Question: Hi, I was on accutane for 7 months starting on 20mg I went up to 50mg but have androgenetic alopecia as a side effect. As I’ve seen a dermatologist. I’m wanting to know is laser hair therapy the best way to get blood flow to my roots to enable hair growth?
Answer: Hi, Sal. There are two things to consider here regarding your hair loss and both involve assessing where the shedding is coming from on your scalp.
The reason for this is that androgenetic alopecia – better known as Male Pattern Baldness and, in women, Female Pattern Hair Loss – is an inherited, genetic condition, not a side effect of prescription drugs. That said, there are cases of hair loss from medication and this has links to hereditary shedding. So, it’s important to establish precisely what is causing your hair fall in order to know how best to approach treating it.
Firstly, Accutane is known to cause thinning hair as a side effect – this is listed on the medication’s patient information leaflet. This form of hair loss is known as Telogen Effluvium and causes diffuse shedding from all over the scalp. It tends to present around three months after it has initially been triggered and is a temporary condition. The reason it occurs is due to excessive strain being placed on the body – either physical or emotional. It can also be caused as a side effect of medication, often whilst the body adjusts to this new drug in its system.
When new medication is introduced, or where there is an illness – whether it has been diagnosed or not – the body seeks to protect itself by ensuring the proper maintenance of its critical systems, such as the heart and kidneys. In order to do this, attention is diverted away from other non-vital functions, such as the hair growth cycle. This can result in hairs that were actively growing being prematurely forced into the telogen phase, which is the resting period of the cycle, during which hairs are shed – something which can take around three months to happen.
Once the underlying issue has been dealt with or passed, and the body realises it is no longer in danger, regular hair growth will generally resume naturally. In cases of Telogen Effluvium this is generally within six months; though when it extends beyond this, the condition may be Chronic but still considered temporary.
Where this becomes relevant to androgenetic alopecia – which is permanent – is in that people with an inherited predisposition to genetic hairloss may have their rate of shedding increased if they also experience Telogen Effluvium. Additionally, for those without active signs of hair loss but with the relevant genetic trait, it may speed up its onset, bringing this on prematurely. It is also possible to have both Telogen Effluvium and Male or Female Pattern Baldness simultaneously.
Telogen Effluvium causes hair fall from all over the scalp; Androgenetic Alopecia causes hair loss only from the top of the scalp – the vertex area from hairline to crown. In men this can appear in more well-defined patterns, such as a receding hairline, whilst in women this tends to affect the whole vertex and thinning at the temples. In cases where both conditions are present there is likely to be diffuse thinning from all over the scalp that is more pronounced along the vertex.
It is important to ascertain the precise cause of your hair loss because if you have temporary shedding, the hair fall is likely to clear up naturally. In this case low-level laser therapy (LLLT) via an FDA-cleared, home-use device such as the LaserBand or LaserComb may indeed be helpful in accelerating hair regrowth, as too may Telogen Effluvium treatment.
If, however, you are experiencing genetic hairloss then using LLLT is unlikely to be beneficial it used on its own, though Belgravia specialists find it can be helpful for supporting the work of the clinically-proven medications used in dedicated Male and Female Pattern Hair Loss treatment courses. Whilst low-level laser therapy can help to stimulate the hair follicles with the aim of encouraging accelerated hair growth, this regimen is considered secondary to the MHRA-licensed and FDA-approved topical and oral medications designed to combat hairloss from a pharmaceutical angle.
You can of course try the LLLT to see how you get on – remember to allow at least three months to see any changes due to the natural timeline of the growth cycle – and if you find it is not having the desired effect, you can try another option.
We would encourage you to have a consultation with a specialist – either in-clinic or online – who can provide you with a thorough diagnosis and, following that, recommended treatment options based on their findings and your medical profile.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.