People speak of hair loss when more hairs fall out than grow. The condition occurs in 70% of men and 40% of women. The most common form of hair loss is the genetic variant, Alopecia Androgenetica.
What is hair loss?
Hair loss is the loss or thinning out of the hair. This usually concerns head hair, but it can also occur in other parts of the body. Baldness occurs as a result of more hair loss than the production of new hairs. Hair loss is a natural process. In healthy people, every hair can remain in the scalp for three to five years. Hair growth takes place during this period. After this time, the hair falls out and the hair follicle does not produce any hair for about three months (resting phase). Then a new hair comes out of the hair follicle and repeats the cycle of three to five years. There are 100,000 to 150,000 hair follicles on your head. An average of 50 to 100 hairs fall out per day. Only when many more hairs fall out will excessive hair loss occur. When hairs fall out excessively and are not replaced by new hair, people speak of baldness or alopecia.
What are the causes of hair loss?
The causes of hair loss are numerous and varied. One of the main causes of hair loss is the hormone DHT. This hormone is linked to testosterone levels in the bloodstream. DHT prevents hair growth in men and is also the most common cause of baldness. This can also be the reason for baldness in women. Although in men the development of baldness often takes place from the front edge of the hair to the crown, in women there is often a complete dilution of the hair. In other cases the cause of hair loss is hereditary, this condition is called Alopecia Androgenetica. Here are some of the other causes of hair loss: stress, poor scalp condition, impaired thyroid function, medication and iron deficiency.
- Stress complaints are expressed in different ways, and affect both the body and the mind. One of the physical symptoms of stress is hair loss. The name for this condition is Telogen Effluvium.
- The scalp being in a poor condition can be caused by poor blood circulation, a lack of certain nutrients or external factors, such as the weather or harmful care products. And a damaged scalp can lead to reduced hair growth.
- A decreased thyroid function, or hypothyroidism, results in a decreased metabolism, and therefore also has an adverse effect on hair growth.
- Medication can also affect the hair in some cases. Hair loss can be a side effect of antibiotics, antidepressants, chemotherapy and beta blockers for high blood pressure.
- Iron deficiency can cause hair loss because the body needs certain nutrients to function properly. Iron is responsible for the formation of haemoglobin, a component of red blood cells, and red blood cells carry oxygen through our bodies. Iron also produces energy in our body cells.
What forms of hair loss are there?
- Involutional Alopecia and Senile Alopecia: this form of hair loss occurs in older people. The hair follicles are no longer active, resulting in fewer new hairs being created.
- Androgenetic Alopecia: the word ‘genetic’ refers to the genetic component of this disorder. Hair loss occurs in many people, both men and women. The causes of hereditary hair loss are largely known. The big culprit is the hormone DHT. DHT occurs in both men and women and is formed from the male hormone.
- Alopecia Diffusa: here too, we find the word Alopecia which simply means hair loss in Greek. Only here this is a matter of acute hair loss where baldness spreads over the entire head and does not manifest itself in the form of bald spots such as in Alopecia Areata.
- Telogen Effluvium: stress-related hair loss is common. In addition, a large proportion of the hair immediately enters the extinction phase (catagen) after which it will fall out after about four months. Hair loss is usually acute and in most cases caused by stress. In some cases, hair loss is chronic.
- Alopecia Areata: in Alopecia Areata, often at a young age, a section of the head hair is lost. Alopecia Universales is when eyelashes and eyebrows are lost. It is a form of baldness that can be recognised by the bald round spots on the scalp. This form is caused by a disturbed immune system that attacks hair follicles, causing them to die off slowly. It is considered an autoimmune disease.
Other less well-known forms of hair loss include:
- Frontal fibrosing alopecia: baldness in the anterior hairline
- Trichotillomania: automatic form in which one pulls one’s hair out of one’s head
- Scarring alopecia: scar tissue prevents hair from growing anymore
- Tinea capitis: fungal infection in which hair does not grow is most common in children
How can you recognise hair loss?
A man has an average of 100,000 hairs on his head. Normally he loses 50 to 100 hairs a day. If this number rises to 300 per day, this will become noticeable over time. For many people, this will be a fright and be a reason to do further research. It is important to identify it early and to check whether it is sudden or chronic hair loss. If it is sudden hair loss, the cause is usually not hereditary. Then carefully consider whether factors in your environment, your diet or medication may cause the hair loss.
Is there anything I can do myself about hair loss?
It is important to first find out what the underlying cause of the hair loss is. Have you made any changes to your diet that could cause you to run out of iron, for example? Have you started taking medication? Do you experience a lot of stress in your life?
If the hair loss is related to the use of medication, consult your doctor or specialist to see what else you can do about it. If it is gradual hair loss, it may well be that heredity plays a role. Fortunately, you can then do enough to slow down or even stop this process. Live a healthy lifestyle, it is important that you get enough nutrients, especially iron, but also vitamins B and C. Make sure you move enough. Movement helps facilitate blood circulation, which in turn has a positive effect on hair growth.
Sport is also a very good way to get rid of stress complaints. Stress causes you to produce adrenaline, which, like lactic acid, enters the sebum. Lactic acid is harmful to the hair roots, which can even cause hair to die.
In addition, nowadays hair is generally washed too often, which disturbs the natural sebum production of the scalp. So make sure you do not wash your hair every day.
What are the forms of treatment?
There are plenty of possibilities to prevent hair loss, both medicinal and alternative therapies, but there are also plenty of possibilities in terms of your lifestyle. Here are some of the options that are available, and we will discuss them in more detail later. One of the possibilities is to take dietary supplements. Make sure that the supplements are rich in the following nutrients: potassium, silicon, vitamin B, zinc.
In addition, hair growth can be stimulated by Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). This therapy has been clinically tested in both men and women and is therefore officially recognised by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
The medicines for hair loss that have been officially registered in the Netherlands by the Medicines Evaluation Board are: Minoxidil and Finasteride.
Minoxidil, known as Rogaine, is the first lotion registered for the treatment of hair loss. Rogaine is actually intended as a remedy for high blood pressure. Researchers discovered that people who used minoxidil started to grow hair. How exactly minoxidil works against hair loss is not yet known. Minoxidil is available in a 2% variant and in a 5% variant. The 2% variant is often prescribed to women, the 5% variant to men.
Finasteride is a prescription-only tablet that is used for the treatment of early stages of baldness (Androgenetic Alopecia) in men. The two best known types of Finasteride are Propecia and Proscar. Proscar is normally used for male prostate enlargement.
Other resources are: Ketoconazol, Dutasteride and Esthecin.
If you do not want to use medication to combat hair loss, there are plenty of alternative therapies you can try. For example, taking extra vitamins, food supplements, laser treatment, hair transplantation and stem cell therapy.
There is continuous research in the field of stem cell therapies where hair is cloned, as it were. The EU patented therapy is RepliCel. The therapy is based on autologous cell implantation technology that implants hair cells from a patient’s own healthy hair follicles and is used in areas where hair loss has occurred.
Laser therapy is a clinically tested and FDA-approved therapy. Thanks to the laser and infrared light, blood circulation and sebum production are stimulated and dormant hair follicles are activated. In many cases, this results in an increase in hair density.
Hair transplantation is an expert treatment that requires special techniques. There are two methods for implanting hair. The first is the FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation) method and the other is the FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) technique.
In addition, there is also plasma treatment for hair loss. The PRP Plasma treatment, in which PRP stands for Platelet Rich Plasma, is a technique in which blood is taken and then the plasma of your own blood is filtered. The resulting plasma contains a high concentration of platelets and growth factors. The blood is then administered again by means of injections.
Going bald is drastic, especially when it happens at a young age or as a result of a serious illness. If it is such a problem that it hinders you in your daily life, you may consider a wig. The wigs are made of synthetic hair or natural hair, but in both cases the hair is almost indistinguishable from real hair nowadays. Be careful when choosing the right treatment method. Given the scale of hair loss, all kinds of misleading and unreliable therapies are also offered. Make sure that you always choose a particular treatment in consultation with a doctor.
Healthy living also plays an important role in hair loss. By exercising and sleeping enough and making sure you get enough nutrients, you can influence the condition of your scalp and hair. Nutrition is very important here. Hair consists of keratin, and keratin consists of cysteine, a protein that needs sulphur. Sulphur is found in broccoli, cabbage, pak choi, mustard, watercress, asparagus, parsley, garlic, onions, cauliflower, tomatoes, peas and avocados. Sulphur is contained in protein, so protein-rich products such as nuts, eggs, meat and fish are recommended.
Also pay attention to the hair care products you use. Avoid chemical shampoo with aggressive products that are harmful to the hair. One of the main causes of hair loss is stress, so take this seriously too. Take a close look at the stressful factors in your life and seek help if necessary.