Hair loss, or alopecia, affects millions of people all over the world. It can be permanent or temporary, and can occur as a standalone condition or as the result of an underlying medical issue.
While it’s rarely debilitating, hair loss can be distressing. Some women have reported that losing their hair has caused problems in their marriage or career . You may find that the stress of losing your hair actually makes alopecia worse, creating a vicious cycle of worry and hair loss.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to prevent and treat hair loss. It’s all about getting the right diagnosis. This is especially true for women, as diagnosing women’s hair loss can be difficult.
In this guide to hair loss, you’ll discover:
- The symptoms and early signs of hair loss
- What causes hair loss
- Risk factors for hair loss
- How to prevent and treat hair loss.
Hair loss is a symptom in and of itself. But as a patient, you can look for patterns of hair loss to help you better understand the cause of your alopecia. Spotting early signs will allow you to act faster and more effectively. Common patterns include:
- Diffuse thinning — general thinning across the scalp is common in conditions like female pattern baldness and stress-related hair loss
- Receding hairline — hair loss at the front of your head is characteristic of male pattern balding, as well as traction alopecia and some types of scarring alopecia
- Crown hair loss — like a receding hairline, a bald spot on the crown is usually symptomatic of male pattern hair loss
- Widening parting — hair loss around the parting is a common symptom of female pattern baldness
- Small round bald patches — round bald spots on the scalp that aren’t localised to the crown are usually associated with alopecia areata
- Total alopecia of the scalp — losing all the hair on your head is commonly associated with chemotherapy-related hair loss, or alopecia totalis
- Full body hair loss — in rare cases, you may lose all your body hair. This is known as alopecia universalis.
In addition, look for any accompanying symptoms, such as:
- Scaling and flaking — this may indicate an underlying condition like ringworm, scalp psoriasis, or seborrheic dermatitis
- Changes in hair texture — poor haircare practices can lead to hair becoming dry or brittle and snapping off, causing the hair to thin
- Feeling anxious or worried — symptoms of anxiety may indicate you’re experiencing hair loss related to stress.
What causes of hair loss?
There are several potential causes of hair loss, including:
- Everyday hair loss — people with healthy hair lose 50-100 hairs every day — so not all hair loss is a cause for concern
- Genetics and hormones — most instances of pattern baldness occur due to a combination of these factors. Hormones can also affect your hair during and after pregnancy and the menopause
- Autoimmune conditions — hair loss disorders like alopecia areata and alopecia totalis happen when white blood cells attack the hair follicles
- Stress and anxiety — these can lead to a temporary hair loss condition known as telogen effluvium, in which hair prematurely enters the shedding phase of the hair growth cycle
- Medication — some medications can cause hair loss, including chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, and even some vitamin supplements
- Poor diet — follicles need energy and protein to produce hair, so a diet lacking in essential nutrients may result in hair loss
- Damaged hair — while hair breakage isn’t true hair loss, it can create the appearance of thinning hair. So good haircare (and regular haircuts) are essential.
If you’re concerned about hair loss or a potential underlying cause, your GP should be your first port of call. When you’ve ruled out any underlying issues, a trichologist can help diagnose and treat your alopecia.
Hair loss risk factors
You’re more likely to lose hair if:
- Pattern baldness runs in your family. If you’re a man and your dad or grandad (on either side) has hair loss, you could also be at greater risk of hair loss.
- You have another autoimmune condition. Alopecia areata is frequently seen with other autoimmune disorders, including vitiligo, lichen planus, and atopic dermatitis .
- You’re getting older. Pattern hair loss is progressive, so as you get older, you’re more likely to be affected. 80% of men will be impacted by the age of 80 .
- You’re a white male. Studies suggest that androgenetic alopecia is more prevalent in white men compared with black, Chinese, and South Asian men .
- You regularly wear your hair in tight hairstyles. Tight hairstyles like ponytails, man buns, and dreadlocks can lead to traction alopecia if worn consistently over time.
- Your diet lacks protein. Protein is essential for hair growth and repair, so low-protein diets can lead to lack of growth.
- You’re going through hormonal changes. Phases like pregnancy and menopause (as well as medical hormone therapy such as testosterone replacement therapy) can disrupt the hair growth cycle.
- You’re undergoing chemotherapy. Some cancer treatment drugs are known to trigger scalp and eyebrow hair loss, though this is usually temporary. Your hair will grow back when you’ve finished treatment.
- You have a vitamin deficiency. Vitamin deficiencies can cause hair loss if they’re not addressed through diet or supplements (though bear in mind that vitamin deficiencies are extremely rare in the developed world).
- You use chemicals and/or heat styling on your hair. Hair dye, bleach, and heat styling can damage your hair, causing breakage if overused.
- You’ve been taking subtances that inadvertantly causes hair loss, such as Olapex, which has had negative press in Feb 2023.
Hair loss prevention
Some types of alopecia are preventable and temporary. For example, if your hair loss is linked to poor nutrition, stress, or unhealthy styling practices, you can prevent hair loss with some lifestyle adjustments:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Avoid using heat, bleach, or dye on your hair
- Wear your hair in loose styles
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
- Use stress and anxiety management techniques
- See your GP to rule out any underlying conditions.
Unfortunately, the most common types of hair loss aren’t preventable, but they can be treated.
Hair loss treatments
There are several hair loss treatment options available. Popular treatments include:
- Hair transplants — a hair transplant is the single most effective way to restore hair following permanent hair loss
- Finasteride — Finasteride is one of the most successful hair regrowth drugs for treating male pattern baldness
- Minoxidil — Minoxidil can be taken orally or applied topically, and it’s effective for treating a range of hair loss conditions
- Dutasteride — Dutasteride is a more potent alternative to Finasteride, and can help negate the effects of male pattern baldness
- Corticosteroids — steroid creams can treat hair loss caused by alopecia areata
- JAK inhibitors — drugs like Ritlecitinib and Olumiant suppress the body’s immune response, making them an effective treatment for alopecia areata
- Low-level laser therapy — LLLT stimulates cellular activity when the laser is applied directly to the scalp, leading to hair regrowth.
The table below shows which condition(s) each hair loss treatment can treat effectively:
|Treatment||Alopecia areata||Telogen effluvium||Male pattern baldness||Female pattern hair loss|
|Low-level laser therapy||X||X||X|
*Minoxidil is most effective for alopecia areata when used alongside other treatments, such as steroid creams.
Measuring hair loss
Men with male pattern hair loss can map their hair loss to the Norwood Scale. This 7-stage scale helps trichologists measure hair loss and calculate how many hair grafts you need for a hair transplant.
The Norwood Scale is only appropriate for men with androgenetic alopecia. Other types of hair loss can be measured using different approaches, such as the Ludwig Scale for female pattern baldness.
Hiding hair loss
Sometimes hair loss treatments don’t give you the results you were hoping for. In these cases, hiding your alopecia is the next best option.
Scalp micropigmentation helps create the illusion of hair density across the scalp. Some people choose to get SMP after a buzzcut, while others use it to make the scalp less visible through thinning hair.
Wearing a wig or hairpiece can help you hide larger bald spots or more substantial thinning. Some UK patients are entitled to get a wig on the NHS (usually if you’re under 20 and meet certain other conditions).
Finding the right hair loss treatment
If you want to restore your hair quickly and effectively, talk to a trichologist at the Wimpole Clinic.
Our team has more than 45 years’ experience treating all kinds of hair loss conditions. Whether you’re looking for hair transplant guidance, or you want to try medical therapy first, get free, impartial advice from our friendly team. We take your unique hair loss experience into account to find the most appropriate and effective treatment for you.
Book a free consultation with our trichology team to start your hair restoration journey.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.
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