Whether you are an adolescent girl battling hair fall, or a man in his mid-30s facing a receding hairline; a middle-aged woman struggling with cancer and chemotherapy, or an older man grappling with the consequences of age; let me tell you, that when it comes to hair loss, we are all equally susceptible. No age, race or gender, is exempt from it; nor from the grief that accompanies it. It is as universal an emotion as any.
So why does hair loss happen? And how can we restore it?
Before answering these questions, let us understand how hair grows in the first place. It’s a cycle, comprising of three phases:
Anagen: Active growth occurs; lasts 2-6 years.
Catagen: Transitional growth occurs; lasts 2-3 weeks.
Telogen: Resting phase; lasts few months.
By the end of resting phase, hair is shed, and replaced by new hair in anagen phase. At any point of time, about 90% of hair on your scalp is growing. Each follicle has its own lifecycle and losing about 100 hair a day is normal. So finding few stray hair on your hairbrush daily is no cause for alarm.
Hair is made up of a protein called keratin, present in the follicles. Also, being the second fastest growing cells in the body, hair cells need energy. Therefore, a diet rich in protein and with recommended calorie allowance is essential for normal hair growth. Another essential aspect is avoiding faulty practices like shampooing too often, tight braiding, bleaching and dyeing of hair, etc; which cause thinning of hair, making them brittle and likely to fall off.
It is better to ensure that you’re following a healthy hair diet and hair care routine before looking into other causes for hair loss and medical treatments.
Genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalance, infections like ringworm, drugs (chemotherapy drugs, blood thinners, oral contraceptives, etc.), burns, injuries, radiation, stress of surgery or childbirth, medical disorders (thyroid disorders, eating disorders, diabetes, anaemia, etc.) and autoimmune conditions (alopecia areata) can all be responsible for causing hair loss, medically known as “alopecia”. Majorly, they do so by shortening the anagen, that is, the growth phase.
The good news is, that if the underlying conditions are treated in time, the hair loss is reversible, and it is possible to regrow hair, specially in the initial stages of its loss. There are many medications that help stimulate regrowth, out of which, the two FDA approved drugs are Finasteride and Minoxidil. They work especially well when the cause for hair loss is the hormonal imbalance. Finasteride decreases the androgen activity on the scalp; minoxidil acts by prolonging the anagen phase, besides its vasodilatory action. Finasteride has to be taken orally, and minoxidil is applied topically as a solution.
Evidence based modalities like platelet rich plasma (PRP) micro needling, using derma roller and low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) are also gaining approval for treating hair loss in the initial stages.
Dr. Dhananjay Chavan, a renowned trichologist and cosmetologist, is of the opinion that while minoxidil and finasteride have been successful in majority of the cases for treating temporary hair loss, he believes that hair transplantation is the only solution when it comes to permanent hair loss. Permanent hair loss could result in either when the temporary forms are left untreated for long, or when there’s scarring, which could occur in inflammatory conditions like folliculitis, in conditions like lupus, after burns, etc.
Hair transplant is a surgical technique that moves hair follicles from one part of the body to another part, that is bald or balding. It is the only treatment for permanent loss of hair. With the advent of and advance in technology, modern hair transplantation can achieve natural appearance by mimicking your original hair orientation.
To conclude, it’s always better to avail treatment in the early stages of hair loss, to maximize your chances of retaining and regrowing it. But if not, do not be disheartened. Even a seemingly permanent baldness can be transformed into thick, lush hair with the magic of hair transplant.
Care for your hair like you cares about the fear of losing it. Rise and shine.