Hair loss (medically known as Alopecia) is a sensitive topic for both men and women and, as such, people tend to not openly talk about it. However, it may surprise you to learn that hair loss affects about 80 million people in the United States alone.
To put that in perspective, that’s roughly 25% of the population, or one in every four people you meet.
The upside to these high numbers is that a lot of research is dedicated to not only figuring out why hair loss happens, but how to treat it effectively. In fact, there are many hair loss products available–even over the counter–that do prompt positive results. There are also more in depth hair loss treatments, which we will discuss below.
What Causes Hair Loss?
“It’s normal to lose an average of 50 to 100 hairs every day,” says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, dermatologist and RealSelf contributor. “If you start to see gradual thinning or bald patches, these could be warning signs of alopecia.”
He says that the most common type of hair loss for both sexes is hereditary hair loss. This presents as gradual thinning on the top of the head. For men, hair often begins to recede from the forehead, while in women the thinning is usually seen as a widening part in their hair.
While genetics is a primary cause of hair loss, it’s not the only one. It can also be caused by stress, illness, hormone fluctuations (childbirth and menopause being primary examples), medication and even a subpar diet. These types of hair loss are more sudden compared to hereditary hair loss, which is gradual.
“Thinning hair can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or illness like thyroid disease, anemia or a severe infection,” explains Dr. Schlessinger. “Not getting the right nutrients in your diet may also lead to thinning hair or hair loss, and medications like blood thinners and birth control may be to blame for noticeable thinning, as well.”
Fortunately, when hair loss is caused by stress, childbirth, poor nutrition or medication, it will regrow on its own after the issue has been addressed. Dr. Schlessinger says you can, however, expedite the regrowth process via dietary supplements and low level laser therapy.
What Treatments Are There for Hair Loss?
Obviously the science of preventing and reversing hair loss is complex and still underway. However, a lot of progress has been made in the field. One of the most familiar ingredients to you is minoxidil, found in Rogaine. Rogaine is FDA-approved to treat hair loss and works for both men and women.
“This medicine is applied directly to the scalp and works by preventing hair from thinning and stimulating new hair growth,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “Often times, dermatologists will suggest combining Rogaine with another treatment for optimal results.”
Minoxidil is found in other products, as well, and in different potencies. Speak to your physician about the best product for you in order to maximize your results.
Another similar ingredient is aminexil. Like minoxidil, it can reduce hair loss, maintain hair strength, and stimulate new growth when used regularly. Sometimes both aminexil and minoxidil are in the same product working together.
Another option to prevent and treat hair loss is to take dietary supplements that target hair fortification. You want to look for the following ingredients: biotin, niacin, iron, zinc and vitamin C.
“Viviscal daily supplements contain clinically proven ingredients like biotin, apple extract, vitamin C and a marine complex called AminoMar to help nourish hair and promote healthy growth from within,” he says. “Depending on each hair’s individual growth cycle, you can see results in as little as three months while taking Viviscal.”
He also recommends HairMax LaserComb–FDA-approved for all skin tones–to patients who are motivated and will take the time necessary to use this device. It’s also best for those who are in the early to moderate stages of hereditary hair loss.
“The LaserComb works by sending low level laser light energy into the hair follicle, stimulating the follicle to promote new hair growth and revitalize your existing hair. This device also stimulates circulation in the scalp and reduces inflammation,” he says. “In clinical studies, patients experienced significant hair growth, increased density and fullness, and overall better quality and condition of hair after using the HairMax LaserComb for 26 weeks.”
Note that this type of treatment isn’t effective on a patient who has been bald for two or three years. However, if you’ve noticed hair loss within the past few years, it will likely be an effective treatment.
What Dietary Changes Can Help with Hair Loss?
Here’s an interesting factoid: When your body doesn’t get enough protein, it starts taking it from wherever it can while still allowing the body to function properly. Your hair is one of the first places that feel the effects of this.
“If your hair loss is related to diet and poor nutrition, there are changes you can make to maintain healthy hair growth,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “Eating protein-rich foods like meats, eggs and fish can stop this hair loss.
Additionally, one of the most common symptoms of anemia is hair loss. If you have an iron deficiency, eating iron-fortified cereals, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, lentils and spinach can help you up your iron intake.”
What Treatments are Available for Those With Severe Cases of Hair Loss?
Well, you could do the ol’ Trump combover, but we have a feeling that’s not your preferred option here. Before you resolve yourself to that fate, there are some other ways to treat more severe cases of hair loss.
“For many patients, hair transplant procedures can help bring back the appearance of a fuller head of hair,” says Dr. Schlessinger. He does note that it’s not his preferred procedure, even though it’s a common one.
This is because there are challenges that often present themselves and the results vary greatly. However, it’s advised that you speak to your physician to see if a hair transplant, a procedure that’s been around since the ’50s, is good for you.
“Hair transplants involve taking a narrow strip of hair-bearing scalp from the back of the head and using it to fill in an area with thinning or sparse hair. It’s important to note that this procedure does not create new hair. It is a transplant of hair you already have to a place where it is more noticeable,” he explains. “These types of procedures are usually performed in a plastic surgery setting under local anesthesia.”
Hopefully we were able to answer some of your questions here about hair loss. If you have any more, don’t hesitate to reach out!