Can I tell if I’m going to lose my hair?
You might get some clues from looking at your parents. There are several genes involved that dictate the age of onset, the extent, and the pattern of hair loss, and we know these come from both the mother and father.
Caucasian men are more likely to lose their hair than Chinese or Japanese men, with about 50% of men losing some hair by the age of 50. By the age of 70, this is up to around 80%. Like most things in life, there is a bit of luck involved! In women 40-50% of women have some degree of hair loss by the age of 50, and 55% by the age of 80.
Is there anything I can do to prevent hair loss?
The treatments we have are aimed at preserving hair, though unless you are losing hair there is no need to treat. There is no pre-emptive treatment to counteract your genetic blueprint. Some scalp conditions can cause an increase in hair shedding though, so if you are losing hair and notice you have an itchy, flaky scalp, or even just dandruff, it is worth talking to your doctor.
When should I worry?
This is very individual; some people aren’t fazed and a lot of men even embrace their thinning and shave their head. Others become very stressed by their thinning hair, and in general we know that hair loss can cause significant anxiety and problems with self-image; there is such a focus on looking youthful in today’s society, and your hair is a big part of your image.
Losing 50-100 hairs each day is normal, as part of the hair growth cycle; if you notice that you are shedding more than normal, or your hair is visibly thinner, it is worth talking to your GP, who may refer you to a dermatologist if they think there is a problem. Blood tests may be arranged to rule out any other causes for hair loss, and sometimes a biopsy is needed.
Is hair loss reversible?
To an extent, but not completely. It is much better to preserve hairs than to try to get them back. We know that early treatment tends to work better, and it is easier to hold onto hairs that we have, than to get new hairs to grow.
We normally have 3-4 hairs in a tuft on the scalp, with lots of these tufts covering our scalp. With patterned hair loss there is loss of some of the hairs in the tuft, and eventually there may be none, leaving bare scalp.
The effective treatments include lotions and foams that are put on the scalp once or twice per day, and various tablets that either block certain hormones, or encourage hair growth, or both. Hair transplants can be effective but are usually expensive. There are a number of light and laser based treatments advertised, but the evidence for these is lacking that they have any real benefit.
Is treatment expensive?
It doesn’t have to be, and it is important to get advice from a reliable authority. There are lots of snake oil treatments out there that are expensive and ineffective and just prey on people’s insecurities. Talk to your GP, or a dermatologist who specialises in this area, to make sure you are only offered evidence-based treatment.