Hair Loss is a common condition affecting nearly all men by the time they reach their 60s.  In women 13% will have some degree of baldness or thinning before the menopause but this rises to 75 % of women over the age of 65.

There are different forms of hair loss.  The most common form, androgenic alopecia occurs in both men and womena and is also called pattern baldness.  This is a hereditary condition and is related to the male hormone testosterone.

Hair loss can also be caused by an autoimmune disease.  This can result in some loss of hair to the scalp, total loss of hair to the scalp or in extreme cases total hair loss from the scalp and body.

Chemotherapy or radiation can result in hair loss but hair usually grows back after treatment ends.  Temporary hair loss can occur after pregnancy, as a result of stress or a poor diet.

Hair growth occurs in cycles.  The growth phase usually lasts about three years.  After this time there is a resting phase.  This lasts about three months in which time the hair remains in the hair follicle until it is pushed out by growth of a new hair in the next growth phase.  At any one time 15% of hair is in the resting phase.

In androgenic alopecia, the affected hair follicles gradually become smaller than normal.  As the follicle shrinks, the new hair is thinner than the previous one.  The growth phase is much less than the normal three years.  Eventually, all that remains is much smaller hair follicle and a thin stump of hair that does not grow out to the skin surface.  Different hair follicles are affected at different times making the balding process gradual.  Only scalp hairs are affected and areas such as beard or armpits are unaffected.

Sudden stress on the body can trigger large numbers of hairs to enter the resting phase at the same time causing a large number of hairs to be lost at the same time three months later.  This is the type of hair loss that occurs following pregnancy or as a result of stress or poor diet. 

If you experience hair thinning you should:

  • Continue to wash and style your hair.
  • Try to identify the cause.
  • Take a nutritional supplement.
  • Treat hair gently, avoid pulling it and allow it to fall into natural direction of hair growth.
  • Avoid over styling which can weaken hair and cause it to break near to the scalp.

A dietary supplement, taken as a tablet, that has been developed specifically for thinning hair is Viviscal.  There are formulations for both men and women and, the active ingredient is a pure marine protein complex called AminoMar C.

Viviscal works in four stages over six months.  Firstly it nourishes the hair follicle, strengthens existing hair, promotes growth of poorly growing hair and finally allows all hair to strengthen.  Other items in the Viviscal range which complement the nutritional supplements are shampoo, conditioner lotion and scalp guard.

There are currently two drug treatments available for hair loss.  Finasteride (Propecia) is a prescription only medicine which your doctor could prescribe but is not available on the NHS for this purpose.  It will only work for men.  Minoxidil (Regaine) is available to buy from pharmacies.  It is available as a lotion coming in two strengths, two per cent for women and five per cent foam for male use only.  It needs to be applied twice daily and may take four months for the effect to be noticed.  The treatment must be continued indefinitely as any new hair growth will fall out two months after stopping treatment.

 

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