If you had the power to stop and reverse your hair loss, would you? Hair loss is a common issue that can hold a different meaning for every individual.
There are lots of men who will be happy to tell you that baldness is a sign of virility or even that, “Bald is beautiful!” Very few women however are not distressed if they experience excessive hair loss and many cover it up with hairstyles, makeup, hats or scarves.
Others choose medications – particularly in the case of female pattern hair loss which is a permanent condition but can usually be easily be managed with on-going treatment– or hair replacement systems, or sometimes even surgical procedures to deal with the problem.
However not all forms of hair loss are permanent. So how do you know when and if you should do something about it?
Let’s take a look at some of the temporary conditions and what can be done to correct them.
Temporary Hair Loss:
Chronic Telogen Effluvium / Diffuse Thinning
Diffuse thinning is frequently seen in women. It is not the type of hair loss where you wake up in the morning and your hair is gone. Rather it is the kind that sees extra hairs in your comb, a few more in the sink and will eventually cause your hair to become noticeably thinner each time you look in the mirror.
Chronic Telogen Effluvium, as diffuse hair loss is also known, results in a general thinning all over the scalp and a detailed clinical history must be taken as there are a number of factors that could be linked to the condition. Diet should be checked for adequate intake of nutrients, clinical investigations should be made for thyroid, haemoglobin and hormonal problems; stress may also be a contributing factor.
Telogen effluvium is a form of diffuse hair loss many women experience, especially after giving birth. It can be brought on by emotional distress, such as a death in the family, or after a physical stress, such as a high fever, sudden or excessive weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, surgery, or serious illness. It causes thinning hair all over the whole scalp.
Normally, the hair goes through cycles of growth (lasting about two or three years) and rest (lasting about three or four months). During anagen (growth), hair grows about half an inch each month and when it reaches telogen (rest), the hair strand falls out and a new one grows in its place. Most people shed 50 to 100 hairs per day and this amount of hair loss is considered normal and does not cause noticeable thinning of the scalp hair.
However telogen effluvium causes the timing of the resting (telogen) phase to be reset. A couple of months later, too many strands fall out at the same time resulting in overall hair thinning and the sufferer who by this stage, may find it difficult to pin-point a cause, is left in a panic. Hair typically grows back once the condition that caused the hair loss corrects itself, but it can takes months.
“If the stress was a one-off, then telogen effluvium will often correct itself,” Leonora Doclis, senior hair loss specialist at The Belgravia Centre’s flagship clinic notes. “However, treatment for the loss of hair can help to minimize the damage, particularly if there is a tendency toward female pattern hair loss, whilst the body is dealing with the crisis.”
Other Causes of Hair Loss in Women
There are a number of things that can prompt increased shedding and affect the condition of the hair, such as having inadequate protein or iron in your diet. This is often seen with fad diets, crash diets, and illnesses, such as eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.
Illnesses like diabetes and lupus can also cause hair loss as a side effect, as can some prescription medications used to treat a number of unrelated health issues including gout, arthritis, depression, heart problems and high blood pressure. Taking birth control pills also may result in hair loss for some women.
Causes of Baldness
Instead of thinning, some people develop bald patches.
This can occur if you regularly wear certain hairstyles, such as ponytails, braids, dreadlocks or if you use tight rollers. Hair loss typically occurs where hair is pulled tightly but if the pulling is stopped before there is scarring of your scalp and permanent damage to the root, hair usually grows back normally. The problem is that when the hair starts to thin, most people cover it with weaves or add hair extensions until the condition gets so bad that very little can be done.
“If the hair starts to thin and becomes an issue for the person, instead of adding artificial coverage they should consult a professional,” Leonora recommends. “At least that way they can be educated on hair styling if that is what the problem is.”
The hair loss may also be linked to female pattern hair loss in which case it’s best to catch as early as possible. “If the follicles have shriveled and the area has gone smooth, then it’s very unlikely the condition can be reversed,” Leonora explains. Treatment for Traction Alopecia is available and a personalised plan can be formulated to address simultaneous hair loss conditions should two, or more, be present at the same time.
Traction alopecia should not be confused with trichotillomania, which is a obsessive condition in which people have an irresistible urge to pull out their hair, from their scalp, their eyebrows or other areas of their body. Hair pulling from the scalp often leaves them with patchy bald spots on their head, which they may go to great lengths to disguise. No specific cause has been found for trichotillomania but psychiatrists regard trichotillomania as a psychological disorder and treatment will usually involve therapy. Trichotillomania sufferers have also been known to eat the hair that they pull out – this is a condition called Trichophagia.
In alopecia areata, hair loss usually occurs in small, round, smooth patches on the scalp, but hair loss can crop up on any area that has hair, including the eyebrows, eyelashes and beard. It is a condition that might cure itself or might progress, possibly even leading to complete baldness over the head (alopecia totalis) or even over the whole body (alopecia universalis), however both of these cases are extremely rare. No-one knows much about what causes alopecia areata but it is classified as an autoimmune condition and can be triggered by stress. People who develop the condition are generally in good health but some may have other autoimmune disorders such as a thyroid condition.
“They are of similar nature, so the genetic tendency is always there,” Leonora says. “For instance, psoriasis is a condition where the immune system attacks the skin, but in alopecia it’s the hair.”
The hair will frequently grow back by itself with no treatment or if not there are effective Alopecia Areata treatments that help to regrow hair lost from moderate cases of patchy hair loss.
“The rule of thumb is that if it hasn’t grown back in six months, then it’s time to consider treatment,” Leonora advises.
Effective Treatment for Hair Loss
Most of the time, in the conditions mentioned above, the situation will correct itself and the hair loss will stop. Unfortunately however, this is not always the case and the problem won’t go away by simply combing and pinning the hair to hide the loss or wearing a headscarf.
There are plenty of miracle cures on the shelves to choose from but there only two options (for women) that are clinically proven, and approved by the FDA, to be the best hair loss treatment products. These are of course minoxidil and the HairMax LaserComb.
Whilst not a proven treatment for hair loss, it is usually recommended that women use a herbal supplement to complement one or more of the proven treatments. A supplement will supply the body with a number of vitamins, minerals and nutrients to ensure healthy hair growth. No supplement has been proven to effectively stop hair loss or generate new growth but they work to improve the strength and quality of the hair.
The effective treatment of female hair loss requires a combined approach that tackles all possible causes. A professional treatment course aimed at halting the shedding and encouraging regrowth should start with a diagnosis of the problem by a hair loss specialist nurse along with a discussion and a search for contributory lifestyle and health factors. On-going monitoring and advice is important so that progress can be checked and the treatment can be adjusted if necessary. With a combined, professional programme, women’s hair loss can often be stopped and often reversed.
The Belgravia Centre
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.