How do I stop my hair loss?
We have attempted to compile an independent and complete guide to hair loss treatments to help you keep and get your hair back.
Which hair loss treatments work? Which ones don’t? Which ones you should give a go.
It is important to be able to understand how hair is lost, the different types of hair loss, the natural realistic prognosis and then what can be done to slow down, stop or reverse the hair loss process.
The importance of hair
In most cultures, a full head of hair is considered to be a marker of beauty, a marker of youth, even our status. Our crowning glory.
The mere thought of losing hair in both males and females can lead to an immediate racing heart, thoughts of terror, anxiety, even depression.
For the majority, hair loss is unfortunately an inevitable part of life.
Losing hair is then an understandably a common issue many people face and often feel uncertain regarding potential treatments.
The medical term for hair loss is alopecia.
The medical term encompasses many types of hair loss and these can be caused by variety of genetic and environmental factors.
So how do I stop hair loss? Good question. Bear with us while we cover a little bit more information about what hair loss actually is.
Physiology of the hair cycle – how each hair follicle grows and sheds
Before we go ahead, let’s look at how hair grows.
Looking at the scalp, each hair follicle exists independently cycling through stages of regular growth and shedding. The three phases of this cycle (pictured below) are called:
• Anagen phase — during this time, the follicle is in a stage of active growth. It grows about one centimeter per month. The hair is in this phase for about three to five years.
• Catagen phase — this stage is much shorter (about two weeks long) and is more of a transition phase from active growth to inactivity.
• Telogen phase — this is resting phase of the hair cycle and the hair is shed at the end of it. On average this stage lasts about three months.
So altogether, this means that each hair on our scalp is shed and then replaced every three to five years in total.
The hair follicles do not all grow and shed at the same time and on average, we have about one hundred thousand hair follicles on our head.
Other important health conditions can lead to hair loss and your doctor may order a blood test to check for other reasons as well.
It is also crucial to remember that many medications and supplements used for other conditions can affect or increase the hair loss so it is important to see your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Types of hair loss
Androgenetic Alopecia (pattern hair loss)
Androgenetic alopecia is a very common type of hair loss. It is a gradual hair loss, usually genetically determined. It affects both men and women.
Male Pattern Hair Loss
Virtually all men are affected by male pattern hair loss to a certain extent as they grow older.
Progressive hair thinning on the head classically begins at the temples and the hairline gradually recedes. In time, hair at the back or crown of the head gets thinner as well.
There is a strong genetic link with this type of hair loss. Testosterone is one of the most important hormones in men. It is crucial for puberty, physical development and a healthy reproductive system. Testosterone is converted to a hormone called DHT in the body. DHT acts on different organs in the body including the hair follicles.
In some males more than others, the hair follicles of the scalp are more sensitive to DHT. The DHT effect on the hair follicles leads to hair thinning and miniaturisation.
The main reason for treatment in men is for cosmetic reasons. It is important to emphasise that this hair loss process is normal process of ageing and there is no specific medical reason for treatments.
For some males though, particularly if it occurs at a younger age, it can be distressing and stressful and can make them feel less attractive or older, even sad as a result. It is important to see your doctor to be appropriately diagnosed with the reason for the hair loss and choose the correct treatment based on this.
Male Pattern Baldness Treatment
Some lotions, medicines and physical treatments can stop or slow hair loss, with hair regrowth occurring in some men. Many of these treatments can take several months to start having their full effect and most need to be taken indefinitely as they do not fix the problem as such.
Choosing a suitable hairstyle together with a hair stylist can be effective as well as cosmetic options including camouflage (for example, natural fibres) which are useful and not very expensive.
It has been suggested that a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise regimen can help slow down the progress of hair loss, however there is no reputable evidence to confirm or deny this.
Click on the following links for a separate review and analysis of the following hair loss treatments that have been suggested in the past (some work, some don’t):
Seeing a counsellor
It is important to have realistic goals regarding hair loss treatments and counselling can be useful adjunct of the treatment process.
Female Pattern Hair Loss
Similarly to males, female pattern hair loss is an important cause of hair loss in females.
Initially, it usually starts with diffuse hair thinning that leads to a widened parting line on the crown and an overall smaller volume. The frontal hair line can also be more sparse. At times, bouts of increased shedding can also occur.
Seeing your doctor is very important to rule other causes. As well as conservative options including hairstyles and styling, wigs, camouflage and counselling, take a look at the following potential hair loss treatments for female pattern hair loss:
As we saw at the beginning of the article, hair is usually shed during the telogen phase of the hair growth cycle. Telogen effluvium is a hair loss condition in which hair follicles enter the telogen phase in great numbers and are thus are shed more.
Telogen effluvium can be acute (usually in response to a “stress” event such as major surgery, childbirth illness or sudden weight loss and usually resolves over 6 to 9 months) or chronic, which usually takes longer to resolve.
It is important to note that this condition does not normally lead to baldness and usually resolves spontaneously without any treatment. Having said that, if you feel you may have telogen effluvium, it is important you see your doctor and possible testing.
Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss disorder in which there is a relatively sudden onset of localised (patches) or diffuse (all over the head) hair loss. It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder with a considerable genetic link.
See your physician or dermatologist if you think you have this condition.
Usually occurring in children, this type of patchy hair loss is caused by hair pulling.
This is a type of localized, incomplete hair loss due to a fungal infection. Following investigations, your doctor will be able to prescribe the appropriate medication to manage this.
Keep in mind there are other less common causes of hair loss that have not been listed here.
Compare Hair Loss Treatments
Also check out our hair loss clinics page (coming soon) as well as comparisons of popular potential hair loss and hair regrowth options:
Minoxidil vs Finasteride
Finasteride vs Dutasteride
Hair transplantation vs laser hair growth therapy
Minoxidil vs Saw Palmeto
Hair loss is a common and important condition to deal with and treat appropriately.
As outlined here, there are a multitude of hair loss types as well as treatments on the market today. Some treatments will work for you, while other won’t.
Be careful of cheats offering hair loss treatments without any evidence, particularly if they want you to sign contracts with them. Remember to always do your own research. Your doctor or a dermatologist will be an invaluable resource as well.
Be realistic and don’t expect overnight results. Some (even most) treatments require indefinite use as they do not reverse the root cause of the hair loss. A lot will be quite expensive as well so keep it in mind.