Hair loss (alopecia) affects both men and women and can be distressing and detrimental to one’s self-esteem!
At any one time, approximately 90% of the hair on your scalp is growing. The hair lifecycle is divided into three phases:
- Anagen (active hair growth)
- Catagen (transitional hair growth)
- Telogen (resting phase)
Slowing and thinning hair growth is a natural part of aging and a result of predetermined genetic factors, but there are many other causes of hair loss or alopecia:
Androgenic Alopecia: Also known as male and female pattern baldness, is a genetic condition. It starts with a receding hairline and the gradual disappearance of hair from the crown.
Alopecia Areata: This pattern of hair loss is an autoimmune disease that causes patchy and sometimes complete baldness however the hair can sometimes return in a few months.
Telogen Effluvium: Is the temporary thinning of hair across the scalp due to changes in the growth cycle. It is the most common type of hair loss. These changes are often triggered by stress, illness or a traumatic event. The hair in the active growth cycle is prematurely pushed into a resting phase and can start falling out two or more months after the stressful episode. Telogen effluvium can be acute or chronic. Acute episodes can be triggered by febrile illness, major injury, a strict diet, pregnancy, medications (anticoagulants, beta-blockers), hormonal changes and emotional stress. Chronic episodes can be caused by cancer, liver disease and autoimmune diseases like Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Traction Alopecia: This is when thinning of hair is due to braids or tight ponytails.
Scarring Alopecia: Is when hair loss is caused by complications of other conditions where the hair follicle is destroyed and the hair won’t grow back. Conditions include scleroderma, lichen planus and discoid lupus.
Other Medical Conditions: Hair loss can also be caused by diseases such as hypothyroidism, iron deficiency anaemia, tinea capitis, scalp infections, etc.
For many of us, our hair is a defining part of our identity and hair loss can have a significant impact on our self-confidence. Although many causes of hair loss are temporary and hair loss rarely needs treatment, people seek treatment due to the significant emotional impact.
If hair loss is caused by an infection or any other medical condition, it is important to treat the underlying condition first to prevent any further hair loss.
Androgenic Alopecia can be difficult to treat due to the genetic component. Treatment options include Finasteride tablets (available on prescription) and topical products that contain different combinations of Minoxidil, Latanoprost and caffeine.
Alopecia Areata is best treated with “watchful waiting”, especially if it only occurs in small patches.
Corticosteroid injections and topical creams are widely prescribed, and other topical preparations like Minoxidil and Latanoprost might be useful.
Telogen Effluvium is a limited process, and therefore reassurance is often all that is needed. Reversible causes such as a poor diet or an iron deficiency should be corrected with a focus on adequate protein intake, replenishing low iron stores and obtaining essential nutrients. Topical products such as Renokin hair products by Lamelle can help, and treatments such as Carboxytherapy and Mesotherapy with growth factors have also yielded great results.
Do you have a question on skin or health for our experts? You can ask it here.