Male and female-patterned hair loss is common. According to Mayo Clinic, the average person has approximately 100,000 hairs on their head and shed between 50 to 100 each day — hardly enough to be noticed. Hair loss that becomes excessive or noticeable results in thinning of the scalp. Even though this thinning process is normal with age, some people experience excessive thinning or even baldness early in life.
Androgenetic alopecia, or hair lossas it is more commonly referred to, is a condition that ranges from thinning of the hair to complete baldness and is condition that effects both men and women. Although there are numerous factors for hair loss, most is due to genetics, in that it is an inherited condition. This is the most common cause of hair loss.
Baldness and hair loss are linked to sex hormones. Some men begin to experience thinning hair as soon as they reach puberty. For women, hormonal imbalances from pregnancy and childbirth as well as medication such as birth control pills, to the onset of menopause, can cause hair loss. A report from Harvard Health Publications says approximately one-third of women will experience hair loss during their lives, while nearly two thirds of menopausal women can expect to experience hair thinning or even bald spots.
There are several key medical conditions known to cause hair loss.
Alopecia areata: a disease where the immune system attacks hair follicles, resulting in round smooth areas of hair loss.
Infections of the scalp: when an infection, such as ringworm, invades the scalp, it can lead to hair loss, however, once the condition is resolved the hair usually grows back.
Skin disorders: certain diseases such as lupus or lichen planus – an itchy rash of the skin – will result in hair loss at the scar site.
Thyroid issues: since the thyroid helps regulate hormones, it can have an effect on hair loss if the gland is not functioning properly.
In addition to medical conditions, medications can be responsible for hair loss. People taking medication to treat arthritis, heart issues, depression, high blood pressure, or cancer may experience hair loss.
Other causes of hair loss:
- Although most people do not consider hairstyles to be a reason for hair loss, you can actually cause your hair to fall out from certain types of hairstyles. Extremely tight hair designs such as cornrows or pigtails can result in traction hair loss.
- Physical stress due to physical shock — sudden weight loss, a high fever — or emotional shock such as a death, can leave you with thinning hair, but this is usually a temporary condition. Once the stress is alleviated or removed the hair loss will stop.
Hair loss treatments
The condition of baldness can be helped with cosmetic surgery or medication. People dealing with hair loss due to an underlying disease will need to seek medical treatment for the disease. If your hair loss is hormonal or genetic, there are a few FDA approved medications that can help.
Does Rogaine Work?
Rogaine, which is the generic version of minoxidil, can be purchased in a two or five percent concentration over-the-counter and is available in foam, shampoo or spray liquid form. The idea behind Rogaine is to prevent further hair loss, however, some people have experienced actual hair regrowth. On occasion, some notice a slightly slower rate of hair loss, while others experience both a slowed hair loss rate as well as hair regrowth.
Minoxidil, which is an antihypertensive vasodilator medication, was used on patients to treat high blood pressure. An unexpected side effect of minoxidil was the regrowth of hair in places people had originally lost it. With some testing, research has confirmed that a solution of two percent minoxidil can stimulate hair to grow when applied directly to the scalp. Scientists admit they’re still not sure exactly how minoxidil works, but it has shown to be effective in stimulating hair regrowth in both men and in women.
Admittedly, minoxidil is not able to restore once lustrous hair back to its full thickness, but it can help produce new hair growth in lost hair areas. Minoxidil takes about 12 weeks to show results, however, research shows that the effects of the product peak at about the fourth month of use. Research also shows that once you stop using the product, the reoccurrence of hair loss is inevitable.
Does Propecia Work?
The working medication in the hair regrowth product, Propecia, is finasteride. The US National Library of Health states that finasteride is a synthetic drug used to treat an enlarged prostate gland, however, it has shown to be extremely effective in treating male-pattern baldness. Research has shown Propecia to be more effective in stimulating hair regrowth than Rogaine.
Propecia* is a prescription medication that is taken every day in pill form and costs more than Rogaine. Men taking Propecia have experienced a slowing of hair loss. Some, on the other hand, have experienced new hair growth. Doctors do warn that, while low, some men may increase their risk of developing a fast-growing type of prostate cancer. Although Propecia can be taken by women, women in childbearing years should avoid the product. Once you stop taking Propecia, you will again begin to experience hair loss.
Surgery is another option for dealing with hair loss. A hair transplant involves removing your own hair follicles or tiny plugs of skin from an area where hair is abundant and replanting them in the bald or thinning areas. The procedure for hair transplants has improved a lot over the years, trending towards smaller graft areas, however, several transplant sessions may still be required. Hair transplant surgery is expensive, costing between $8,000 and $12,000.
Flap or Scalp Reduction
Doctors offer a surgical procedure that removes some of the hairless scalp, then closing the space with hair-covered skin. The result is a fold or flap, as the technique is called, that results in a scalp reduction. This procedure can be painful with possible risks of scarring and skin infection.
*Although the FDA continues to approve propecia for use, it has also listed some of the severe and often long-term side effects with its use such as increased risk of prostate cancer and allergic reactions. For more information on propecia (finasteride), visit Post-Finasteride Syndrome Foundation.