Everyone experiences hair loss (or fall) on a daily basis. It could be when you’re brushing or combing your hair when you wash them or even when you are blow-drying it occasionally. As per studies, it is natural to lose an average of 75-100 strands of hair a day. This is just your hair going through its established growth, rest, and shed cycle, and this is a routine exercise.
However, if you experience the situation getting worse consistently, it is wise to consult a dermatologist because there could be a possible underlying medical condition that might be a serious cause of concern.
Why Hair Loss Problem Occur?
The medical term for hair loss is alopecia and is more common than you’d expect, in both men as well as women. To give you a bit of a background into the basics, the hair follicles in the outer layer of the skin produce keratin, a protein, which the hair is made up of. Owing to the natural process of the hair follicles generating new hair cells, the old cells are shed periodically. Therefore, interestingly, the hair visible on the skin’s surface is actually made up of dead keratin cells.
In a nutshell, the life cycle of the hair follicle goes through three stages, namely,
- Anagen or the growth stage
- Catagen or the involution stage
- Telogen or the resting stage, which is followed by shedding of the hair.
In the average healthy adult, at any given point, approximately 85% of the hair follicles on the scalp are in the growth stage, and as a person ages, the hair growth rate is bound to slow down.
There are various causes leading up to hair loss, some of which include family history, hormonal changes, medical conditions like anemia, stress, poor nutrition, etc. It is necessary to note that hair loss because of the breakage of the hair shaft and hair loss due to decreased hair growth are two different things. Also, certain hair follicles organically have a shorter ‘anagen’ phase than the others.
Also Read: Common Causes Of Hair Loss For Men & Women
Common Signs And Symptoms
Hair loss can surface and become visible in different ways depending on the underlying reason for it. The symptoms of hair loss can be either gradual or abrupt and can affect just the scalp or the whole body.
Some of the common signs of hair loss can vary depending on the age or sex of the person and these include –
- Hair thinning on the scalp is the most widely seen symptom of androgenic alopecia, in men as well as women. This is observed in men both in the form of a receding hairline and a bald pattern that exposes the crown of the head. Women usually experience hair loss in the form of a widened hair parting followed by hair thinning on the top and crown of the head.
- Round and erratic bald spots are signs of alopecia areata. These patchy, bald spots are smooth and are seen mostly on the scalp but sometimes may affect the beard or eyebrows as well.
- Quick loss of patches of hair resulting out of its loosening is a symptom of telogen effluvium. This occurs when hair is combed, washed or even tugged gently, resulting in a fallout and is experienced in some cases of extreme physical or emotional shocks.
- Tinea Capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp, which leads to hair loss. Bald spots with scaly skin and broken strands of hair are some signs to look out for.
- Anagen Effluvium, which carries total hair loss as the main symptom, can occur because of cancer chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Types And Classifications Of Hair Loss
This classification can be done in two broad ways namely scarring hair loss, which involves the physical destruction and loss of hair follicles and the non-scarring type where the scalp is doing well with empty hair follicles, and this includes hair loss due to damage of the hair shaft that causes breakage. In some cases, the dermatologist will have to conduct a scalp biopsy to get a hold of the situation and its type.
1) Patchy Hair Loss
As the name suggests, this hair loss is concentrated on particular areas of the scalp, which can be small or large. Patchy Hair Loss can be in the form of –
- Alopecia areata – This is an autoimmune disorder that leads to the body attacking its own hair follicles where small round and smooth patches of scalp baldness are observed that generally re-grows within 3-6 months. The severity of these cases differ, and some treatment options include injections on the affected area to stimulate hair growth, oral medication, UV light therapy, etc.
- Traction alopecia – This kind of hair loss is restricted to a small area on the scalp and is a result of constant strain or traction on the roots of the hair. You will want to be careful if you’re someone who is used to really tight braids and ponytails.
- Trichotillomania – Some people develop the habit of pulling or twisting out their hair. This could be out of habit and is sometimes triggered by stress. Not so smooth patches on the scalp are seen with hair that is broken off.
- Tinea Capitis – This is a kind of fungal infection of the scalp that leads to bald patches with broken hair strands and is transmitted through sharing of hats, combs, etc.
2) Diffuse Hair Loss
This refers to the overall loss and thinning of hair that is not confined to specific patches and spots. Some of the common conditions here are –
- Androgenetic or Androgenic Hair Loss – Affecting both men and women, this condition is accredited to hormones, genetics, and family history. Among the men, it is referred to as male pattern baldness and can have quite an early start. A receding hairline and slow, successive loss of hair on the frontal scalp and crown is experienced. As in the case of female pattern baldness, an overall thinning of the hair is observed, with women observing serious changes only post their 40’s or even later.
- Telogen effluvium – This is a shift observed in the tempo of the growth cycle of the hair due to various conditions like childbirth, sudden/extreme weight loss, stress, surgery, etc. which results in a much greater percentage of hair entering the telogen (resting) phase of the growth cycle than what is normal. Telogen phase lasts for three months and post this, all of it is shed which leads to subsequent thinning.
3) Hair Thinning
This can be described as a predictable condition, which comes with age, where more and more hair follicles get into the resting phase, and the rest of the hair become scarce.
The Risk Factors
There are certain factors that increase the risk of hair loss like –
- Genetics and Family History – You are likely to inherit hair loss tendencies from your parents.
- Some medical conditions and illnesses like thyroid, Lupus, PCOS, and infections can lead to hair loss.
- Certain medications can have an indirect effect on your scalp and thus induce hair loss.
- Insufficient and inappropriate nutrition
- Advancing age
- Inappropriate methods of hair care and styling can damage and break hair.
- Emotional and physical stress
Which Doctor To Consult For Hair Loss?
While a non-severe situation can be assessed by your general physician, it is better to consult specialized dermatologists/trichologists or dermato-trichologists in other cases to ensure a detailed and advanced diagnosis of the cause and appropriate treatment.
Best Solutions For Hair Loss Problems
Platelet Rich Plasma is acquired from your own blood and is a concentrated form of your platelets. It is injected at the root of the hair on your scalp. Platelets, which are responsible for repairing damaged blood vessels and causing clotting, are extremely rich in growth factors that stimulate the stem cells in the hair follicle so that they divide and thicken the hair. It is a natural, non-surgical treatment to improve the re-growth of hair that has been lost due to genetic or patterned hair loss. PRP is used in combination with other oral medications and topical treatments for maximum results.
(B) Hair Transplantation
Such procedures have vastly improved over the years with more natural looking results and are gaining popularity among clients with permanent hair loss. The surgical procedure involves the transfer of plugs of skin with active hair follicles, from either the back or side of the scalp, to the bald patches. The hair being transplanted tends to fall out and then give way to new hair that is seen growing from the transplanted follicles.
There are medications available for hair loss treatment for men as well as women suffering from patterned baldness.
- Minoxidil (Rogaine) is an OTC topical medication in liquid or foam consistency that works well both for men and women in reversing the shrinking process of hair follicles and stimulating new growth.
Also Read: What Is Minoxidil And Can It Cure Hair Loss
- Finasteride (Propecia) is an oral medication used in hair loss treatment for men in particular and works by inhibiting the function of the hormones causing the hair to fall. It is proven to be an ineffective medication in hair loss treatment for women because of it being potentially risky for females of childbearing age as well as it being incapable of treating older women.
Tips For Hair Regrowth
- Make head massages a ritual.
- Use a wide-tooth wooden comb, as they are gentle and also provide a massaging effect.
- Consume a balanced, nutritious diet rich in iron, other nutrients like magnesium, zinc, and also vitamin B. Make it a point to include flax seeds and other seeds, amla, lentils, beans, berries, fish, legumes, almonds, nut oils, fish oils, etc. in your diet or as supplements.
- Regularly switch between shampoos and hair care products to avoid resistance as well as chemical damage.
- Exercise for enhanced blood circulation leading to better hair growth.
- Limit tying your hair too tightly. Avoid the strain and let the roots breathe.
- Avoid harsh chemical and heat treatments for as long as you can.
- Make it a habit of reading the labels behind hair products to keep an eye out for harsh ingredients.
Also, to top all the hair regrowth tips, the best thing you can do for your hair is to not stress about them too much while staying happy and relaxed. You have no idea the havoc stress induces on your hair.
Your Questions Answered
What Are Some Common Forms Of Female Hair Loss?
The most common forms of female hair loss are –
- Androgenetic hair loss that is linked to the male hormone in the female body as well as to genetic reasons,
- Telogen effluvium which is usually aided by a traumatic event such as childbirth, surgery or sudden weight loss, and
- Traction hair loss that is inflicted by causing strain to the hair follicles via tight hairstyles and braids.
Does The Hair Care Regime Have An Impact On Hair Loss Problem?
Yes, it does to an extent. Vigorous brushing and towel drying can lead to damage and breakage, so does the use of hot appliances for styling and chemical treatments. Also, if your hair is constantly tied up too tightly, you will experience hair loss at specific spots where there is too much strain. Therefore, an appropriate and gentle hair care regime is beneficial to deal with hair loss.
Can Hair Loss Be A Sign Of A More Serious Problem?
Yes. More women have underlying causes of hair loss when compared to men. These can be conditions like anemia, thyroid and especially PCOS, which has other signs like obesity, acne, irregular menstrual cycle, etc. apart from hair loss. Therefore, seeking help for hair loss treatment, especially for women, becomes even more necessary to diagnose and care for the other underlying medical conditions.
Hair loss, even though is not life threatening, can have an extremely severe psychological effect on the emotional well-being of the person suffering from it. Every individual has the right to seek help, if the condition becomes bothersome. Consult an experienced dermatologist, who can diagnose the underlying cause and suggest appropriate treatments.