Hair loss – why it happens and what you might do about it
Hair loss affects 50 per cent of women and 60 per cent of men to some degree, at some point in life. And while it is generally nothing to worry about, and totally normal as we get older, for some it can be a source of irritation – or even distress.
Fortunately, there are baldness treatments available for those who want them.
In this article:
What is hair loss - and what are the symptoms?
Hair loss most commonly refers to thinning and balding on the head, or patches of bald spots.
We lose between 50 and 100 hairs each day, with each hair being replaced by a new one. However, losing more than 100 hairs a day, or 700 a week, is classed as excessive.
It can take a while to recognise the symptoms as hair loss, as it’s usually a progressive condition.
However, if you notice clumps of hair in your hairbrush or shower drain, feel that your hair is becoming thin and fine, or notice visible bald spots, book an appointment with your doctor.
Why hair loss happens
The root cause can vary from person to person, and it can be down to general ageing, alopecia, genetics, hormonal changes, and medical conditions – as well as stress and lifestyle factors.
Hair loss can happen in women, but it’s much more typical among men.
The most common reason for hair loss in men is male pattern baldness, which is the general medical term for baldness.
Losing your hair doesn’t necessarily mean you are going bald. Thinning hair is completely normal, as are bald patches, but it isn’t definite you will lose all the hair. For most men hair loss can start in their twenties and thirties, taking around 25 years to become totally bald.
The medical term for female pattern baldness is ‘androgenetic alopecia’. Women are more likely to experience hair loss after the menopause, with more than half of women experiencing it by the time they reach 65.
Each strand of hair is made of keratin, a type of protein found in the hair follicles of the outer skin layer. These follicles are responsible for creating new hair cells, with old ones being pushed out to create strands of hair.
Eating the right foods can help you retain a healthy amount of keratin in your body. This includes eggs, salmon, sunflower seeds, and kale. Those with a protein-deficient diet or a strict weight loss routine may experience signs of hair loss. This usually happens up to three months after losing 15 pounds of weight or more.
Being over or underweight can affect your insulin levels, which can lead to irregular hormone levels and have an external effect on your hair.
Additionally, experiencing high and regular levels of stress can also affect your hair retention. High-pressured jobs or prolonged difficulties in your personal life can be noticed through duller skin, losing or gaining weight, and thinning hair.
Some other factors…
- Hair loss can be temporary or permanent depending on what’s causing it.
- Those who experience severe stress or physical and emotional shock can experience sudden loss. This is typically a temporary experience and occurs around three months after the trauma.
- Some medical conditions or medical treatments such as chemotherapy can cause hair loss across the body, as well as the hair on your head.
How can I get advice, and is there a baldness cure?
There is currently no cure for baldness. But while no treatment is 100 per cent guaranteed, there are some effective steps you can take.
The first step is to speak to your doctor, who will ask about your lifestyle and medical history, as well as assessing the condition of your hair. They should be able to recommend small changes that can help with stopping baldness.
Lifestyle recommendations that may help include:
- Diet and exercise – a regular and balanced diet that includes enough protein, minerals and vitamins can maintain your hormone levels.
- Reduce stress – while we can’t always avoid stressful situations, it helps to manage our stress levels by taking personal time out. Try meditation, yoga or make time for hobbies.
- Shampoo and conditioner – the shampoo and hair treatments we use should be tailored to our individual scalp types. If you have a naturally dry scalp, try not to wash your hair too much, while people with naturally oily hair should aim to wash their hair at least three times a week.
There are several surgical treatments you might consider too, including a hair transplant.
There are two types of transplant procedure you can choose from: follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE). Both are popular, with FUE usually creating the most natural looking results.
Follicular unit transplantation (FUT) - During a FUT procedure, a strip of skin will be taken from the back of your scalp. The surgeon then divides it into smaller grafts. Afterwards, small holes are made in your scalp using a needle for the extracted hair follicles to be transferred.
Follicular unit extraction (FUE) - Individual hairs are moved directly from the scalp during FUE, rather than taking a strip of skin. It then works similarly to an FUT, where tiny holes are made in the scalp and hair follicles grafted into them.
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