Hair Loss Treatment and Causes
Dr. Gerardo Sison
The majority of people will experience some form of hair loss or breakage as they age regardless of their gender, but hair shedding can occur at any time in your life for a variety of different reasons.
Although no one likes to think about losing their hair, the more you understand hair loss treatment and causes, the better prepared you will be to address your hair loss if it ever becomes necessary in the future.
What causes hair loss?
Some balding is natural, as it is part of the hair life cycle to shed hair. The hair life cycle includes growth phase, rest, and shedding phases, and the average person loses about 100 hairs per day. However, when the hair life cycle becomes abnormal or interrupted, hair loss can occur and noticeable changes of hair thickness can develop.
Some people experience pattern hair loss in the form of a receding hairline, while others may notice bald spots appearing on the top of the head, and others may notice thinning hair only in certain areas, such as around the crown of the head.
Hair loss can occur for a number of different reasons, but heredity and your family history are the most common reasons why people lose their hair. Androgenic alopecia, known as male pattern baldness in men and female pattern baldness in women, affects people increasingly as they age.
An estimated 85 percent of men will experience hair loss as a result of male pattern hair loss by the age of 50, but it can affect men as early as in their teenage years. Although women tend to experience patchy hair loss later than life, female pattern baldness is also common. Over half of women will experience signs of female pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss by the age of 70.
Other common causes of hair loss include:
- Medical conditions such as alopecia areata, trichotillomania, or scalp infections
- Hormonal changes due to thyroid changes, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, or aging
- Radiation treatment
- Medications or supplements, particularly those that are used to treat arthritis, depression, cancer, or high blood pressure
- Physical or emotional stress
- Certain hairstyles and styling techniques that pull the hair tightly
- Poor nutrition
What treatments are available for hair loss?
With hair loss being such a common problem, it is no surprise that many companies have spent a considerable amount of time and money researching treatments that can stop hair loss, promote hair growth and provide healthy hair.
Use the right shampoos and conditioners.
One of the easiest ways to treat hair loss is with shampoos and conditioners that can easily be incorporated into your current hair care routine. You’ll want to start by looking for shampoos and conditioners that are specifically designed to prevent hair loss and strengthen hair.
One common ingredient in shampoos and conditioners that can help treat hair loss is saw palmetto. This natural extract has been proven to slow hair loss and promote hair regrowth by acting on a substance called DHT in the scalp.
DHT is an androgen, a type of sex hormone that can rise as men age. As DHT levels rise, it can trigger signs of male pattern baldness, such as receding hairlines or thinning on the crown of the head. Saw palmetto targets DHT in the scalp and can help lower the levels in the scalp, which may minimize hair loss and encourage hair regrowth.
By choosing a shampoo that contains DHT, you can simultaneously lower the levels of DHT in the scalp while also removing DHT buildup that surrounds the hair follicles. Also keep an eye out for thickening shampoos and conditioners that can increase the appearance of volume in your existing hair while you wait for new hair to grow in.
Add a dietary supplement.
Nutritional deficiencies have been found to contribute to hair loss, so addressing these deficiencies can help reduce hair loss and promote regrowth.
Studies have found that vitamin A, the B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, selenium, and zinc are especially important for the health of the hair, so if minimizing hair loss and promoting hair growth is your goal, a multivitamin supplement that contains adequate levels of each of these nutrients may be helpful.
One of the vitamins that is most commonly connected to hair health is biotin, also known as vitamin B7.
Biotin has been found to promote and contribute to the health of the hair, skin, and nails. Biotin makes up a major portion of the infrastructure of keratin, which is a type of protein that makes up the cells of the hair, skin, and nails. Without an adequate amount of biotin, the hair, skin, and nails can become weak, dull, or brittle, and people may lose their hair at a faster rate.
Another common vitamin deficiency that can contribute to hair loss is vitamin D deficiency. Up to 40 percent of adults in the United States are said to suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which has been shown to play a role in hair loss caused by nonscarring alopecia. Choosing a dietary supplement that contains enough vitamin D to meet your daily requirements may help stop hair loss in people with nonscarring alopecia.
Try minimally-invasive treatments.
Topical and minimally-invasive treatments also offer a viable option for the prevention of hair loss and the potential to regrow hair. Options include topical minoxidil, also known under the brand name Rogaine, laser treatment with low level lasers, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections.
Topical minoxidil can be purchased over the counter without a prescription. The topical treatment has been shown to help minimize hair loss and encourage hair regrowth in clinical studies dating back to the 1980s. Minoxidil was found to promote moderate to dense hair growth on the crown and back of the head in 40 percent of men using minoxidil, according to clinical studies. The concentration that is studied most frequently contains five percent minoxidil, which was found to reduce hair loss in 62 percent of men in one observational study.
Treatment with a low level laser may be another option for those suffering from hair loss. Red light therapy is a type of low-level laser treatment that can stimulate the epidermal stem cells in the scalp, which may help treat certain types of hair loss and increase hair density.
People suffering from hair loss can purchase a red light therapy laser treatment machine and treat themselves safely at home, but many treatments are often required for most people to notice an improvement in their hair thickness. Some studies have shown that low level laser therapy may be an alternative option for hair loss; however, more research is needed to confirm whether it is truly effective.
Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, injections are also growing in popularity as a hair loss treatment. Patients pursuing this treatment option give blood, which is then separated in order to sequester the platelets. A patient’s platelets are then injected back into the scalp, helping to increase hair growth in areas where the hair is thinning. Studies have found that PRP treatment can increase hair growth in these areas by up to 30 percent, but the treatment can be expensive for many people and may not work for everyone.
Try a prescription medication.
Prescription medications also offer a viable alternative as a hair loss treatment.
Finasteride, a prescription medication that can be administered orally in a tablet form or topically, works by lowering the levels of DHT in the scalp. The oral form of finasteride lowers levels of DHT throughout the body, which helps to prevent hair loss but may also have other effects, while topical finasteride works only on levels of DHT in the scalp.
Finasteride is an extremely effective treatment option, but it is currently only approved for use in men. A one-month supply of oral finasteride can be obtained for about one dollar per day, or 30 dollars per month, making it an affordable, effective treatment option for most men.
Hair loss occurs for many different reasons, but it can sometimes be prevented, and usually does not always mean permanent hair loss.
Whether you prefer to use a topical solution, take an oral medication, or focus on dietary changes in order to minimize your hair loss and promote hair regrowth, there are options that are right for you.
Remember, if you choose to take a prescription medication like finasteride, you’ll need to speak to a doctor or dermatologist, or use a telehealth service to obtain a prescription for the drug.
Look for prescription savings through pharmacy discount card companies like USA Rx, which can help save you money on all of your prescriptions.