Why am I losing my hair?
A fair question, and the one that led you here. Allow us to cop out immediately and recommend that you change your perspective: It’s a miracle that you ever had hair, and that you still have some to lose!
Don’t worry, we’ll answer the question but you won’t be surprised. Even the answers you didn’t know you could have guessed.
Blame Darwin. Or God.
Evolution of the species decreed that a varying amount of hairiness be applied unevenly between individuals and races. Or, if you prefer, a prime mover made the same distributions. Either way, hair works for us.
As a function of the human body, the hair subsystem is doomed to fail unexpectedly like every other function that only works when it wants to. Also, there is a conspiracy of factors working to make sure that the hair on your head disappears at an increasing rate throughout your life.
But if you become aware of the problems, and take appropriate prevention measures where allowed, you may be able to keep more hair for a longer period. That’s the measure of success you’re looking to meet.
How hair grows
Here are some good things to know so you’ll have something interesting to say when people ask what happened to your head.
Hair grows for about 4.5 years in three phases: anagen, catagen and telogen. Anagen phase hairs, about 90% of the total, are growing, for most of that time. Catagen hairs are in transition for a few days, and telogen phase hairs rest for about 100 days and then fall out. It’s one big circle of life up there, operating on a schedule determined at conception.
But what if something disturbs the anagen phase of even as few as 10,000 hairs – 10% of the total, causing them to go abruptly into catagen? Now there’s a shortage in a few spots and a disruption in the replacement schedule that will make the problem linger. If the disturbing something continues, and even more hairs find their growth cycles disrupted, the onset of baldness has begun, or looks like it has.
Types of hair loss
Everything needs a name, including the growing bald spot on the top of your head that moves toward your collar and ears.
Androgenetic alopecia, a/k/a male pattern baldness – That’s really the end of the list as far as most people are concerned. But there are other known types of hair loss:
Alopecia areata – Skin disease on the scalp, with patchy hair loss
Alopecial totalis – total hair loss on the scalp
Universalis – complete hair loss on entire body
Traction alopecia – hair loss caused by physical stress and tension on the hair
Trichotillomania – psychological condition, pulling out your own hair
Telogen effluvium – temporary hair loss caused by metabolic or hormonal stress or medications. Recovery often occurs spontaneously within six months. Some of the causes of telogen effluvium include:
- High fever, severe infection
- Surgery, illness, sudden blood loss
- Emotional stress
- Crash diets
- Autoimmune conditions
- Infectious diseases
- Thyroid diseaseas
- Ringworm of scalp
Anagen effluvium – hair loss caused by medications
Loose anagen syndrome – A new one, first described in 1984. With blatant disloyalty to your entire being, growing anagen phase hair can be pulled or plucked easily and painlessly from the scalp. Can you imagine? Hair that is supposed to be rooted firmly in its follicles just gives up without a fight. You can try not to pull it out, but combing and brushing may do it anyway.
Side effect of aging
Ever notice that many older people have noticeably less hair than many younger people? Age-related hair loss is a lot like that. A hair hits its telogen phase, falls out, and then for whatever reason, its follicle doesn’t pop out a replacement. The follicle closes shop and that’s that. This phenomenon goes along with the white hair and talking about 40-year old music, just another sign that your sunny mornings are numbered. Having more hair won't change that.
While researchers work to identify the specific chromosomes for male/female pattern baldness, laymen are stuck with more pragmatic answers. Baldness, passed on by both mothers and fathers, persists because it doesn’t seem to affect our survival. So far, natural selection hasn’t bred baldness out of us and until women refuse to procreate with balding men, this isn’t likely to change.
Both men and women have testosterone in their systems, and the hormone has both direct and indirect effects on hair growth. An enzyme can converts the hormone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which binds to hair follicles and disrupts the growth cycles. DHT shortens the anagen cycle and lengthens the telogen cycle, while it also contributes to prostate enlargement. The prescription drug finasteride (Propecia) inhibits the enzyme and prevents the production of DHT. For those leery of the side effects of castration, this is an alternative worth investigating.
Minoxidil: Your Only OTC Hope
One of the few over-the-counter remedies open to those experiencing hair loss is the regular application of minoxidil. Rogaine is a brand name product that contains minoxidil, but the generic formulations work fine too. Want to give it a try? Visit Minoxidil Shop.com. Need more information? Try Minoxidil Safety.com and Hair Loss Hoaxes.com for the kind of insightful, on-target and accurate information you can only get from an anonymous website.