Written by: Shani Fowler
We spend an inordinate amount of time and money on our hair, cutting, colouring and styling it into submission on a daily basis. We can even take it for granted, moan when it doesn’t go right, that curl will simply not straighten out – and we end up having “a bad hair day”. We’ve all been there at some time or another – usually when it is crucial to get it looking great! It’s not just the ladies either who are prone to a preen either – the gents can be rather fond of tending to their crowning glory too! But what when our hair conspires against us and actually falls out? Temporary or permanent hair loss can be devastating for those who suffer from it. It can leave a person embarrassed, stressed and reluctant to leave the house. There are different types of hair loss and reasons behind them. Let’s have a look at some of the more common types, the reasons behind it and what we can do.
Hair loss following pregnancy
In the normal events of life, it is considered each of us lose between 100-150 hairs from our head per day following the hair’s normal growth, resting and resting phases. This goes largely unnoticed, it is spread across the scalp and new hairs grow. During pregnancy, increased levels of oestrogen prolong the growing stage of hair so fewer hairs settle into the resting phase – leaving the ladies with thicker glowing tresses – primitively, this is believed to occur to encourage the male stick around for the glossy woman he has impregnated! After the birth, a little chaos can ensue with more follicles entering the resting phase together and you can notice more hairs in the shower, in the brush and less on your head. This can leave many women in a state of panic, but try not to panic as the cycle usually returns to normal between six and twelve months after the birth. During the time of thinner hair you can ride it out, trying different styles or thickening products or even opt for a shorter cut which can leave hair appearing thicker.
Male pattern baldness
Male pattern baldness is hereditary and is the most common hair loss. It is thought to affect around 50 percent of the male population by the time they reach 50 years of age; usually starting in the late twenties. By the time males reach their late thirties, most have some degree of hair loss. The hair loss usually shows by a receding hairline and thinning on the crown and temple area. Women, as well as men can be affected by female pattern baldness, but this usually forms the pattern of thinning hair on the top of the head. The causes of female pattern baldness are less understood and not considered to be hereditary. It can be distressing when people lose hair, especially this permanent loss. Most men opt for a shaved headed, or really cropped hair look to avoid that dreaded comb over.
There are different types of alopecia which cause varying types of hair loss.
Alopecia areata is caused by a problem with the body’s immune system and is more common among those with autoimmune conditions. Also, there are hereditary links to the condition with one in five sufferers having a family history of the hair loss. Alopecia areata causes bald patches anywhere on the scalp, around the size of a large coin, although they can occur at any age, it is mostly common in teens and young adults. The good news is, in most cases hair does regrow in a few months. Although it might return fine and white at first it usually thickens and returns to its normal colour.
Some people however do suffer from more severe hair loss such as alopecia totalis (no scalp hair) or alopecia universalis (no scalp or body hair).
Scarring alopecia accounts for around 7% of hair loss and is usually caused by complications of another existing condition, which means the hair follicle is completely destroyed and the hair doesn’t grow back.
Telogen effluvium is a common form of alopecia, with a widespread thinning of hair as opposed to bald patches. This usually is caused by hormonal changes, intense emotional stress, some short and long term illnesses, also intense physical stress including childbirth. Usually hair returns to normal after six months.
Anagen effluvium is widespread hair loss affecting all areas of the body. One of the most causes of this is medication such as chemotherapy. As such, this hair loss is predominantly temporary, with hair returning to normal following cessation of treatment.
Treatment of hair loss
Male pattern baldness is part of the ageing process and doesn’t require treatment, men often opting for a shaved or cropped, but there are medications such as finasteride and minoxidil that can be used to try to treat it. There are varied success rates with these treatments, they can be expensive and are unavailable on the NHS. Alopecia areata is usually treated with steroid injections, creams or gels or also a treatment called immunotherapy can be used. Many people opt to wear wig or hair piece to cover hair loss and sometimes can qualify for a wig on the NHS. There are also surgical options for hair loss, a hair transplant could be an option but again this can be a very costly procedure.
Hair loss can be distressing and cause depression. If you find you are worried about it and the potential cause of it, you should see your GP. It can be difficult to come to terms with losing hair, we feel it is part of our identity, prior to hair loss we have placed substantial focus on it throughout our lives. Contacting charities such as Alopecia UK can provide support and often counselling can assist. Also, speaking with friends and family can help or joining support groups and speaking on forums. Sharing stories with people who are also suffering from similar conditions, can provide immense support. Acceptance of hair loss is not easy, but by trying to focus on other aspects of life and other qualities can help. Also patience – remember, most hair growth returns and given time it is likely your hair will resume normal service.