What Causes Hair Loss and How to Treat It
Humans lose anywhere between 50 to 100 hairs on a daily basis. It’s completely normal because we grow back the same amount each day. But if you have noticed that you are losing more hairs in your hairbrush or down the shower drain than you have in the past, you may be losing too much and it may be time to address a bigger issue.
What causes hair loss?
Hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia, is common in both women and men and can happen for a variety of reasons: there are genetic factors, there are medical conditions, and there are environmental conditions all of which can play a role in balding. In men, hair loss most commonly manifests itself by producing gradual thinning in an area that may eventually lead to balding or a receding hairline whereas women may notice that their part is widening or that their hair is no longer has voluminous as it once was.
If there is visible balding on your scalp, you may also start to notice balding in your beard, eyebrows, or other areas.
Hereditary hair loss
Genetics is responsible for 99% of hair loss in men and it usually occurs in one of two ways: 1) thinning that leads to balding throughout the scalp usually in a noticeable pattern, and 2) frontal recession with or without other balding beyond the hairline.
Hair loss in premenopausal women generally is not linked to hereditary causes.
Hair loss due to hormonal shifts can occur in both men and women. Women may notice hair loss during pregnancy, after childbirth, or after menopause all situations in which estrogen levels – which support the hair and its growth – are shifting. Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or another endocrine condition may also experience hair loss because they have higher circulating androgen levels. The most common cause for hair loss in younger women is from medications such as antidepressant medications, birth control pills, anemia, or low iron levels from excessive blood loss due to menstruation or thyroid problems.
Both women and men can see their hair thinning as they age due to a condition called senile alopecia, most often seen in men and women over the age of 80.
Traction alopecia can occur when people consistently put their hair in too-tight ponytails, braids, and turbans while other behavioral issues like the hair-pulling disorder known as trichotillomania are all factors that can lead to hair loss. Hair transplants are a good treatment for both these conditions but their long-term effectiveness is dependent upon the patient taking steps to address the behavior that causes the hair loss.
There are a variety of medical conditions and diseases that can cause both temporary and permanent hair loss. Autoimmune diseases including lichen planopilaris and frontal fibrosing alopecia must be diagnosed and treated prior to getting hair transplants because these diseases can kill off the hair transplants before they even have the opportunity to grow. Autoimmune disorders cause your immune system to attack and, in some cases, destroy hair follicles.
Nutritional and protein deficiencies can also contribute to hair loss especially in the case of rapid weight loss from aggressive dieting, disease, or if you are not getting enough vitamins and minerals that play a critical role in healthy hair growth.
Stress can cause temporary hair loss, seen more commonly in women than in men. Often times when this happens, women will see clumps of hair falling out even from the lightest tug but usually will not result in bald spots.
Skin and hair conditions
Constantly scratching your scalp can not only cause permanent hair loss but also folliculitis, an infection produced by the constant scratching which requires the attention of a medical professional.
Burns and injuries
Chemical burns to the scalp are common complications that can result from hairstylists using poorly mixed dyes to color the hair or leaving straightening chemicals on the hair too long. These chemical burns result in permanent hair loss.
Similarly, burns from accidents, fires, and boiling water leave permanent damage, although depending on the severity of the injury, regrowth may be possible.
Medications and supplements
Many medications come with a side effect of hair loss so before being prescribed long-term medications, you may want to discuss drug complications with your doctor and see if there are drug substitutes available.
Cancer patients lose hair from radiation and chemotherapy, which disrupts the anagen phase and prohibits new hair growth. Hair eventually starts growing back, typically two months after treatments ends but the color and texture may be different.
Hair transplantation: a solution to hair loss
Hair transplantation is a process that harvests healthy hair follicles usually from the back and sides of the scalp and moves them to balding areas. While hair can be harvested from other parts of the body, hair that doesn’t grow from the scalp or beard generally doesn’t have a long growth cycle and therefore will not grow to the same length as scalp or beard hair.
There are two types of hair transplants:
- Follicular unit transplantation (FUT) where hair follicles are taken from the back or sides of the head by removing a strip of skin or hair.
- Follicular unit extraction (FUE) in which individual hair follicles are removed from the donor site one by one and transplanted in the recipient area.
Both techniques will leave a scar. In FUT, also called strip surgery, there will be a linear scar. In FUE surgery, the scars are in the form of tiny dots on the scalp, the size of which depends on the instrument used and the patient’s healing abilities.
The new hair will start to grow after three to four months and continue to grow for a lifetime. Between 6 to 10 months after the procedure, patients start to see real results as the new hair grows in. Then patients should see almost 100% of the results of the regrowth within a year.
Other ways to preserve your hair
While most balding is not preventable, there are a few steps that you can take to encourage new hair growth or slow down the hair loss process.
- If possible, avoid medications and supplements that have a side effect of hair loss. Look for alternatives if they are available.
- Stop smoking. There are many studies that show a correlation between smoking and hair loss in addition to the myriad other health conditions it causes.
- Avoid adding stress or trauma on your scalp with excessively tight hairstyles or pulling on your hair.
- Don’t wear tight ball caps, hairs, or headbands.
- Be gentle with your hair when grooming. When detangling, use a wide-toothed comb. Avoid overheating your hair and scalp with hot rollers, straighteners, hot oil treatments, and curling irons.
Dr. Vendetti serves as the medical director for the Washington Medical Hair Clinic of South Hampton Roads. He is one of the best when it comes to restoring a natural-looking fullness with hair transplant. During your consultation, he will work with you to determine how best to approach your hair restoration procedure, including where donor hair will be taken from and where that hair will be transplanted.