The Science Behind Hair Loss

The Science Behind Hair Loss

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Despite what you might have heard, hair loss isn’t necessarily passed down from your mom’s side of the family. Losing your hair also isn’t a sign that you're officially getting old, and it’s not caused by wearing a hat or by using too many hair products.

Hair loss affects millions of men and women each year. It can begin as early as your teens and is common among those in their 20s and 30s. The average person sheds around 100 hairs each day as part of the normal growth cycle, but when loss starts to exceed the norm, it can cause stress. Americans spend a lot of money trying to hold on to or replace their thinning hair — more than $3.5 billion each year!

But what causes hair loss in men? Recent research suggests that male pattern baldness — the most common type of hair loss — is actually caused by the overproduction of the hormone DHT. Illness, age and genetics are also contributing factors.

Men whose fathers suffered from hair loss are also more likely to experience hair loss themselves. But what is the actual science behind hair loss?

What Causes Male Pattern Baldness?

More than 90% of the time, hair loss in men is the result of androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness. The condition is relatively predictable, following a distinct pattern of receding and thinning hair. The hair loss begins at the front of the hairline and progresses until just a rim of hair is left. Sometimes it can lead to complete baldness.

Scientific research has shown that the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a byproduct of testosterone that can trigger male pattern baldness in some men. Genetically, some men have hair follicles that are sensitive to DHT, and years of exposure can cause the follicles to eventually shrink and stop producing hair. The areas most sensitive are usually the temples and crown. A Norwood Scale is used to measure the progression of hair loss associated with male pattern baldness.

A physician or medical hair loss expert can make a diagnosis of male pattern baldness by assessing your hair loss pattern, examining your scalp and by looking closely at your medical history and your family’s experience with hair loss. 

Other Causes of Hair Loss

The second-most common cause of hair loss in men is telogen effluvium (TE), which shows up as thinning hair all over the scalp instead of a distinct pattern of hairline recession.

Hair follicles on the scalp go through normal stages. Typically, follicles produce hair for a few years and then rest for a month or so before growing hair again. At any given time, 90% of hair follicles are active and growing hair while the other 10% are “resting.” After two to three months, the dormant hair falls out, and follicles start to grow new hair while other follicles begin their dormant stage.

TE happens when there are more follicles resting than normal; therefore, more shedding and hair loss occurs.

This condition can be caused by a number of different factors ranging from changes in hormones to changes in medication, extreme dieting and even surgery. After a period of shedding and thinning — or when the body heals from the trauma — hair follicles generally return to an active state and start to regrow hair. In cases of chronic illness, thyroid disorders or nutritional deficiencies, for example, TE can be more long-lasting.

Treatments for Hair Loss

Just as the causes of hair loss are scientific, so are the treatments. Unlike TE, which generally reverses on its own when the underlying cause is treated, male pattern baldness can be treated to slow or even stop hair loss. 

Propecia (a brand name for Finasteride) is a prescription pill that was approved by the FDA in 1997 to lower DHT levels and stop the progression of hair loss caused by male pattern baldness. The drug was originally developed to treat enlarged prostate glands, and it inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. Propecia can lower DHT levels by as much as 60% if taken daily.

Rogaine (Minoxidil) was the first FDA-approved drug to treat male pattern baldness. Originally prescribed to control high blood pressure, when used as a topical treatment applied directly to the scalp, it has been shown to slow down hair loss and regrow some hair. The downside is that Rogaine must be applied twice daily and doesn’t affect the hormonal causes of hair loss. As a result, when treatment is stopped, hair loss will continue. With both Propecia and Rogaine, it could take up to six months to see measurable results.

Have you tried oral or topical hair loss treatments and still feel self-conscious about your male pattern baldness? To learn more about noninvasive surgical treatments to restore your natural hair and your self-confidence, contact Dallas NeoGraft today.

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