A report from South Africa on how hair loss seems to be more and more widespread is reflecting anecdotal evidence of rising incidence around the world - and it's not just connected to the ageing population.
While the hike in reports of genetic hair thinning has not yet been confirmed by any official study, stories from multiple sources appear to be backing up the claim. Alongside reports from India where doctors have said that many teens are now presenting with signs of hair loss plus a confirmed rise in the number of treatment users and hair transplant operations, as well as data released from noted skincare brand L’Oreal stating that women are losing their hair at an earlier age, the latest information from South Africa adds more weight to the theory.
In a nutshell, more and more people are experiencing hair loss now than ever. But why?
The South African story, which appeared on the country’s IOL website, states that “in recent years, thinning hair has become so prevalent among women and men that even families that have no history of hair loss are progressively balding.”
The article goes on to quote Dr Ryan Janks, one of the country’s hair transplant surgeons, who mentions everything from stress to chemical straighteners and hair extensions as possible causes. It’s worth taking a look at stress in particular.
People with a nervous tick or a blotchy rash often attribute it to stress, and what many people don’t realise is that hair loss can just as easily be cause by stress, too. In most cases, when stress does lead to shedding it causes a condition named Telogen Effluvium, which is more common in women than men and is seen as a general, all-over hair thinning.
Telogen Effluvium treatment can help to accelerate regrowth from this temporary condition, which otherwise tends to happen on its own within around six months - or longer if the condition is chronic. The genetic conditions Male Pattern Baldness and Female Pattern Hair Loss can be exacerbated by stress, meaning that it can cause shedding to speed up in those with these conditions. It can also trigger these hereditary hair loss conditions in men and women with an underlying genetic predisposition to androgenetic alopecia by accelerating its onset. Luckily there are clinically-proven hair loss treatments that can be used to effectively prevent hair thinning and promote regrowth in cases of both male and female pattern hair loss.
There are multiple other possible reasons why hair loss seems to be more and more common, and some scientists point the finger at a rise in sugar consumption over the past few decades, although this is somewhat disputed, with The European Association of Sugar Producers stating that levels of western consumption are actually pretty stable and that obesity levels and diabetes (which can lead to hair loss) are caused by eating too much food and not exercising enough.
Nevertheless, there are scientists who believe that sugar wreaks havoc with hair follicles, and that it can cause a “roller coaster” of sugar peaks and valleys in the blood. Hidden sugars can be an issue, too: Professor Barry M Popkin at the University of North Carolina found that 74% of products in the American food supply chain contain calorific or low-calorie sweeteners, sometimes both. Dietary issues and imbalances are another leading cause of telogen effluvium.
What paints an especially telling picture is that, according to Google Trends, searches for “losing my hair” have increased six-fold in the past 10 years.
Alongside diet and stress is a rise in the popularity of tight and/or weighty hairstyles that can lead to hair loss. Among these are hair extensions, taut braids and high ponytails which, when worn frequently, can lead to a condition called Traction Alopecia.
This is a self-inflicted condition (though obviously not deliberately) and Traction Alopecia treatment begins by changing the hairstyle in order to remove the strain these apply to the follicles. Topical applications of high strength minoxidil are then used on the affected areas - often the hairline as well as the site of any fixings where hair extensions are involved - to promote hair growth. Additional hair growth boosters can also form part of a customised treatment course designed by a specialist to cater to the individual's precise needs. These options can help to improve the condition of the hair and scalp and complement the action of their treatment.
Interestingly, men aren’t immune from styling-related hair loss. Hair breakage and traction alopecia can be caused by dreadlocks, heat-styling, over-bleaching and man-buns.
The best way to preserve a good head of hair is to choose a hairstyle that doesn’t put pressure on the follicles or damage the hair, and to live as stress-free a lifestyle as you possibly can. This won’t stop genetic conditions like Male Pattern Hair Loss from being an issue if you're predisposed to be affected, but at least you will be doing everything you can not to speed things up.
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.