but even more so when it’s premature or severe.
For many people it can be a blow to their self-esteem, and cause them to throw money at just about anything to try and save their hair.
The truth is, everyone will develop some degree of hair loss as they age.
It happens to everyone over the course of their lifetime.
It’s just a matter of at what age — and how fast — it happens.
So what happens when your hair starts to fall out? And can it be stopped (or at the very least slowed down)?
First, a bit about hair
Hairs are tiny shafts of a protein called keratin. They are anchored in a group of specialised cells called hair follicles, which supply oxygen and nutrients to the root (or bulb) of the hair, and lubricate the hair with an oily substance called sebum.
The human body is completely covered with hair follicles, except on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the lips. Mostly, hair follicles are tiny, and the hairs they produce don’t grow long enough to protrude from the pore.
The areas where hairs do protrude (and are visible above the skin) include the armpits, face, around the genitals, the front of the chest, the back, and most profusely, on the scalp of the head. A scalp typically contains about 100,000 hair follicles.
Hairs grow and then are shed, but because they grow at different rates they don’t all shed at once.
It takes about three years for hair follicles to produce a hair that grows, rests, falls out and then regrows, which means the scalp loses between 50 and 200 hairs a day.
When men start to go bald
In some males, the hair growth process slows right down.
The growth phase of each hair gradually becomes shorter, and the resting phase becomes longer. Eventually the hairs that are growing become so short that they barely emerge from their hair follicle.
The process begins at the sides of the head (above the temples) and at a patch on the crown, and spreads from there.
This is known as male “pattern baldness”, or androgenetic alopecia. It’s the most common type of baldness, affecting about half of all men by the age of 50 and more than 80 per cent by the age of 70.
What about women?
(though it’s still the most common cause of hair loss in women).
The pattern of hair loss is different, however: it tends to thin over the top of the scalp rather than result in a patch of baldness.
Often in females it will affect 50 per cent of their hair, so many women will not go truly bald, but their hair can get so perilously thin that it can become a big problem for them.
Over 50 per cent of women have some mild hair loss as they age, and about 20 per cent of women develop moderate or severe hair loss.
It’s nature, not nurture
Despite what people may say about hair washing and hat wearing, patterned hair loss is a result of genetic and hormonal factors.
It’s the androgen hormones in our body (produced in different amounts by men and women) that we think make hair follicles shrink and stop growing in people with a genetic susceptibility.
Whether or not this happens in a particular person, at what age it starts, as well as how extensive it will be is determined by the person’s genes.
It’s thought that several genes determine how susceptible you are to losing your hair, and these can come from your
Other causes of hair loss
Hair loss doesn’t just come down to genetics — there are a number of reasons people may lose their hair.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which a person’s own immune system attacks their body’s hair follicles. It often appears as one or several patches, but in severe cases can affect their whole body.
It can also happen after major surgery, periods of stress, and after people experience sudden shock, such as bereavement. Hair loss in these instances is usually temporary but it can become chronic.
Excessive hair styling (through straightening or blow-drying) or treatments (such as dying or bleaching) can cause hair loss.
Hormonal changes or imbalances (that can occur during pregnancy or with some medications) can also cause hair loss.
Is there a cure?
In short: no. Hereditary, age-related hair loss is difficult to reverse.
When you treat people with hair loss, you can stimulate partial regrowth, but you’re generally unlikely to get complete regrowth.
While some people use products such as vitamin supplements or herbal remedies to counter hair loss, there is no strong evidence to show these treatments help.
There are, however, some treatments that may help slow or reduce hair loss, or stimulate partial regrowth.
Either you try and block the [androgen] hormone action in the scalp, or you try and stimulate the hair. Associate Professor Freeman says.
Whether or not a particular treatment is effective can depend on a number of factors, including the extent of a person’s hair loss.
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