Hair loss

Male and female pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia or hereditary hair loss, is the thinning and balding of the hair on your head. In women, about 40% show signs of hair loss by the age of 50, and up to 55% of women will experience hair loss by the time they are 80. As much as 80% of men will be affected by hair loss by the age of 70.

Hair growth and miniaturisation

Hair normally follows a cyclical pattern of growth. Hair, which grows from hair follicles, grows for 3 to 5 years.  After this, the hair dies and does not grow, but sits dormant in the follicle for about 3 months. Following this, the dead hair sheds from your scalp and new hairs begin to grow. It is normal to lose 50 to 100 hairs per day when shedding.

The hair on your head grows in tufts of 3 or 4 strands. If you are experiencing hair loss, these tufts may be losing hairs. This makes your hair look thinner because there are fewer individual strands growing in the area.

Cause of pattern hair loss

In both male and female pattern hair loss, there is a genetic component involved. In men, androgens (hormones such as testosterone) have a clear link to pattern hair loss, although it is uncertain if this link is the same in women. There are many genes that contribute to pattern hair loss and it can be inherited from either parent. Unfortunately, there is no reliable testing for the risk of hair loss currently.

It may be recommended that you have blood tests done to check hormone levels and thyroid function to ensure hair loss is not caused by any underlying illness.

Treatments

While hair loss does not negatively affect your physical health, it can be distressing. The psychological impact of hair loss, including depression, low self-esteem, and feelings of unattractiveness can lead people towards treatments. While there is no cure for pattern hair loss, there are some treatments aimed at slowing the progression and promoting regrowth.

Men may be prescribed the tablet finasteride, which stops hair follicles from being affected by testosterone. This treatment needs to be continuous to maintain the effect. Topical lotions such as minoxidil can be used by men and women, which needs to be applied twice a day to the scalp. This treatment is more effective in early stages of hair loss, and must be continued long term to continue seeing results.

Some people with hair loss may opt to cover their thinning hair with colour hair sprays or powder, wigs, or hair pieces.

Prevention

While hereditary hair loss cannot be prevented, Health Navigator recommends the following to support healthy and strong hair:

  • Eat enough protein
  • Be gentle with your hair, especially when styling
  • Avoid heavily perfumed hair lotions
  • Avoid excessive heat treatments

Websites of interest

Find your nearest Age Concern