What is Hair Loss?
Hair growth cycles through pre-determined growth and shedding periods, with different hairs in different stages of life at any given time. All humans undergo hair loss to some degree with aging. This age-associated hair thinning is called Male or Female Patterned Hair Loss (M/F PHL), Hereditary Hair Loss (HHL), or Androgenetic Alopecia (AA).
Age-related hair loss represents a transition from typical long hair (called “terminal hair”) to peachfuzz hair (such as that seen on your cheek), rather than from actual hair loss. You may be surprised to learn that these normal types of hair loss start shortly after puberty, and proceed at a genetically-prescribed pace.
The Genetics of Hair Loss
The inherited hair loss trait can range from mild to severe, and is often depicted as a “hair loss curve” by dermatologists. Some people lose very little hair, and so have a very shallow curve and their hair thinning is not very noticeable. Others have a very steep hair loss curve, and show marked hair loss as early as their late teens.
Hair loss is not affected by the amount of hair washing, nor is it caused by hair coloring or processing. On the other hand, over-processing the hair can damage and break the terminal (long) hairs, and result in a shorter or frizzy hair appearance. Styling can help hide the loss of hair, such as parting the hair on the side.
Facts About Hair Loss
Both men and women undergo patterned hair loss. Men often go completely bald on the top and back of their scalp. Women go very thin — but not completely bald — on the crown of their scalp (and sometimes temples) with a little fringe of hair retained at the front hairline.
The shallowness or steepness of the hair loss curve is the result of the blend of genetics we inherit. Yet just looking at mom or dad is not always helpful to predict your own hair loss over time.
Likewise, the curve does not always proceed at the same steepness throughout life, and it can also be changed, sometimes dramatically, by internal and external influences, such as diet, medications, illness, hormonal fluctuations, and stress.
Other causes of hair loss
Telogen effluvium (TE) can happen in conjunction with patterned hair loss, and aggravate the loss of hair. Telogen effluvium is a global shedding of hair — meaning all over the scalp — not just on the crown or temples. Telogen effluvium can occur quickly and sometimes dramatically, and may result from a variety of causes, including:
- - Major hormonal shifts, such as delivering a baby
- - Severe psychological stress
- - Autoimmune disease (particularly thyroid disease)
- - Certain medications (Rx or natural over the counter alike)
- - Extreme diets
- - Severe fever
- - Severe illness
- - Surgery
- - Malnutrition
- - anemia
Unlike patterned hair loss, telogen effluvium causes a loss of hair throughout the scalp. Widespread sudden hair loss needs to be fully investigated to determine if TE or another cause of hair loss is in play. Remember, even if TE or another cause of hair loss is remedied, the patterned hair loss will continue to progress on an independent path.
Another cause of hair loss is Alopecia Areata. Unlike PHL or TE, this form of hair loss is seen most often as patchy bald spots on the scalp. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, and can be seen at any age. Severe forms of this are Alopecia Totalis (total loss of hair on head) or Alopecia Universalis (total loss of hair everywhere on the body). All forms of this type of hair loss need to be treated by a dermatologist in person, as it will often require shots or specific oral medications, and will need to be closely monitored.
Treatments for Hair Loss: Non-Prescription Solutions
A number of medications are available in prescription strengths from a physician and are also available at lower strengths as over-the-counter remedies. The most common is minoxadil; unfortunately, over-the-counter minoxadil is not nearly as effective as the pharmaceutical strength.
Over-the-counter treatments are not as costly, but they also don’t work as well. When deciding whether to try an over-the-counter product, consider that you may be wasting time and money on a product that doesn’t help and prevents you from seeking pharmaceutical-level treatment from the start.
There are a number of non-prescription ingredients such as peptides, growth factors, nutritionals, and botanicals that can supplement either a pharmaceutical or over-the-counter treatment plan.
In addition to using specific hair medications, it is important to have a good diet containing protein, B vitamins (especially biotin), iron, zinc, and vitamins A and C. Hair requires protein and a number of key vitamins to grow.
At SkinHappy, we recommend the specific supplements and nutrients you need to make sure you're not deficient, so your hair has the building blocks when you give it the signal to grow.
Treatments for Hair Loss: Prescription Solutions
The most effective treatments are compounded prescription solutions that dermatologists are able to provide.
Topical medications discourage the long hairs from reverting to peachfuzz, and encourage the hairs to stay in the follicle rather than be shed. These treatments slow the loss of hair and make the hair loss curve more shallow.
Many different formulas and combinations of these ingredients are available. Some of them are taken orally, which can lead to systemic side effects. Since hair loss is a local issue, our philosophy at SkinHappy is to treat it locally. We want our patients to experience the maximum benefit and keep them safe.
The most researched and effective ingredients are minoxidil and finasteride. At SkinHappy, we offer blends of topical medications, drawing from well-studied prescription products and incorporating beneficial botanicals and peptides into our topical solutions, shampoos, and conditioners. We use science and safety to choose our combinations, and concentrations which achieve the best results.
Be Consistent and Patient
Hair regrowth does not happen overnight. Topical medications must be used daily, for a minimum of six months, to determine effectiveness. And hair loss, like other chronic medical conditions, must be managed continually. If one stops their medication, the hair loss resumes at the earlier pace, with an initial shedding to adjust the curve back to the previous steeper state.
Hair Loss: Before and After
Table of Contents
Carla’s Hair Loss Testimonial
Carla One Year Later