What is Hair Loss?
Also known as Alopecia
The average human scalp contains 100,000 hair follicles. Red-haired scalps average about 25 percent fewer hairs and blond-haired heads tend to average about 25 percent more hairs than brown-haired scalps. At puberty, the hairline moves back a little in 96 percent of boys due to the androgen hormone spurt.
The medical term alopecia means partial or complete loss of hair. Hair loss may result from genetic factors, aging, or local or systemic disease. Causes of hair loss can be grouped into the following categories:
Male or female pattern baldness
This type of hair loss requires the presence of androgens but the cause is unknown. The extent of hair loss in any man depends greatly on the genes he inherits from the father, mother or both.
Hair loss begins in the temples or at the top of the head. If male pattern hair loss begins in the mid-teens, subsequent hair loss is usually is extensive. Male balding goes in waves. The hair loss may begin in the early 20’s, and then stop, only to start again in a few years.
By the age of 20 to 30 years, 30 percent of men have bald spots. This continues to rise until age 50-60 when 50 percent of men are completely bald.
The rate of hair loss is affected by advancing age, the tendency to bald early due to inherited genes, and an overabundance of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone within the hair follicle.
Although balding men have above average amounts of dihydrotestosterone in their hair follicles, they usually do not have above average circulating testosterone levels.
Female pattern baldness is not as common as the male pattern but is on the rise. It is confined to thinning of the hair predominantly at the top of the head. Complete baldness is rare.
This type of hair loss is temporary and can a severe and often infectious disease by a period of as long as three to four months. It can occur in hypothyroidism, diabetes, hormonal problems and imbalance, nutrient and vitamin deficiencies, such as iron and biotin, hypopituitarism, parasites, poor digestion, early stage of syphilis, after pregnancy, and with thallium compounds, vitamin A or retinoid overdoses, or other cytotoxic drugs.
This is a sudden hair loss in demarcated areas. It can affect any hairy area, but most frequently affects the scalp and beard. Hair loss confined to a few areas is often reversed in a few months even without treatment. Recurrences may occur. Alopecia areata usually occurs in people with no obvious skin disease or systemic disease, but in rare cases, lab tests may show anti-microsomal antibodies to thyroglobulin, gastric parietal cells, and adrenal cells.
Trichotillomania (hair pulling)
Trichotillomania is a habit that usually appears in childhood. This condition is often hard to differentiate from alopecia areata and may remain undiagnosed for a long time. Hairs may be broken, hairs may be different lengths, and there may be re-growth seen.
Scarring alopecia results from inflammation and tissue destruction. It may be due to injuries such as burns, physical trauma, or destruction after x-rays. In these cases, little re-growth is expected. Other causes are cutaneous lupus erythematosus, lichen planus, chronic deep bacterial or fungal infections, deep ulcers, sarcoidosis, syphilis, or tuberculosis. Slow growing tumors of the scalp are a rare cause of hair loss.
A dermatologist can conduct the microscopic exam of plucked hair to differentiate between causes of hair loss and balding. This method compares the different phases of hair growth. Normally, 80-90 % of hairs are in a growing phase, also called the anagen phase, the rest are in the resting phase, also called the telogen phase. Experienced and trained clinicians can distinguish anagen hairs, which have sheaths attached to their roots, from telogen hairs which have no sheaths and have tiny bulbs at their roots. Other methods are a biopsy of the scalp, physical examination and blood tests to detect any underlying metabolic, infectious, or inflammatory condition that could be causing secondary hair loss.
One of the most effective conventional approaches to male pattern hair loss is the drug minoxidil.
Interest in minoxidil began with the observation that the oral form of this drug, which dilates blood vessels and is taken for high blood pressure, caused hair regrowth and partially reversed baldness in some men. For baldness, a topical form of minoxidil (Regaine or Rogaine) is applied to areas of hair loss. However, less than 10% of men taking it to achieve satisfactory results.
Another conventional drug for baldness is the anti-androgenic drug finasteride. It inhibits the enzyme 5-alpha reductase that transforms testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. This seems to stimulate the growth of thicker, stronger, and darker hair.
Both minoxidil and finasteride have side effects.
A diet that contains whole foods, particularly the outer skin of plants such as potatoes, cucumbers, green and red peppers, and sprouts can give strength to hair because they are rich in the mineral silica. Foods that are high in iron, such as lean meats, are important for people with a known iron deficiency.
Nutritional Supplements, Vitamins & Herbs
Saw palmetto oil is an accepted treatment for benign prostate hyperplasia in men. It appears to interact with various sex hormones, including dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is produced from testosterone by enzyme 5-alpha-reductase.
Like most enzymes, it can be inhibited. There has been great medical interest in substances that have the potential for inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, and thereby preventing or treating benign prostate hyperplasia. Theoretically, saw palmetto could have also been used to block DHT and prevent hair loss. Saw palmetto is believed to have a similar mechanism of action to the anti-androgenic drug finasteride (Propecia), which has been used in low doses for hair loss.
An essential oil, rosemary has strong antiseptic properties that help treat the flaky scalp, dandruff, and infections—all of which contribute to hair loss. It is also a natural hair loss treatment that acts as a potent stimulant when applied directly. And, as discussed in the International Journal of Biotechnology, rosemary oil has superior antibacterial and antioxidant properties, both of which lead to noticeable hair regrowth.
A scalp that has experienced severe and prolonged dryness often results in dandruff, poor hair luster, and increased hair loss. One great natural hair loss treatment involves using jojoba oil to moisturize the scalp’s hair follicles, which makes new hair healthy and strong. The oil may also help hair cells reproduce faster, and fortunately doesn’t leave behind any greasy residue after being washed out. To use this natural hair loss treatment, warm a few drops of the oil in your hands, massage it into your roots and then wash out after 10-15 minutes using your usual shampoo and conditioner.
Fenugreek, also known as methi, is highly effective in treating hair loss. These seeds contain hormone antecedents that enhance hair growth and help rebuild hair follicles. They also contain proteins and nicotinic acid that stimulate hair growth.
Folic acid, biotin, vitamin B5, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), and silica
These are supplements that may help maintain the color and thickness of hair.
If you’re wondering how to stop hair from falling out, aloe vera is a great home remedy for treating hair loss. Aloe vera works to soothe and calm a damaged scalp, creating a healthy environment for hair cells to replenish and flourish. Aloe also helps clean up sebum, an oil that clogs follicles and prevents hair from growing back. To effectively use this natural hair loss treatment, simply massage pure aloe vera gel directly along your scalp, or find an aloe vera-based shampoo.
Food For Hair Loss
Green tea helps promote detoxification and contains antioxidants that promote hair growth. It also may stop the conversion of testosterone into DHT.
Be sure to check your daily intake of zinc through supplements. Intake of 30 mg or higher for more than three months can induce a deficiency of copper, and low copper levels can result in hair loss. Speak to a health practitioner before supplementing copper to avoid copper overdose.