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Hair Loss - The Facts

What are we talking about here?

We are talking about hair loss. Hair loss is often characterised by the partial or complete lack of hair growth mostly seen on the head. While it affects both men and women it is much more common in men affecting them throughout their lifetime and often until the point of baldness. People from around the world are affected by hair loss and it often involves the thinning of the hair at the front and top of the head, before continuing to recede and thin, leading ultimately to baldness, though this is not always the case. It is often characterised by a horseshoe shape pattern around the head.

Generally, everyone has between a hundred thousand and one hundred and fifty thousand hairs on their head. Although we lose a different amount of hairs per day, studies show that it is somewhere in the vicinity of one hundred per day and therefore, in order to maintain a regular volume, your hair must be replacing itself at the same rate at which it is being lost. However, hair loss is not something to worry about as it is quite common and there are many treatments available.

Who does it affect?

Hair loss is not uncommon – it affects 811,363 people per annum and so it is nothing to worry about. Male pattern baldness affects roughly 40 million men in the United States with approximately 25% of men beginning to go bald and losing their hair by the age 30 and a subsequent 60% by the age of 60. More than 75% of men experience some form of hair loss in their lives, most commonly, male pattern baldness.  In fact, more than 95% of hair thinning and hair loss is due to male pattern baldness. Because of this, 35 million men in the US experience some form of hair loss so you should never feel alone – imagine how many people worldwide share your concerns!. There is about a 4 in 7 chance of receiving the balding gene, so do not worry if you do. Realistically, if you are a male, chances are that at some point in your life you will experience hair loss. The important thing to remember is that everyone is different and so everyone will be affected by hair loss in different ways. However, it’s not just men who are affected by hair loss. Today, 50% of women are affected by hair loss and female pattern hair loss is the most common condition for them. 80% of women will now have noticeable hair loss by the age of 60 so it’s definitely not something to feel embarrassed about.

Where does it come from?

There are many different theories about what causes hair loss, though it is widely recognised that male pattern baldness hair loss is genetic. In the past, it was thought that it was the maternal grandfather who dictated the pattern of one’s hair growth, however, it is now believed that both parents contribute to their child’s likelihood of hair loss. There are many theories about what causes hair loss and in many cases it can be a combination of reasons.

One reason could be stress. In this instance, hair often grows back within a year of eliminating the cause of the stress. In the absence of any prolonged emotional or physical trauma that has noticeably affected someone’s overall health, this is most likely not the cause of the hair loss. Events like medical conditions, crash dieting, drugs, changes in hormones (e.g. pregnancy or menopause) and lifestyle choices (alcohol abuse and lack of nutrition) often causes hair loss. Studies have found that stress, as well as poor nutrition can all be contributing factors to hair loss and thinning. This can be one of the easiest things to change. Deficiencies in biotin, protein, zinc and poor human iron metabolism can cause hair loss and so a lifestyle/diet change can immediately reverse these negative symptoms.

Similarly, those who place a lot of strain on their hair; those that pull their hair back into a pony tail, or have cornrows, for example, may have an adverse effect on the hair follicles. In addition to this, people that rigorously brush their hair, undergo heat styling, have rough scalp massages or use chemicals in their hair may experience some form of hair loss after causing the strands of hair to become weak and brittle before breaking off.  In worse case scenarios the follicle itself also dies.

Some people find that their medications induce a hair loss. This can be either temporary of permanent. These medications include those for blood pressure problems, diabetes, heart disease and cholesterol. Anything that can affect the body’s natural hormone balance may have a pronounced affect on hair loss too; medications include, contraceptive pills, hormone replacement therapy, steroids or even acne medication. It is important to consul t your doctor thoroughly about what medications you should use and their side effects. If you start to see side effects, such as hair loss, it is recommended to notify your doctor immediately.

For men, however, if you are between the ages of 18 and 35 and you are experiencing a thinning of the hair, or hair loss, especially if it is in the traditional horseshoe area, then you are most likely experiencing male pattern baldness. For women on the other hand, the thinning of the hair will sometimes reverses over time, though this is not always the case.

The more science based reasoning behind hair loss and male pattern baldness stems from the immune system and hormones. In this sense, male hormones trigger an autoimmune response initiating an attack on the hair follicle. This results in destructive inflammation that gradually destroys the follicle’s ability to produce terminal hair. Sadly, the reasoning behind this remains somewhat a mystery and this is only one possible cause; however, what it does mean is that it is something your body automatically does and it is nothing to be concerned about. As previously stipulated, most men experience hair loss.

What can you do about it?

There really is no simple answer to this. The solutions are multiple and varied with very different results from person to person. The most important thing to do is come to terms with the thinning of your hair and the fact that you might be losing it and then move forward. It is okay, normal and almost expected for men to experience hair loss in their lives, so do not worry or stress about it too much. That could even make it worse!

Start by testing out whether or not you are in fact losing your hair. There is no point changing anything radical in your life if there is no need to, plus the addition of certain chemicals could, ironically, have an adverse affect on your hair follicles and inadvertently lead to hair loss. Begin by tracking the progress of the thinning. It typically begins on the crown of the head, behind the hairline, and becomes more and more pronounced as time goes on. The most common indicator is the aforementioned horseshoe shaped hair loss.

In addition to a range of treatments, there are other factors include changing your dietary and nutritional patterns as well as altering your lifestyle, especially if it is one filled with stress.

Living with hair loss

Sometimes people are crippled and anxious about their hair loss. After all, hair is often described as a man or woman’s ‘crowning glory’ and is often integral to a person’s identity. Therefore dealing with hair loss is a complex psychological issue. For women in particular, hair is synonymous with beauty. Moreover, people are often fearful of talking about hair loss and baldness. It becomes taboo despite its commonality. One of the most troubling aspects of hair loss is that it begins to shape our identity – we become a hair loss ‘sufferer’. People undergo a reconfiguration of the self as they lose their hair and it is a sensitive topic. If you or someone you know is undergoing this experience it is imperative to remember how emotionally challenging it is. Be supportive and remember; this happens to more people than you realise - it is not abnormal. It is simply a part of life.