well as around the temples.
Research suggests that female pattern baldness can be broken down in to three specific cases.
- Increased thinning around the part, which widens over time.
- At the top of the scalp, a see-through area begins to form as a result of thinning.
- Around the part, small amounts of thinning is experienced.
Female pattern baldness is estimated to affect 40% of females by the age of 50. Moreover, it is also believed that by the age of 80, only 45% of females are fortunate enough to have a full head of hair.
Alopecia Areata is a common disorder that is estimated to effect 147 million people globally. One of the fundamental symptoms centres on hair loss, which at the lower end can result in a few patches of hair being lost; and at the upper end, it can lead to complete hair loss across the entire body.
When hair loss does occur, the affected area is often smooth in nature, however some individuals have certain hairs left in place.
Although Alopecia Areata does not usually result in life threatening illnesses or pain, researchers at the American Academy of Dermatology argue that the condition can lead to further complications, notably in the form of additional autoimmune diseases.
Other Types of hair loss
Outside of the above hair loss conditions, there are also a range of other symptoms that many individuals experience.
- Patchy bald spots. Some individuals are accustomed to coin-sized bald patches in sporadic areas of the scalp and in rarer cases, it can also affect eyebrows or beards. Many also report cases of itchiness prior to the hair falling out.
- Gradual thinning at the very top of the head. This particular form of hair loss affects the top of the head. Although affecting both males and females, the hair loss process can differ. In males, the loss begins at the forehead and in females, this is usually at the part of the hair.
- Sudden hair loss. There are also cases where individuals experience rapid hair loss in a short period of time. This can include handfuls of hair that fall out during everyday activities, such as showering or combing. Evidence suggests that this particular form of hair loss can be the result of shock – both physical and/or emotional.
- Hair loss throughout the body. In certain instances, those that suffer medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, can experience complete hair loss through the entire body. However, it is important to note that in most cases, the hair eventually grows back.
- Ringworm is a form of fungal infection that affects the skin. In the case of hair loss, it can result in redness, swelling and broken hair. Moreover, ringworm can also lead to scaled patches across the scalp.
Once we covered some of the most common exhibits of hair loss, we are now going to explore some of the main causes.
Causes and symptoms of hair loss explained
Before delving in to the key causes of hair loss, it is entirely relevant to first understand the underlying mechanisms of how hair grows. Interestingly, apart from the soles and palms of our feet and hands respectively, hair grows throughout the human skin. It is estimated that the average male and female adult head contains in the region of 100,000 to 150,000 individual hairs. At the same time, adults lose on average 100 hairs every single day.
Within each strand of hair, a protein-based substance known as keratin is produced in hair follicles. These follicles have the ability to produce new hair cells, which replaces old cells at approximately 6 inches per year.
However, this life cycle of hair growth can vary quite significantly between individuals, with a variety of factors such as age and gender, amongst others, affecting it. This life cycle is most commonly broken down in to three stages.
- Anagen – Initially, active growth of the hair takes anywhere between 2 and 6 years.
- Catagen – A transitional hair growth period then takes about 2-3 weeks.
- Telogen – Finally, known as the “Resting Phase”, newly grown hair replaces the previously shed hair, which takes on average 2-3 months. Once this has occurred, the cycle repeats itself.
How does new hair grow back?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, natural hair growth most commonly consists of the following.
- Initially, located at the bottom of the follicle, hair begins the re-growing process from the root. These roots contain protein-based cells.
- In order to create the required cells that accelerate newly grown hair, the root is fed by blood vessels that are contained in your scalp.
- Next, upon passing through an oil gland, hair is pushed up via the skin. Interestingly, these oil glands are what makes your hair greasy when it is not washed regularly.
- When the hair reaches a large enough size that sees it poke out through the skin, the hair subsequently dies.
This cycle usually lasts for 4 weeks, before repeating itself.
Underlying factors that start hair loss
As previously mentioned, it is very common for the average adult to lose around 100-150 hairs every day. At these levels, you would not notice any considerable thinning of the hair, insofar that the hair growth cycle replaces hairs that are lost. On the contrary, noticeable hair loss occurs when the aforementioned cycle is disrupted.
If this is the case, then hair follicles are subsequently replaced with scar tissue. With that being said, there are still a plethora of reasons that may promote hair loss. Moreover, hair loss may be further accelerated when the following factors are combined:
Genetics – Family history of hair loss
Without a doubt, the most common cause of hair loss is based on genetics. Those that have a family history of hair loss are at most risk of suffering the condition themselves. Heredity-related hair loss is usually associated with either male pattern baldness (receding hair line) or female pattern baldness (thinning of the part).
Researchers that study the phenomenon of hereditary hair loss are often divided in opinion. Whilst it is often agreed that the gene responsible for hereditary hair loss is the X chromosome, the exact family link remains debated. However, the vast majority of evidence suggests that the hair loss hereditary link is most commonly derived from the female side of the family.
A sudden shift in the hormone cycle can also have a direct effect on hair loss. For example, during pregnancy, although some women experience thicker hair, others are not so fortunate. On the contrary, some women experience hair loss (or thinning hair) either during pregnancy, or in the few months after birth. However, in most cases the hair loss will only be temporary.
Certain medical conditions, such as the previously mentioned Alopecia Areata, can directly affect hair loss. Regarding the cause of Alopecia Areata, researchers believe that this has a direct link to family history, amongst other factors.
Medications and certain herbal supplements.
Certain medications or herbal supplements can have the undesired side effect of promoting hair loss. Although this can cover a wide range of medications, common hair loss causes are sometimes related to medications that contain anti-inflammation properties.
Stress and emotional/physical shock
In rarer cases, an emotional and/or physical shock, alongside severe stress, can lead to hair loss. If this is the case, this particular cause of hair loss occurs a few months after the shock. However, it is important to note that shock-related hair loss is usually only temporary.
Cosmetic products or tight hairstyles
Certain cosmetic products that contain hot oil can cause hair loss, as a result of inflammation of the hair follicles. This could be a permanent hair loss process if scars form. Moreover, certain hairstyles that are somewhat tight on the hair, such as pigtails or man buns, can lead to a type of hair loss known as “Traction Alopecia”.
Now that we have covered some of the most common symptoms related to hair loss, as well as a range of common causes, we are now going to discuss some potential measures you can take to prevent or slow down hair loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
What measures can I take for hair loss prevention?
It is important to note that none of the following measures are guaranteed to result in successful hair loss prevention. Moreover, if the hair loss is related to either male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness, then this is not preventable. Nevertheless, the following list of measures may be favorable for hair loss prevention.
- Avoid certain medications and/or herbal supplements that contain properties that may cause hair loss. If you are unsure, it is always best to consult a specialist.
- Tight hairstyles, including but not limited to ponytails, man buns or braids, should also be avoided.
- You should limit, or even better – completely avoid, certain hair treatments. This can include curling irons, straighteners or hot rollers. Moreover, treatments containing hot oil should also be avoided.
- Chemical hair treatments, such as the ones that dye the color of your hair, can also cause hair loss. Try to avoid them as much as possible or else restrict yourself to use Ammonia Free products as these are less aggressive.
- Sunlight (as well as other sources of ultraviolet light) can cause hair loss. In order to protect your hair, you should limit the amount of sun exposure it gets
- Although research is still in its infancy, certain studies have concluded that smoking can have a direct link to male baldness. Limiting or completely stopping smoking may prevent hair loss.
- Certain medical treatments such as chemotherapy can contribute to hair loss. It is a good idea to consult with your doctor, who may be able to give you a cooling cap. This may potentially prevent the hair loss from accelerating.
What cosmetic treatments can I undergo for hair loss prevention?
Although the above precautions can assist with hair loss prevention, you might also want to consider a cosmetic treatment, performed by a qualified professional. There are a range of potential options available to you, with each one depending on the underlying type of hair loss being experienced.
It is important to note that not everyone is going to be suitable for cosmetic treatment. If this is something that you are considering, it is highly advisable to first go through a consultation meeting with a professional. They will, not only be able to diagnose the problem, but they will also be able to explain to you the best treatment available, alongside any expected results.
Modern hair transplant treatments have come a long way since they were first introduced in the 1950s. There are a number of approaches that a hair transplant can take, however in most cases this is either follicular unit extraction (FUE) or follicular unit transplantation (FUT) surgery.
Both types of surgeries have their advantages and disadvantages and the choice of procedure should be based on the professional’s assessment of the individual patient.
Irrelevant of which surgery patients opt for, the procedure will usually result in the patient’s transplanted hair falling out 4-6 weeks after surgery, with the new hair visible around 4 months after the surgery.
Medications such as Finasteride or Minoxidil
If after going through a consultation with a specialist, they feel certain medications may be able to assist with hair loss prevention, then it might involve either Finasteride or Minoxidil. The former is an oral medication that usually takes 3 months before results are noticed. When Finasteride is taken, it attempts to block the production of the hormone responsible for hair loss. Nevertheless, the possible side effects should be thoroughly explained to the patient before opting for this form of treatment.
Regarding Minoxidil, this is a solution that is applied directly to the patient’s scalp. It is hoped that this will stimulate the growth of hair follicles, as well as slow down the rate at which the hair is being lost. Although less drastic than Finasteride, the potential side effects should be discussed beforehand.
PRP hair restoration
PRP, which stands for Platelet-Rich-Plasma, is a treatment that aims to re-stimulate natural hair growth. The main process sees the specialist draw blood from the patient in the same way as when patients undergo a blood test. The PRP is then extracted from the blood after undergoing treatment in a centrifuge machine and then re-injected into the patient’s scalp using very fine and small needles. In doing so, it is hoped that the patient’s hair will increase in thickness. It is to be noted that no new hair follicles will be created through the PRP process and thus the intention is to strengthen the current hairs of the patient.
Most patients undergo a PRP hair restoration multiple times, not only to maximize results, but also to maintain them.