If you are experiencing or interested in hair loss/thinning hair, this article will guide you through all aspects related to hair loss and hair regrowth. Let’s begin!
Fans of the television classic Sex and the City will always see actress Kristin Davis as the radiant Charlotte York. After all, who could forget that charming smile or gorgeous head of hair?
Reality hasn’t been quite as glamorous for Davis, unfortunately. The actress noticed an increase in hair loss after the show ended, and the hair thinning only worsened with age.
Davis is far from a unique case. 1 in 4 American women suffers from some form of hair thinning, with 40% showing visible signs of hair loss by age 50.
The numbers aren’t any better for men. More than 2/3 of the population experience visible hair loss by age 35, with 85% of American men suffering noticeable hair thinning by age 50. Even worse, most of these cases begin at puberty or before the sufferer even reaches age 21.
Though hair loss is not a disease and not life-threatening, its impact on mental health can be seriously devastating. Most cultures equate a full head of hair with youth, beauty, and virility — losing your locks can, therefore, be seen as a very visible sign that everything is going downhill from here on out.
Ironically, complaining about hair loss and wanting to seek treatment is normally ridiculed by society at large, since it can be seen as a sign of vanity. Suffering in silence, however, can only make things worse and take a serious emotional and mental toll.
Celebrity hairstylist James Brown saw his own battle with hair loss as a shameful secret. The stress of revealing his bald spot gave the popular hairdresser panic attacks every time he had to take off his hat.
Brown is not alone — millions suffer from hair loss and its heavy emotional impact is often overlooked.
Researchers from a German university found that hair loss can contribute to mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, social phobia, and body dysmorphia. Studies have also shown that 40% of women suffering from hair loss experience marital problems, while 63% feel that it impact their careers negatively.
Given all of this information, there is simply no good reason to write off hair loss as simply a matter of vanity, and the treatments available may be cosmetic but are in reality long-reaching in their overall impact on health.
- 1 What causes hair loss in men/women?
- 1.1 Genetics – Most Popular Cause of Men’s Baldness
- 1.2 Harsh Styling will increase hair fall
- 1.3 Scalp Infections – cause of hair breakage and bald patches
- 1.4 Telogen effluvium – Physical and Emotional Stress cause hair thinning
- 1.5 Involutional alopecia – Aging is also causing hair loss
- 1.6 Trichotillomania – “Hair-pulling” Disorder
- 2 What are the types and symptoms of hair loss?
- 3 How to stop hair loss and faster regrow hair effectively?
- 4 How to stop hair loss immediately?
What causes hair loss in men/women?
It’s not easy trying to get to the bottom of hair loss, especially since most of us don’t know much about the growth process in the first place. To fully understand what causes hair loss, we must first look into the natural growth cycle of scalp hair.
The average human head has 100,000 hair follicles, approximately. Each follicle can produce around 20 strands in its lifetime.
Here’s the fun thing: these follicles all function independently of one another. They go through the phases of the growth cycle at different times — which is a good thing, because you don’t want all your hair going through the “shedding” phase at the same time, do you?
There are three phases of the growth cycle of scalp hair: anagen, catagen, and telogen.
Anagen is the “growing” phase, which can last for three to five years. (Interestingly, the phase can go on for as long as 7 years for Asians.) As the name suggests, hair grows continuously during this stage, gaining around half an inch per month.
In the second phase, the hair reaches its peak and stops growing. This is the catagen phase, a transitional “resting” phase that can last for two weeks to two months.
Hair then undergoes its final “shedding” stage known as telogen and falls out.
This is why it’s perfectly normal to find hair on your brush or circling the drain post-shower. The average person loses between 50 to 100 strands of hair daily. Just run your fingers quickly through your hair and you’ll probably end up with a few strands falling out.
It’s a completely negligible amount of hair to lose. After all, the human head has 100,000 to 150,000 hair strands on it at any given time.
Losing more than 120 to 150 strands of hair per day, though? That’s excessive shedding and a definite cause for concern.
You see, a healthy human being should have around 80% to 90% of their hair follicles in the anagen stage, with the remainder either resting or shedding. Disruptions to the hair growth cycle can mess up that ratio, leading to hair loss.
So what are these factors that can disrupt the growth cycle? Here are some of the most common causes of hair loss.
Genetics – Most Popular Cause of Men’s Baldness
One of the most popular myths concerning hair loss claims that it can only be handed down through the maternal side of the family.
A half-truth, it turns out, as male pattern baldness — the most common form of hair loss for men — can actually be inherited from either parent. Double jeopardy!
The key to understanding male pattern baldness is in its official name: androgenetic alopecia. A person born with this condition is genetically more sensitive to the effects of a particular androgen known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT disrupts the natural growth cycle of the hair, shortening the duration of the anagen phase from years to just months. Even worse, the follicles shrink and weaken with every growth cycle, until it just stops producing hair altogether.
It’s worth noting that genetics may also play a major role in female pattern hair loss, though the jury is still out on whether or not androgens are also involved.
Harsh Styling will increase hair fall
A ponytail seems like the most innocuous thing in the world, but beware — this hairstyle can be quite damaging to your hairline.
In 1907, scientists from Greenland discovered that women who wore their hair in tight ponytails ended up with noticeable hair loss along the hairline. The condition is called traction alopecia — a form of hair loss resulting from repetitive rough treatment.
The high and tight ponytail isn’t the only culprit here. Other hairstyles like cornrows, braids, and dreadlocks can be just as rough on the follicles. In fact, even the practice of putting your hair up in rollers overnight can contribute to traction alopecia.
That’s not all; other harsh methods like bleaching, chemical treatments, and excessive heat styling eventually take their toll on the hair, leading to breakage and volume loss over time.
Scalp Infections – cause of hair breakage and bald patches
Sometimes, the problem isn’t what’s underneath — it’s the scalp itself. A variety of infections can take over your scalp, leading to skin lesions and hair loss.
The most common infection is ringworm — a total misnomer given that no worms are involved in this situation at all. It’s a fungal infection that can appear anywhere on the body, but once on the scalp, it can lead to hair breakage and bald patches.
Another one to watch out for: folliculitis. This inflammation of the hair follicles is usually caused by a bacterial infection, though poor hygiene can also be a contributing factor. Severe inflammation can permanently damage the follicles, resulting in bald patches all over the scalp.
Telogen effluvium – Physical and Emotional Stress cause hair thinning
It’s a commonly held belief that stress plays a significant role in sudden hair loss, and science might just have the data to back that up.
Though no tests have been conducted on human subjects so far, two separate studies (one on mice, another on macaque monkeys) found that stress does have a noticeable effect on the health of hair follicles.
High levels of a stress hormone called cortisol can push the follicles into a premature catagen phase, resulting in greater hair fall volume approximately two months after a stressful life event. This type of hair loss is known as telogen effluvium.
An illness, a car accident, surgery, pregnancy, or even a high fever — all of these can be considered physically traumatic and may trigger the condition. Telogen effluvium is not limited to the physical, however. Emotionally disturbing experiences like divorce or getting laid off can be just as stressful, causing the body’s cortisol level to skyrocket.
Involutional alopecia – Aging is also causing hair loss
It’s not unusual to find your hair thinning with age. Known as involutional alopecia (and sometimes referred to as senescent alopecia), this type of hair loss is expected and perfectly normal.
As you grow older, you’ll notice that your hair strands are becoming finer and more prone to breakage. Your follicles start spending less time in the growth phase and more time either “resting” or “shedding”.
With involutional alopecia, it’s important to note that hair growth isn’t entirely stunted. The strands that appear, however, tend to be weak and brittle, which is why it’s usually difficult for the elderly to grow their hair long.
Trichotillomania – “Hair-pulling” Disorder
When people think about hair loss, they rarely think of mental illness as the cause. Though less commonly discussed, there definitely are mental disorders that can lead to hair loss, such as trichotillomania.
Known as the “hair-pulling” disorder, trichotillomania sufferers constantly have the urge to pull out strands of their own hair. It’s an obsessive practice that can begin at puberty and become a lifelong problem.
Most sufferers pull out hair from any area of the body, but the scalp is typically the most targeted, leading to obvious bald patches and short stubby hairs jutting out.
What are the types and symptoms of hair loss?
At first, it seems straightforward enough — what more symptom can you expect from hair loss other than just straight up baldness?
In reality, there’s more to hair loss than just, well, losing hair.
The causes of hair loss are many and varied, which each one presenting its own set of symptoms.
Specialists look for these characteristics to help them identify what sort of hair loss they are dealing with and decide which treatment to recommend.
Hair Thinning – Androgenic Alopecia
Androgenic alopecia — more popularly known as male pattern baldness — is responsible for 95% of male hair loss cases, making it the most common type of hair loss for men. Its main symptom is a gradual thinning of the hair in a very specific and recognizable pattern.
Male pattern hair loss starts off with noticeable hair thinning near the temples, followed by a receding hairline. Over time, this thinning extends to the crown, leaving the top bald but the sides and the rear full.
Women who suffer from female pattern baldness don’t get the familiar “wreath” that their male counterparts do. Instead, they get a more diffused type of hair thinning, starting with their natural part and slowly progressing all over the head.
Bald Spots – Alopecia Areata & Tina Capitis
Thinning hair is the most common symptom for those who suffer hair loss, but there are certain types that can present as bald spots rather than diffused thinning.
*** Take alopecia areata, for example. It’s an auto-immune disease wherein the body mistakenly attacks and damages the hair follicles, resulting in circular bald spots or patchy hair loss.
Eventually, the hair follicles get so damaged that the strands fall out, leaving smooth bald spots on the scalp. The skin itself isn’t red or inflamed and shows no scarring, but there is total hair loss in the affected area.
In some cases, the follicles are damaged but the hair strands don’t completely fall out. Instead, they become very weak and fragile so the spots aren’t bald but get short stubby hairs. This contributes to the “patchy” look.
*** Scalp infections can also cause bald spots.
Tinea capitis, also known as ringworm, usually starts out as a small pimple on the scalp.
The fungal infection spreads and damages the hair follicles, breaking hair strands and eventually causing hair loss in patches.
Unlike alopecia areata, however, the patchy areas aren’t smooth and normal-looking.
Instead, the affected spots are red, scaly, inflamed, and usually very itchy. In some cases, the patches can even blister and start oozing.
Excessive Hair Shedding
Because hair shedding is normal, this symptom of hair loss isn’t immediately obvious to others. There is no obvious baldness of the crown, and there are no patchy bald spots either.
Instead one may notice more hair left on the hairbrush or falling out in clumps after washing. Even a gentle tug can result in noticeable hair fall.
There is also a significant weakening of hair strands, with the remaining hair becoming more prone to breakage.
It can also feel a lot thinner and less dense due to the serious volume loss. Gathering the hair up in a ponytail reveals the extent of hair loss.
Can Dandruff cause hair loss and baldness?
Hair loss and dandruff are closely linked, specifically for those suffering from seborrheic dermatitis. Over-production of oil on the scalp can lead to irritation and inflammation, and the hair follicles eventually get clogged.
Affected areas on the scalp start to itch and peel off, leading to noticeable white and yellow dandruff flakes. Excess sebum on the scalp clogs and irritates the follicles until the hair strands become visibly weakened and start to fall off.
How to stop hair loss and faster regrow hair effectively?
Hair loss can be temporary, particularly when it is the result of telogen effluvium. The condition is the result of sudden physical or emotional distress, and triggering life events can include dietary changes, illness, or pregnancy.
Once the stressful event is over and the excessive hair shedding is complete, the hair follicles will likely return to normal function. The regrowth takes time to be noticeable, however, as hair grows at a very frustrating pace.
But what of cases wherein hair loss is a lot more serious and needs more help than just time and patience?
Hair loss resulting from androgenic alopecia, scarring, or alopecia areata will require treatment to either stop the thinning or regain hair density. Of course, hair loss is not life-threatening and treatment technically is not “required”.
That said, the emotional and psychological burden of hair loss can take a toll, thereby validating the importance of treatment.
Given the connection of hair thinning to mental health issues like anxiety and depression, seeking professional help for cosmetic reasons isn’t simply vanity but an absolute necessity.
There are many treatment options available for hair loss. The key here is to find one that suits your particular situation and preference.
Choosing Best Hair Growth Shampoo and Conditioner
What can a bottle of shampoo do for someone suffering from hair loss? It’s not going to plant strands of hair on the head like surgery can, but it can promote regrowth through other means.
Topical application and regular use make the shampoo a lot more likely to deliver the necessary nutrients and compounds straight to the scalp and hair follicles. Taking supplements orally is good, but it does take longer through the body before it can work its benefits to the scalp itself.
Most of the shampoos can also contain fewer actives for higher absorption efficiency, so there is overall less risk involved than when taking oral supplements.
It’s a great way to bring the right ingredients straight to the affected areas.
The simplicity of using proper shampoo daily to help hair loss sufferers makes it the treatment option with the most significant impact, with the lowest possible risk involved.
Other treatment options come with a high cost and a host of side effects, so a good hair growth shampoo and conditioner should be your first recourse and must be considered first if you are in a budget.
It helps to first understand what regular shampoos can do to the hair in order to see the importance of getting the right shampoo when you’re suffering from hair loss. Most of the brands available commercially have ingredients that can damage the hair.
A lot of these shampoos contain silicone and sulfates that are supposed to make the hair look silkier and shinier. However, these ingredients coat the hair and clog the follicles with regular use. The residue can slow down the natural growth cycle of hair and contribute to hair loss.
Shampoos should be gentle on the hair, even while cleansing. It shouldn’t strip the hair of its natural oils as this can lead to breakage and hair fall. Make sure that the shampoo you’re using doesn’t have harsh fragrances, dyes, or preservatives.
Instead, look for ingredients that can keep the scalp healthy. Ingredients like biotin, vitamin E, and amino acids can help strengthen the hair strands.
Ginseng — another key ingredient for hair care — has antioxidants that can counteract the effects of free radicals and inflammation.
A healthy scalp has stronger hair strands, making the hair look thicker and fuller. It can also stop further hair thinning since it prevents the strands from becoming fragile and breaking off prematurely.
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Using Natural Supplements For Hair Thickness
As mentioned earlier, hair loss caused by telogen effluvium requires no real treatment, as the strands of hair will regrow on their own.
Unfortunately, hair grows way too slowly and waiting for it to return to its natural fullness can take a lot of time. This can lead to a lot of self-consciousness, especially given society’s judgmental view towards hair loss.
The good news is that there are supplements that can help make hair regrowth a lot faster. Of course, eating a balanced diet with sufficient protein content should help make hair stronger and longer, but not everyone can get all the nutrients they need from food, so supplements come in quite handy in that regard.
First up is biotin — a B-complex vitamin that strengthens the hair, skin, nails. It reinforces the protein structure of hair strands, making them thicker and less fragile. It aids in hair regrowth and can help prevent hair loss.
In fact, a diet low in B vitamins can and often does result in hair loss.
Omega-3 is another important supplement to take, as it helps maintain follicular health. It is best when combined with vitamin A and vitamin C to encourage healthy sebum production and protect the natural oils of the scalp.
Minerals like zinc and selenium can also improve scalp health through cell and tissue repair. Other supplements to consider for better and stronger hair: vitamin E, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and amino acids.
Minoxidil and Finasteride – Hair Growth Medication Treatments
Minoxidil is a topical treatment in lotion form, applied directly to the affected areas. Though research shows it can slow down hair loss and may even contribute to hair regrowth.
The long-term findings have not been very promising.
Once the use of minoxidil is stopped, the hair loss resumes and any growth that may have set in will eventually fall out. The good news is that minoxidil has shown better results for women with female pattern hair loss, though it takes time to show any improvements.
The other medication prescribed for hormone-related hair loss is finasteride, more commonly known as Propecia. Initially tested as prostate medication, researchers found that one of its effects was hair growth.
This is because a 1mg dose of finasteride can lower DHT — the androgen that weakens and miniaturizes hair follicles — by as much as 60% if taken regularly.
Though efficient, finasteride has a number of side effects like dizziness, weakness, impotence, skin rashes, and more. Even worse, the side effects can continue even after the use of the drug is halted.
Taking Hair Transplant Surgery For Your Hair Loss
Undergoing surgery to treat hair loss is much more invasive than any other options, so it usually becomes the last resort. There are different types of surgery, depending on the patient’s specific condition. It is recommended to speak to a specialist before making a decision.
Hair transplant is one of the more well-known options since it’s been available since the 1950s. Of course, constant research regarding this type of surgery has led to an improvement in methods over the years.
There are two options for hair transplantation. The first option is Follicular Unit Strip Surgery (FUSS), wherein the surgeon will remove a strip the scalp, usually from the back of the head. The second option is the Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), wherein the surgeon removes hair follicles one by one.
Whether you go for FUSS or FUE, however, the surgery will require the doctor to painstakingly insert the grafts into small slits on the scalp. Some surgeons will even do “grading” — a method wherein thicker hairs are planted on the back, while fine strands will be placed up front to make it look more natural.
The transplanted hair will fall out but regrowth is expected.
Because the treatment is invasive, it can sometimes lead to follicle inflammation and infection. Some patients will also have to undergo the treatment more than once to get the results they desire.
A controversial alternative is the use of synthetic fibers for hair implantation. It’s a risky treatment with numerous side effects, prompting the USFDA to ban the use of artificial hair for transplantation.
The treatment risks side effects such as dermatitis, allergic reactions, recurring infections, and cyst formation, among others
Another surgical option is scalp reduction, though this has fallen out of favor in recent years. The process can be done in conjunction with the FUSS type of hair transplantation, though it can also be conducted on its own.
Scalp reduction is commonly recommended for hair loss sufferers with baldness at the crown. A Y-shaped cut is made on the top of the head and the bald areas of the scalp are removed. The hairy parts of the head are then sewn closer together.
The procedure is very painful, can damage nerve endings, and often causes serious scarring. As such, it is no longer a recommended treatment, though it can still be undertaken for extreme cases.
The resulting look also isn’t that flattering, as the cut and sew method doesn’t guarantee the most natural finish.
How to stop hair loss immediately?
There’s really no way to get to the bottom of your hair loss concerns unless you find out what’s causing it, so the first step to take is to see a specialist.
The right trichologist — a professional specializing in hair and scalp care — can figure out which condition is causing your hair loss and come up with the right treatment plan for you.
There’s no way to arrest hair loss immediately, especially if it is caused by sudden disruptions to the normal growth cycle of the hair.
There is no way to stop the excessive shedding that comes with telogen effluvium, for example, as the disruption leads follicles to shed prematurely.
However, there are ways to slow down the hair loss by taking better care of the scalp. Keeping a healthy environment for hair follicles and the strands to grow can minimize the damage, or at least slow it down.
The latest fashion for a lot of busy women is to use dry shampoo in lieu of actual shampooing. It saves time, but it also contributes to hair loss by slowing down hair growth.
See, dry shampoo isn’t really shampoo — it doesn’t clean anything. Instead, it contains ingredients that are designed to soak up oils and natural sebum.
The powder coats your hair strands and follicles in order to fake that fresh, clean feeling while slowly clogging your follicles and damaging the strands.
Regular use of dry shampoo can significantly damage your scalp’s health and lead to hair fall.
It also slows down hair regrowth and helps to avoid irritating ingredients in your regular shampoo, like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
It strips your hair of its natural oils and protein, eventually drying out the scalp and leading to hair damage.
Your best bet is to find a shampoo that helps enrich your scalp and provide it with the nutrients it needs, like biotin. It’s a vitamin B complex but is sometimes referred to as vitamin H, and it is vital to the health of your skin, nails, and hair.
Your hair needs biotin to metabolize amino acids, which in turn can strengthen hair and prevent damage that leads to hair fall.
Don’t fall for yo-yo dieting or other fad diets that require you to give up entire food groups like carbohydrates.
This sudden change can upset the natural balance of your body, and can even become a triggering event for conditions like telogen effluvium.
Instead, it helps to take a more holistic approach. Eating a proper, balanced diet that has the right combination of protein, carbohydrates, zinc, vitamins, and minerals can improve overall health, and that includes the scalp and follicles.
In addition, avoiding foods that could change pH value of body like bread, milk, dairy products and potatoes.
Avoid harsh hairstyling techniques
As we age, our hair can become thinner and more brittle. Using harsh techniques for hair styling like blow-drying, dyeing, or other chemical treatments can weaken the strands and contribute to hair fall.
Use gentler elastics to put your hair up and avoid too much hair pulling whenever possible.
Hairstyles like brains and braids can also increase hair thinning by constantly damaging the roots, especially near the hairline.
Treat your hair gently
Be mindful of the things you do to your hair that can be slowly damaging, like vigorously towel drying after a shower.
Take time to squeeze out the excess water after cleansing then let your hair air dry instead of roughly towelling it, as this can lead to breakage.
It’s also best not to comb your hair straight out of the shower.
Wet hair is fragile and vulnerable so it’s important to be very gentle with it. Use a wide-tooth comb afterwards to slowly ease out the tangles without pulling.
In the end, it is important to remember that hair loss is not just a cosmetic issue. Though it isn’t life-threatening, it does have an overwhelming impact on a person’s well-being and general health.
There’s no reason to dismiss hair loss or ridicule those who try and seek assistance.
Empowering yourself with information and options is the best way to address this condition head-on.
Identifying the underlying cause with an expert is an excellent first step to take.
Though one should remember to take stock of prominent symptoms in order to help your trichologist or physician figure out the condition much more easily.
Be frank, discuss your experience, and be open to possible treatments.
Meanwhile, there are steps to take to ensure that your scalp is healthy and is a great environment for hair to thrive and grow.
Keep these in mind as you navigate your way through the difficulties of hair loss.
It is not insurmountable, but it does take effort and time if you want to see any improvements.