Unless you have lost it all, it is easy to take your hair for granted. While hair is a self-regenerating element of the body, there are occasions where the system fails and you are left dealing with thinning, balding, and eventually, hair loss. When loss occurs, it can be embarrassing and frustrating, especially if you don’t know why your hair is falling out. To understand loss and how to treat it, you first need to understand growth.
The Lives of Hair Follicles
Hair follicles live just under the top layer of your skin, and at the base of each follicle is the hair bulb. This part is where a complex matrix of cells develop into hair. Stem cells live throughout the bulge of the follicle, where after receiving certain chemical signals, the cells begin a process of division and development. One half the cell becomes responsible for regeneration while the other half continues the process of splitting and developing. Hair growth starts with the anagen phase, where the follicle stem cells start to divide and develop. At the same time, the cells in the rest of the follicle grow rapidly and develop color. This leads to the hair shaft. As the new hair pushes out the hair that has died, the exogen phase begins, leading to the old hair falling out. After this phase, the catagen part of growth has the lower portions of the follicle shriveling up and being destroyed, eventually having a regressed follicle enter the dormant phase of growth (or telogen phase). The follicle then waits for the signal to start the growth process again.
The Problem of Loss
It is normal for some loss to occur throughout the cycle of hair growth and replacement. Not all follicles are in the same phase of growth at the same time, so you may see upwards of 100-150 hairs lost a day. If you have noticed that your hair is severely thinning, your part is widening, or that your hairline is receding, you could be dealing with a more specific problem of baldness. It is important to talk to a dermatologist or physician about concerns with your hair since there could be a number of reasons behind the loss. Once you pinpoint what has influenced or created the hair loss problem (alopecia), you can narrow down the best treatment option. Certain medications can cause your hair to fall out, while crash diets and a lack of proper nutrition can also contribute to how many hairs you lose. Stress and environmental concerns can also play a part.
Treatments for Loss
Loss can affect both genders, though men seem to be those that suffer the worst. The earliest solutions for alopecia were directed towards men, as research found that some forms of loss are caused by a by-product of testosterone called DHT. The first product to be mass-marketed as a solution for male problems with balding was Rogaine, with a primary ingredient of minoxidil making the difference. The research indicates that the drug is able to slow or prohibit the release of excess DHT, slowing problems of loss. Removing the harmful hormone allows new hair to grow, though scientists still disagree over why. Newer formulas of hair restoration products, like that of NuDew, combines different medications to address the complete situation of loss. NuDew incorporates minoxidil to promote regrowth, finasteride to prevent additional loss, and ketoconazole to address the baldness. The initial medications were only for use in males, but as females also struggle with loss, the formulas have been changed to be made safe for women as well.
Another option for dealing with baldness is replacement surgery. Treating a condition with medication is usually only effective as long as the patient continues the medication. When stopping the treatment, balding or loss may resume. A more lasting approach to restoration is through hair transplant surgery. First appearing in the 80s, the process took large grafts of 10-12 hair follicles from the sides or back of the head (where the hairline was fullest) and implanted them in the thin areas. Since then, hair transplants use one to four hairs during each implant and place them close together for a natural look. If you are thinking surgery is necessary, there is a process (though most unfavorable) called scalp reduction. This treatment cuts the balding scalp area out and stitched the remaining skin back together to reduce the area. You are left with a smaller area to transplant.
New developments in stem cell research may also impact the affordability and accessibility ability to regrow hair for those that struggle with balding and want to change their appearance. However, this most cost-efficient solution for restoring hair would be a prescription that can be taken orally or rubbed into the scalp directly.
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