Hair Loss: Can You Prevent or Cure Hair Loss?
It is estimated that the average human sheds 100 hairs a day, this is normally due to brushing hairs or washing in the shower. Which means over the course of the year you have managed to lose just under 37,000 hairs - disgusting right? In these articles we try to cover common conditions ranging from your head to your toes, so this week we are having a look at the very top and discussing hair loss. Hair loss is something that most of us reading this will have some sort of experience with as we have grown older. But I am here to tell you it is not all bad, thankfully there are many different types of treatment that can help maintain what you have left on your barnet, alternatively you can shave it all off and be proud of what you have.
What Causes Hair Loss?
Hair loss is the gradual decreasing coverage of your scalp due to your hair falling out. There are a multitude of reasons why it can happen to you but the biggest contributing factor is a result of getting older. Men normally lose their hair when three main factors interact: genetics, age, and hormones. Also known as androgenetic alopecia, male-pattern baldness happens as hormone levels change over the course of a man’s life. These factors contribute to the gradual shrinkage of the tiny cavities in the skin at the base of hairs, known as scalp hair follicles. Hair grows progressively shorter and finer until no new hairs grow. Most white men develop some degree of baldness, according to their age and genetic makeup. Male pattern baldness affects up to half of all white men by the age of 50 years and up to 80 percent of men in the same group by the age of 70 years. Other ethnic groups, such as Chinese and Japanese, are less affected.
Some types of hair loss are permanent, such as male and female pattern baldness- this type of hair loss is usually genetic (runs in the family). Other types of hair loss can be temporary and can be caused by several factors such as:
- An illness
- Some cancer treatments
- Weight loss
- Iron deficiency
How Do I Treat Hair Loss?
Minoxidil- a topical treatment applied to the scalp. It is available over the counter (OTC) at pharmacies, usually as a lotion or foam. It normally works best on the crown of the head. It may take 3 to 6 months for results to appear, and the medication must be used indefinitely to preserve effects. Adverse effects include skin problems, such as itching and irritation, swelling, sensitivity, and contact dermatitis. This can be used in both males and females.
Finasteride - an oral treatment available only on prescription. Finasteride is a 5-Alpha Reductase Inhibitor. It prevents dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male hormone that plays a role in shrinking the scalp hair follicles. The drug blocks the formation of this hormone in the scalp, slowing the progression of baldness related to DHT. The effects can take more than 6 months to appear. The 1 milligram (mg) tablet must usually be taken once a day for at least 3 months. If the pill is stopped, the effects will be reversed. In rare cases, finasteride can cause sexual dysfunction. This may include reduced libido, difficulty achieving an erection, and ejaculation disorders. Finasteride can only be used in males.
Hair transplant surgery - Hair transplantation involves taking hair from elsewhere and grafting it onto the scalp. The hairs in the lower part of the back of the scalp are more resistant to androgens, and so they are used in surgical transplants. The hair donated to balding areas remains resistant to the male hormones. Surgery involves either taking a strip of skin from another part of the head, complete with hair, to graft it onto the bald area (FUT) or transplanting individual hairs (FUE), which avoids scarring.
Wigs - Some wigs are available on the NHS, but you may have to pay unless you qualify for financial help.
- Last 6-9 months
- Easier to look after than real hair wigs
- Can be itchy and hot
- Cost less than real hair wigs
- Last 3-4 years
- Harder to look after compared to synthetic wigs
- Look more natural than synthetic wigs
- Cost more than synthetic wigs
Get Help For Your Hair Loss
Losing your hair usually isn't anything to be worried about, but it can understandably be upsetting. Hair can be an important part of who you are. If your hair loss is causing you distress, you can see your local GP to help you get some counselling. There is also a wide variety of support groups or speaking to others in an online forum.
Author: Matthew Jennings
Clinically Reviewed By:
Ibrahim Nakib BSc(Hons) MRPharmS