Have you been noticing a bit more thatch on the shower floor or your brush lately? You’re not alone. By the time 50% of men reach 35, their hair has begun to thin. Fast forward 15 years and that figure climbs to 85%. Hair loss is a common condition that affects both men and women at some time in their life. While it’s normal to shed some hair on a daily basis, many people may experience excessive hair loss in either patches, or all over the scalp, at some time in in their lives.
Hair is in a constant cycle of growth, rest and renewal, which generally lasts for two to three years. Hairs grow about 1cm per month and almost all of the hair on the scalp is growing at any one time. About 10 per cent of the hair on your head is in each a resting phase at which point it will fall out after three or four months and new hair grows in its place. It's normal to lose about 50 to 100 hairs from your head in one day. Balding occurs when hair loss exceeds the rate of hair growth.
CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS:
There are many possible causes of hair loss. Some result in temporary hair loss, while others may have longer-term effects.
The most common cause of hair loss in men is androgenetic hair loss. Androgenetic hair loss is caused by androgen hormones (produced in different amounts by both men and women) and occurs in people with a genetic susceptibility. In men, hair loss commonly results in a receding hair line and baldness on the top of the head. In females, hair loss typically appears as thinning at the front, sides or crown.
Some other causes of hair loss include:
- Hormonal changes caused by thyroid disease, childbirth or the birth-control pill
- Alopecia areata - an autoimmune disorder where inflammation of the hair follicles causes patches of baldness.
- Medications such as those used in cancer chemotherapy or oral retinoids (medication used to treat skin conditions) or medical treatments (such as radiation therapy) may lead to temporary hair loss.
- Hair treatments such as over-bleaching or use of harsh dyes and chemicals
- Burns or injuries
- Scalp infections, such as the fungal infection Tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp) can cause hair loss
- Certain skin diseases such as lichen planus or lupus
- Long-term illness, major surgery and high fever may cause temporary hair loss.
TREATMENT OF HAIR LOSS
Although there is no cure for hair loss, a number of treatments can slow or reduce hair loss, stimulate partial regrowth or replace damaged hair. Two effective medications to help slow down hair loss are:
Minoxidil: A number of different brands are available from pharmacies without a prescription, such as Regaine and Minoxidil. Drops are applied to the scalp morning and night and rubbed in. It helps to stimulate the hair follicles. There is also a new Regaine foam preparation that appears to be easier to use and just as effective. Hair regrowth generally takes six months to appear. People considering using Minoxidil should tell their pharmacist if they are taking any other medicines, especially high-blood-pressure medication. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not use Minoxidil.
Finasteride (Propecia): a prescription pill that slows hair loss by interfering with the production of a male hormone linked to baldness called DHT. Women should not use Finasteride. The drug will slow hair loss in about 80 per cent of men and in some cause stimulate partial hair regrowth, but can take up to two years to be visible. Propecia does require a prescription from your doctor.
Topical DHT blockers: Revivogen scalp solution claims to work at the root of the hair follicle, using natural ingredients to block the production of DHT.
Some naturopathic treatments focus on addressing the hypersensitivity of hair follicles to the male hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT slows down hair production and produces weaker and shorter hair. Formulations such as zinc, essential fatty acids and saw palmetto attempt to reduce the conversion of testosterone to DHT and can help to delay the hair loss process. Supplements with such ingredients include Carusos's Hair More and Blackmores Bio Zinc. Other supplements address nutritional deficiencies such as Caruso's Figaro Hair Food Plus and Hairdresser’s Formula Hair Nutrition For Men. Thickening shampoos are also available such as Foltene and Revivogen.
Surgical procedures such as hair transplants and scalp reduction are also available but tend to be expensive and painful. Cosmetic options include wigs and hairpieces that can help disguise hair loss.