Hair loss and baldness
A thick, full crop of hair is something we associate with youth – so it can be distressing for many men (and women) when hair starts to fall out.
Partial and full hair loss can be caused by many things, and it affects both men and women. In fact, most people will experience some sort of hair loss at some point in their life. Hereditary factors are the biggest culprit and permanent hair loss is the result of both genetic and hormonal factors.
Other things - such as medical conditions – can also be a cause, such as temporary hair loss during chemotherapy.
Alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disorder, also causes hair loss. Hormonal changes, such as the birth control pill, thyroid disease and childbirth can also cause hair loss, as can rough handling of the hair - brushing too vigorously or rolling hair curlers too tightly.
Unfortunately, if customers are genetically predisposed to it, there’s nothing that can be done to stop it. For most people, hair loss is relatively mild and happens later in life as they age. Premature hair loss – the bane of the young man – can be rapid or severe.
When hair loss is temporary, it is known as telogen effluvium. Hair loss is only permanent when the follicle or root of the hair are damaged. Damaging the hair shaft doesn’t affect hair loss at all – only damage to the root has long-term effects.
Hair loss occurs when the root (the living part of the hair) or the follicle are damaged. The follicle is a tube of skin cells (like a pouch) that holds the hair root. The hair root is anchored to the base of the follicle, which supplies the root with nutrients and oxygen, as well as sebum – an oily substance that lubricates the hair shaft.
Most people are unaware that the only living part of hair is actually the root – the shaft is ‘dead’.
There’s a difference between problematic hair loss and normal hair loss – it is actually natural to lose a little bit of hair each day. Why? Because your hair is in a constant cycle of growth, rest and renewal. Your hair grows in phases, and about 1 in 10 hairs is in the rest stage at any one time.
Male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia) is the most common cause of hair loss. The male sex hormone testosterone is the culprit, as it actively targets the hair follicles.
Over time, the hair follicles are damaged. The hair shaft reduces down until all that’s left is a short, fine down. Because women have very low levels of testosterone, they generally don’t suffer from androgenic alopecia. There’s no cure for male pattern baldness, but it can be treated.
Female pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) is caused by a few different things, including ageing, genetic predisposition and increased levels of endocrine hormones. In rare cases, thyroid disease is a cause in females.
Unlike in men, hair loss in women tends to be thinning over the top of the scalp rather than a patch of baldness. Around 20% of women develop moderate or severe hair loss. Minor patterned hair loss is experienced by about 55% of women as they age.
Not all is lost (excuse the pun). There are many treatments on the market that successfully slow or reduce hair loss, as well as replace damaged hair and stimulate regrowth.
Topical products and oral medications include minoxidil lotion and finasteride medication, which are available on prescription. There are also cosmetic options, such as hair transplant surgery and many clinics offering various hair replacement programs.
Wearing a wig is also a real option – wigs these days are not the nasty, synthetic looking ones of old. They can be manufactured using real hair and be custom made. There are also several hand-held laser products on the market that come with guarantees against further hair loss as well as significant hair regrowth.
It is commonly thought that the following cause hair loss, however the effects of the below either have little direct effect or the effects are highly exaggerated:
- wearing a hat;
- frequent hair washing;
- perming or colouring your hair;
- vitamin and mineral deficiencies; and
- drug use (such as alchohol or cigarettes).
By Sunny de Bruyn