[By Henrietta Thomas]
Everyone loses hair. It happens during your morning shower, while you’re blowing it dry, or when you give it a quick brush—and that’s normal. But how much is too much?
“On average, we lose fifty to a hundred hairs a day,” says Dr Chua Han Boon from The Sloane Clinic. “That’s just hair going through its cycles, and there will be a new one to replace it.”
“Anything more than that may signal an underlying medical condition that needs an evaluation and possible treatment” according to Dr Chua. Here are some of the common causes of hair loss that afflict both men and women.
BLAME IT ON YOUR GENES
The most common cause of hair loss is a hereditary condition called male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness. In genetically susceptible people, certain sex hormones trigger a particular pattern of permanent hair loss. Most common in men, this type of hair thinning can begin as early as puberty.
BLAME IT ON YOUR HORMONES
Hormonal changes and imbalances can also cause temporary hair loss. This could be due to pregnancy, childbirth, discontinuation of birth control pills or the onset of menopause. Telogen effluvium is a phenomenon that occurs after pregnancy, major surgery, drastic weight loss, or extreme stress, in which you shed large amounts of hair every day, usually when shampooing, styling, or brushing. It can also be a side effect of certain medications, such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. During telogen effluvium, hair shifts faster than normal from its growing phase into the “resting” phase before moving quickly into the shedding, or telogen, phase.
The symptoms: Women with telogen effluvium typically notice hair loss 6 weeks to 3 months after a stressful event. At its peak, you may lose handfuls of hair.
A variety of medical conditions can cause hair loss, including Thyroid problems. The thyroid gland helps regulate hormone levels in your body. If the gland isn’t working properly, hair loss may result. Scalp infections such as ringworm, can invade the hair and skin of your scalp, leading to hair loss. Once infections are treated, hair generally grows back. Other skin disorders that can cause scarring, such as lichen planus and some types of lupus, can result in permanent hair loss where the scars occur.
Not surprisingly, hair loss can be caused by drugs used to treat cancer, arthritis, depression, even heart problems or high blood pressure.
A physical or emotional shock can trigger general thinning of hair several months after. Examples include sudden or excessive weight loss, a high fever, or a death in the family. In certain cases, there may be an underlying mental illness that predisposes people to have an irresistible urge to pull out their hair, whether it’s from the scalp, their eyebrows or other areas of the body. Hair pulling from the scalp often leaves patchy bald spots on the head.
BIDE YOUR TIME:
In some cases, such as pregnancy or major surgery, you may have to bide your time until the hair loss slows. If medication is the culprit, talk to your doctor about lowering your dosage or switching drugs. If it’s stress-related, do your best to reduce anxiety.
Medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hair loss include: Minoxidil, an over-the-counter liquid or foam that you rub into your scalp twice daily to grow hair and to prevent further loss. Some people experience some hair regrowth or a slower rate of hair loss or both. It may take 12 weeks for new hair to start growing. Minoxidil is available in a 2 percent solution and in a 5 percent solution. Side effects can include scalp irritation and occasionally unwanted hair growth on the adjacent skin of the forehead or face.
Oral medications for men include Finasteride (Propecia). This prescription medication to treat male-pattern baldness is taken daily in pill form. Many men taking finasteride experience a slowing of hair loss, and some may show some new hair growth. Rare side effects of finasteride include diminished sex drive and sexual function. Finasteride should be avoided by women of childbearing age.
Low level lasers such as Revage 670 have been clinically proven to help slow down hair loss. This quick, painless procedure helps to increase blood flow to the scalp to stimulate the growth phase of the hair follicles. “At The Sloane Clinic, we recommend that our patients undergo Revage twice weekly in the initial phase, then once weekly to arrest the thinning process” explains Dr Chua Han Boon.
Hair transplants. This type of procedure removes tiny plugs of skin, each containing a few hairs, from the back or sides of your scalp. The plugs are then implanted into the bald sections of your scalp. “Several transplant sessions may be needed, as hereditary hair loss progresses with time” explains plastic surgeon Dr Tan Ying Chien from The Sloane Clinic, which offers ARTAS® Robotic hair transplantation.