What are the causes of Hair Loss?
Many things contribute to hair loss. Among them are: stress, poor nutrition, hormonal imbalance, use of certain prescription drugs, physical conditions such as thyroid disease or cancer, genetic pattern baldness – all of which can affect both men and women. In many cases hair loss may be caused by a combination of these factors. However, genetic pattern baldness is by far the dominant factor, accounting for a high percentage of all hair loss in men and also affecting millions of women. Though genetic pattern baldness can be controlled, it cannot be cured because it is genetically predetermined.
One of the most widely accepted factors related to genetic pattern baldness is the chemical DHT (5-alpha DiHydroTestosterone is its full name). It has been found that increasing levels of DHT in hair follicles cause a reaction which reduces blood flow in that area and adversely affects the health of the follicle and the growth cycle of the hair. Over time the follicle shrinks and produces finer and shorter hairs, eventually dying and producing no hair. Areas that are ‘shiny bald’ no longer have live follicles. Areas with shorter, finer hairs still have live follicles which have gradually shrunk over time.
In the hair follicles are receptor sites for DHT (places where the DHT attaches itself) and the hereditary or genetic factor involved in hair loss simply has to do with the number of receptor sites passed on from one generation to the next. A higher number of receptor sites leads eventually to more of a buildup of DHT which leads to hair loss and balding. But, as with any hereditary condition like diabetes, the onset and severity are affected by how you take care of your body throughout your life (proper diet, exercise, adequate rest, nutritional supplements, etc.)
DHT is produced in both men and women when testosterone is broken down by an enzyme. Men have more dramatic balding than women, usually, because they obviously have higher levels of testosterone and thus higher levels of DHT (women produce some testosterone though from their adrenal glands). Balding in men follows certain patterns varying from a recession of their hair line to loss in the crown to a ‘horseshoe’ pattern where they only have hair at the temples and back of the head. Women don’t usually have this type of balding but rather have an overall thinning which can be mild to moderate and in a few cases very dramatic.
It is important to know that sudden dramatic hair loss can occur from severe stress, hormonal imbalances or childbirth in women and the use of certain drugs (street drugs or prescription drugs). But it can also be a sign of a more serious underlying physical condition. If a person’s hair loss is rapid and severe it is recommended that they see their doctor to rule out any of the serious conditions that can cause this to occur.
What can be done about Hair Loss?
Transplant surgery has made many advances over the last decade but is still an expensive and painful solution. If someone is ‘shiny bald’, their only real solution is transplant surgery. Hair pieces or hair systems are an alternative. However, if a person is looking for actual hair that grows in areas where follicles are dead they would have to go the route of transplant surgery.
The 2 approved drugs for hair loss are minoxidil (sold originally in RogaineÃ?Â® but now also widely available in generic form) and finasteride (sold as PropeciaÃ?Â® and only available by prescription). Both have shown results with controlling hair loss and some regrowth in some people. However, each have certain potential side effects and interactions with other drugs which means that some people cannot use them or must avoid their use and each requires continuous usage for the rest of a person’s life to control hair loss.
Just like other alternative fields such as Chiropractic, acupuncture and nutritional supplementation these products do not treat or cure a condition but instead give the body support so that it can function as it was intended. Though the results can be slower and less dramatic than the approved drugs, these products provide an alternative for people who want to find a way to control their hair loss without using drugs or surgery.
For someone looking into these non-drug products there are certain things to keep in mind:
First, find out what clinical testing and substantiation has been done on the product itself. Some companies present clinical studies done on certain ingredients in their product but not the actual finished product itself.
Second, check on the company that sells the product. How long have they been in business? Are they a member of the Better Business Bureau? Is this their main business or are they just a telemarketing company that sells everything from weight loss products to sex toys?
Third, are they realistic in explaining what results their product has gotten on other customers? Any product that claims it will regrow hair on everyone even if they are shiny bald should be avoided.
Check the ingredients on any topical product you buy and if you see either Loniten or 2,4-diamino 6-piperydinylpyrimidine 3-oxide (or something close to this) in the list of ingredients you have just bought something that is basically minoxidil. Mixing minoxidil with other ingredients such as herbs in a topical solution has not been approved by the FDA or proven to be safe or effective and the use of Loniten has not been approved for hair loss (an article in the September 2002 Men’s Health Magazine covers this in detail).
So if you are trying to deal with hair loss you have now taken the first and often most effective step – educating yourself on what causes it and what approaches are available to control it. The next step is to decide to make a commitment to find the best solution for you and to follow through with it. No hair loss product, drug or non-drug, works on everyone so you might find something right away that works for you or you may have to try a few products or maybe even combine some before you see optimum results. And don’t set unrealistic expectations – if you set a goal to control or stop your hair loss you will have a much better chance of being successful than if your goal is to ‘regrow’ all of your hair.