Hair thinning is an issue women often feel embarrassed and left out when it comes to hair fall off because it is quite socially unacceptable to discuss this issues. You could be brushing your hair and notice your hair doesn’t look so full anymore or you could be having a shower and notice your drain clogged with hair.
Contrary to what society lets us believe, It is an experience quite familiar to just about everyone which boils down to the life cycle of hair growth and the internal body activities that may impede one of the phases of this cycle.
The human hair growth occurs in four stages:
- The Anagen phase: This is the growing phase of the hair. It can last anywhere from two months to seven years – the length of this phase determines the length of our hair. The normal human head has over 100,000 follicles and no less than 60% of our hair are in this stage at any given time.
- The Catagen phase: This is a short ten to fourteen days stage also called the transition phase signalling the end of active hair growth (Anagen). The hair strand is cut off from its blood supply and cell responsible for hair production.
- The Telogen phase: This is a three month resting phase of the hair follicle
- The Exogen phase: At this phase, the hair strand is shed from the follicle for new growth to begin.
98% of women will experience hair fall off and just above 40% will experience hair thinning even from a young age. The most common form of hair thinning is referred to as androgenetic alopecia which as the name suggest is often passed down in the family. Other common causes include nutrient deficiency, stress, changes in male/ female hormone called androgens and more commonly, aging – most women are likely to experience hair thinning after menopause.
Keep reading to learn how these factors can affect your hair health, whether hair thinning causes are reversible and how to encourage regrowth.
What causes Hair thinning?
During the telogen phase of hair cycle, a prolonged period of hair shedding will cause the hair follicle size to reduce therefore producing a shorter, more brittle, thinner hair strand with weaker shaft. These hairs are less dense and lead to the appearance of hair loss.
According to The foundation for hair restoration, The three primary factors that lead to hair follicle miniaturization are:
Genetic disposition: a gene from either of your family members or both can predispose one to hair thinning
Dihydrotestosterone (or DHT): Certain hairs on your head are succeptible to thin if exposed to excess levels of DHT which is the natural form testosterone is converted to in the body.
Age: The older you are the more likely you are to experience hair thinning.
How to diagnose
As previously mentioned, early prognosis/ detection is vital to reverse hair thinning. Once you suspect your hair to be less full around the center, it is advised you visit a doctor or a dermatologist preferably to check for signs of infection or inflammation.
Hair thinning does not require blood testing except in the case your health practitioner suspects another cause of hair loss. You would then take a blood test to check your levels of thyroid hormone (hyper/ hypo-thyroidism ), androgens activity and iron level in the blood which may affect your hair growth.
Early detection of pattern baldness is very essential so that you are better prepared for an appropriate treatment plan that will minimize hair losses in the future. Sudden hair loss patches could also be linked to an underlying medical condition that must be attended to by an expert.
If it is not diagnosed on time, it is good to know that women rarely become completely bald, the hair only becomes noticeably light.
Over the years, scientific progress and experimentation has opened new avenues that can impede hair loss and sometimes cause lost hair to regrow.
How to treat female hair thinning
Minoxidil is an FDA approved Over the counter (OTC) cure for hair thinning in both men and women. Rogaine (brand name minoxidil) as it is more commonly called will only work to stop hair loss or regrow new hair if pattern baldness alopecia is the major cause and not some other problem like stress induced hair loss or chemotherapy.
Minoxidil works by reducing DHT secretion levels on the hair follicle which encourages the anagen(growth) phase of the hair. It is recommended women stick to 2% minoxidil while men use the 5% formula to prevent hair growth in unwanted places like on the cheeks and forehead. Some other side effects include dryness, redness and scalp irritation.
For best result, apply minoxidil to the scalp everyday and do not stop to use it or your hair may return to its previous appearance.
Also know as Aldactone, this drug is an antiandrogen which means it inhibits sex hormone(androgen) from forming Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which can accumulate in the hair follicles cutting off nutrition to the hairs.
This drug is also used to treat water retention, high blood pressure by removing excess salt and water in the body. For this reason, researchers do not agree on its use as a treatment for pattern hair thinning.
Studies have shown that up to 90% of women on this treatment experience no additional hair loss but It is recommended you speak to a doctor or pharmacist before taking spironolactone.
Possible side effects include:
- weight gain
- low blood pressure
- Dizziness/ Drowsiness
- Swollen breast/ Increased sensitivity
Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP):
This is a relatively new method of treating androgenetic alopecia. It is relatively cheap, simple when minoxidil and finasteride treatment are not effective.
It is carried out by drawing blood and injecting 2-3 cc of PRP into the scalp every two weeks for a period of 2 months and regular maintenance every four to six months.
Research is still ongoing on its effectiveness but it has shown to have overall significant reduction in hair loss and patient satisfaction
Since birth control pills are used to reduce ovarian androgens, they can be used to effectively treat pattern hair thinning. Contraceptive pills come in various hormonal formulations, and your doctor can determine which is right for your specific needs, switching pills if necessary until you are physically and emotionally comfortable with the formulation.
Commonly knowns as Nizoral, Ketoconazol is a topical treatment of fungal infections such as dandruff, ringworm and other yeast infections.
Some studies have shown that ketoconazol inhibits androgens in male/female reproductive organ hence an effective treatment against hair loss. Nizoral contains 2% ketoconazole which can be obtained using a doctor’s prescription. A less active 1% ketoconazole is also available over the counter in local pharmacies.
There are no significant side effects to using ketoconazol unless a dry/ oily scalp in an otherwise oily/dry head and mild skin irritation if allergies are developed.