How To Define Hair Loss
Hair loss is obvious to the individual experiencing it. There are different types of hair loss. Some are temporary and others permanent. The most common permanent type of baldness in men is male pattern baldness (MPB) which often starts at the temples and the centre of the crown.
If you want to seek out treatment your doctor can diagnose your type of hair loss and advise you further.
If you are experiencing anxiety and stress over hair loss then you should seek your doctor's support. Thinning or absent hair can be distressing to some. It's important to make sure depression and stress over hair loss does not affect your everyday life.
Other types of baldness include:
This type of hair loss is characterised by patchy hair loss. It can occur anywhere on the body, usually leaving bald patches that are coin sized. Hair often grows back of its own accord, but it may be white and much thinner than previous hair growth.
Alopecia areata is usually caused by diabetes, Down's syndrome, an over-active thyroid or immune system problems. It can occur at any age and in both genders, although it is most likely to affect teenagers and young adults.
Alopecia areata can progress into the more severe forms of alopecia totalis leaving no scalp hair, and alopecia universalis leaving no hair anywhere on the body.
Experts believe there may be a genetic link as 1 in 5 individuals with the condition have a family history of alopecia areata.
Around one to two individuals out of 1,000 have this form of hair loss in the UK.
Damaged follicles can cause hair to fall out and prevent its re-growth. It's accountable for around 7% of hair loss cases in the UK.
Several diseases are associated with scarring alopecia such as scleroderma which is when the connectives tissue become hard and puffy, the skin-attacking autoimmune disease discoid lupus, Lichen planus which is a rash that can affect skin, olliculitis decalvans which most commonly affects men causing scarring of the affected areas, and frontal fibrosing alopecia that affects post-menopausal women.
Medical treatments can cause this type of hair loss.
Some tablets for infections or viruses can, on occasion, cause mild hair loss whereas treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy can cause total baldness. Anagen effluvium affects the entire body surface and is often temporary. Hair grows back when treatment has finished.
This is hair that thins rather than falling out. It usually only affects scalp hair.
Telogen effluvium can be caused by a large number of body changes and external influences. The most common are hormones changes, emotional stress, intense physical stress, infections, operations, high blood pressure, crash dieting and some medications such as beta-blockers and anti-coagulants.
Usually hair stops thinning when the source is removed. It can take six months for new hair to grow and thicken your hair.
What Are The Causes of Hair Loss
The most frequent cause of men's hair loss is male pattern baldness. Typically hair recedes on the crown (the top rear section of your head) and around the temples. Eventually, as hair continues to fall out, the two areas join and create a horseshoe or 'M' pattern across the scalp. This is the defining image of male pattern baldness.
Any hair remaining at the front will eventually fall out leaving an entirely bald scalp. Hair follicles gradually become smaller in male pattern baldness so any hair that re-grows is thinner, smaller and weaker. Hairs will also live for a shorter period of time, often falling out after a few months rather than the average three year life span.
As male pattern baldness progresses the shrinking hair follicles eventually produce only a short hair that does not grow.
Male pattern baldness is caused by a number of reasons:
Men affected by male pattern baldness are not experiencing a fall in testosterone levels. Instead testosterone is converted in a substance called dihydrotestosterone, which attacks the hair follicles causing hair loss. Experts do not know why this happens. This hair loss only happens on the head. Arm, chest and leg hair remains unaffected.
Genetics plays a part in male pattern baldness. A man whose father experienced hair loss is more likely to experience it himself, often at the same age.
An unhealthy lifestyle contributes to male pattern baldness. Metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of diseases such as high blood pressure and obesity, is a known factor. Ill health is more likely to be a reason for male pattern baldness in younger men rather than older.
How To Effectively Treat Hair Loss
Hair loss is not usually harmful, but the emotional impact of losing your hair can lead to damaging psychological aspects and you should be sure that you speak to your doctor if you are becoming anxious or depressed about hair loss.
There are some ways to effectively treat hair loss ranging from dietary changes to medications.
Some surgeons can replace your hair through surgery. The techniques are becoming more successful as new techniques are implemented. Scalp surgery is known as hair transplantation or 'hair plugging'. It involves moving hair from healthy follicles that are still growing hair, such as at the back of your head, to the areas affected by baldness.
Scalp surgery is not usually available on the NHS and it is expensive privately. There are no guarantees it will work in the long term as it depends on the lifespan of your hair follicles.
A healthy diet
There is some evidence that a healthy diet can help support against hair loss.
A diet that does not contain enough vitamins and minerals can lead to poor all round health, including that of your hair. Junk foods, high fat foods and salty foods do not provide nutrition for the body and hair suffers as a result.
Individuals affected by baldness should ensure they eat beans, fish, cheese and nuts for protein, because protein maintains hair follicles and creates the keratin that hair is made from. You should also consume sufficient yoghurts, milk and cereals because calcium may improve the hair strength.
Diet alone will not cure baldness but it may slow down the rate at which you lose your hair. A healthy balanced diet also protects against the illness and diseases that cause hair loss.
Some dermatologists recommend scalp massage to promote hair growth. It's thought the motion of massage stimulates blood flow to the scalp and therefore increases hair growth. There is no scientific evidence for this, but some experts believe it may support remaining hair and encourage new growth.
Male pattern baldness in particular is hard to treat because it is not caused by an identifiable and treatable illness.
Male pattern baldness is usually due to genetics, but there are some prescription medicines that can help such as the active ingredient finasteride found in Propecia. Propecia blocks the interaction that causes the breakdown of testosterone.
There are many myths about hair loss that are centuries old. They include:
- Cold hair washing to promotes hair growth - this will not encourage your hair to grow.
- Cutting hair stimulates growth - this is not true, your hair simply feels thicker because the mid and root width of hair is thicker than the ends.
- Frequent hair washing lead to baldness - washing only removes dead hair. You may see a lot of loose hair in your shower plug for example, but washing your hair will not pull it out unless you are very rough. Hair that falls out in the shower has already fallen from the follicle.
- Brush your hair to promote hair growth - there's no evidence this works, in fact brushing your hair can cause it to snap or damage the root area.
What options are available for hair loss?
Avoid harsh hair care
It's important to avoid harsh hair care if you are experiencing hair loss. Harsh daily shampoos and conditioners with perfume and additives can affect your hair appearance. Use gentle shampoos that moisturise and soothe your scalp. Harsh bleach and frequent perming or dying can cause hair loss although this is temporary and your hair will grow back.
Individuals shy away from wigs, but they are now better quality than in the past. The NHS can provide wigs or you can purchase them from shops. Synthetic and natural hair wigs are available and they provide a quick solution. Ask your hairdresser or doctor for advice on finding and wearing the right type of wig for your needs.
Remove remaining hair
Some men chose to shave their remaining hair. This is a more socially acceptable choice now than in the past. Often hair will look healthier if it's kept very short rather than patchy or in strands, however, this is not for everyone.
Minoxidil is a topical lotion that's applied directly to the scalp twice a day. It is inconvenient but has some scientific support for stimulating re-growth and slowing down hair loss after several months of use.
Propecia is a prescription medicine for hair loss. It contains the active ingredient finasteride.
Finasteride stops testosterone converting into the dihydrotestosterone compound that causes most male pattern baldness. The breakdown of testosterone is a natural process, but some men are sensitive to it. Propecia interferes with the conversion which stops and reverses hair loss.
It has a 90% effectiveness rate and is available on prescription.
How To Buy Treatment For Hair Loss
Buying treatment for hair loss is simple, but first you must understand the root cause of your hair loss.
Reasons for hair loss can include health issues such as an inactive thyroid or anaemia. If this is the case for you then your doctor will treat you for the condition and your hair will gradually grow back as your health improves. Male pattern baldness is not an illness, it's an inherited trait. If you are diagnosed with male pattern baldness or you can see the horseshoe-shaped pattern emerging, then it's possible to buy treatment in shops and online.
Hair loss treatment is a lucrative market, there are many vendors promoting herbal and natural methods, and whilst these may soothe your scalp and improve the health of your remaining hair only prescription medicine can prevent the conversion of testosterone that causes male pattern baldness.
To purchase Propecia you will need to fill out an online consultation and be approved by a qualified doctor. This is because Propecia can cause side effects such as erectile difficulties or lack of sex drive.
It should not be handled by pregnant women or used by men with an alcohol problem or prostate cancer. Propecia is not prescribed to women or children and comes in a single dose.
If you are aged over 18 and fill out the online medical questionnaire you can buy Propecia safely and quickly.
How To Prevent Hair Loss
Firstly, ensure you have a clean bill of health. If you begin to lose your hair or it's thinning, this may simply be simply the result of ageing, however, you should undertake a check up with your doctor to make sure you are in good health because hair loss can be a symptom of illness.
- Improve your diet so it includes protein, calcium and plenty of iron. There is scientific evidence than anaemia leads to hair loss. This because red blood cells carry oxygen to every part of the body to help cells maintain normal function. Anaemia is the loss of red blood cells. It's more common for women but men can be affected if they have a very poor diet or a medical condition such as bleeding haemorrhoids for example.
- Boost your diet with walnuts, flax seeds, salmon, leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals, beans, pulses, chicken, fish, and low-fat dairy produce to give your hair the best chance of health.
- Herbal remedies such as saw palmetto are available, as are caffeine-related shampoos, but there is little evidence these help male pattern baldness.
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking prevents sufficient oxygen reaching your skin by narrowing arteries and restricting blood flow. This turns your skin grey, dull and sluggish. Your scalp is skin too, so by quitting you can encourage a healthy rate of oxygen to your follicles and hair.
If you need help quitting look for nicotine replacement treatment such as gums and patches, or try a prescription medicine. Your doctor will have numerous options to help you quit.
If you are experiencing hair loss or feeling anxious about baldness try the steps explained above and see your doctor for a check up.
In a good number of cases hair loss can be prevented, even male pattern baldness. If hair loss is affecting you, it's a simple step to start fighting back.