Hair loss is a common problem. If you’re worried about your hair receding or thinning, you can rest assured you’re not alone. Because of high levels of demand among hair loss sufferers, a great deal of research has been put into developing treatments for this problem.
As yet, a definitive cure hasn’t be found. However, by making sure you know the cause of the problem and by seeking a suitable hair loss treatment, you may be able to slow or even reverse the process.
Understanding the cause
There are a number of different causes of hair loss and before you start looking around for ways to address the problem, it’s important that understand the trigger in your particular case.
The most common type of hair loss is male pattern baldness. Around half of men experience this by the time they reach the age of 50 and it is characterised by a receding hairline and thinning hair at the temples and on top of the head. Male pattern baldness is thought to run in families. The problem can also affect women. Female pattern baldness usually results in a thinning of hair on the top of the head and it often gets worse after the menopause.
Another type of hair loss is referred to as telogen effluvium. This typically occurs after a stressful physical event such as childbirth, major surgery or sudden weight loss. It can also be triggered by illnesses or certain medications. Fortunately in these cases, hair tends to grow back after a few months.
Hair loss can be caused by alopecia areata too. This rare condition affects around one or two people in every 1,000 in the UK and it is most common among teenagers and young adults. It causes patchy hair loss and, in many cases, hair returns after a few months.
In contrast, if you develop alopecia totalis (which is complete loss of hair on the head) or alopecia universalis (total loss of hair all over the head and body), your hair is unlikely to grow back.
Finding suitable treatments
Certain forms of hair loss, including telogen effluvium and alopecia areata, don’t require treatment. After a few months, you should find you start to see improvements in the condition.
However, other types of hair loss do require treatment. For example, if you suffer from male pattern baldness, you may benefit from using finasteride. Branded as Propecia, this comes in tablet form and it must be prescribed by a doctor. It works by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that can have an adverse effect on hair follicles. Studies suggest that around two-thirds of men who take finasteride benefit from renewed hair growth, while it can halt hair loss in most other men. You may need to take the product for at least three months before you see any effect and bear in mind that hair loss will resume if you stop treatment.
Minoxidil, which is available as a lotion or foam from most pharmacies, can also be effective. It appears to have a stimulating effect on hair follicles and research has found that hair loss slows in around half the men who use minoxidil. Meanwhile, around 15 per cent experience some re-growth.
It’s also possible to turn to alternative therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and homeopathy in a bid to halt or reverse hair loss. However, there is no clinical evidence to suggest that these treatments have an effect.