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Disease & Conditions >>> Hair Loss Articles & News

What's Causing Your Hair Loss?

Hair Loss Facts That May Surprise You
*It is normal to lose 50-100 hairs from the head each day
*Each hair on the head grows for about 3-5 years before being shed
*40 million men and 20 million women suffer from hair loss
*Scalp hair grows at a rate of about 1 cm (just under 1/2 an inch) a month
*We each have about 100,000 hairs on the scalp
*In the United States, there has not been an elected bald President since the television age began.

Drugs that may cause Hair Thinning
Iotretinoin Acne
Captopril, Enalapril, Lisinopril, Allopurinol ACE inhibitors (blood pressure or heart failure)
Warfarin Gout
Valproate Sodium, Vigabatrin Blood-thinning drugs
Carbimazole, Propylthiouracil Epilepsy
Clofibrate, Bezafibrate Thyroid

How Hair Grows
The portion of the hair that we can see is called the shaft. Each shaft of hair protrudes from its follicle, which is a tube-like pouch just below the surface of the skin. The hair is attached to the base of the follicle by the hair root, which is where the hair actually grows and where it is nourished by blood capillaries. Like the rest of the body, hairs are made of cells. As new cells form at its root, the hair is gradually pushed further and further out of the follicle. The cells at the base of each hair are close to the blood capillaries, and are living.

As they get pushed further away from the base of the follicle they no longer have any nourishment, and so they die. As they die, they are transformed into a hard protein called keratin. So, each hair we see above the skin is dead protein. It is the follicle, which lies deep in the skin, that is essential in growing hair. Also, the thickness of each hair depends on the size of the follicle from which it is growing.

Hair growth is not a continuous process: it has several stages
The first phase is the growing stage. Hair grows at about 1 cm each month, and this phase lasts for anything between 2 and 5 years.

As this phase begins the bulb detaches from the blood supply and the hair shaft is pushed up.

This is followed by a resting stage, during which there is no growth. This phase lasts about 5 months.

At the end of the resting phase, the hair is shed, and the follicle starts to grow a new one.

At any moment, about 90% of the hair follicles of the scalp are growing hairs in the first phase; only about 10% are in the resting phase.

If a follicle is destroyed for any reason, no new hair will grow from it.

How baldness occurs
If any of the stages of hair growth are disrupted, the individual may become bald. For example, if follicles shut down (meaning that they stay in the resting phase, and then shed the hair) instead of growing new hairs, there will be less hair on the head. Another reason might be interference with the formation of new hair cells at the root during the growing phase. If follicles have been destroyed (ie., a burn, loss of layered skin or trauma), there will be baldness in that area. An individual can also look bald if the hairs are growing but are so fragile that they break just as they emerge from the follicle.

Recently, scientists at Columbia University in New York announced the discovery of a gene that appears to be the 'master switch' for hair growth. They found the gene after comparing the genes of hairless mice belonging to a mutant breed, and comparing the genes of 11 members of a family who had lost all their hair. This discovery is a step towards understanding how the hair follicle works and how baldness happens, and may lead to effective treatments becoming available in the future.

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Male & Female Pattern Baldness
Knowing that each case of hair loss is unique, companies make several options available to help both men and women with their thinning hair.

Receding hair is loss of hair at the sides of the forehead. It happens to most men eventually - usually at or after middle age, but it can start at any time after puberty. Some men also have loss of hair on top of the head, and eventually only the sides and back of the head have hair, forming a horseshoe shape. This is known as common baldness, androgenic alopecia or male-pattern baldness.

Surprisingly, if you were to view a balding scalp under a microscope you would see that there are the same number of hair follicles as before, but each is shrunken, producing hairs that are fine, short and pale. You would also note that a higher proportion than usual of the follicles are in the resting phase. Three factors are at work in male-pattern baldness: male hormones, genetics and ageing.

Female Pattern Baldness: For women, thinning hair can occur throughout the entire scalp or in random patterns. In many cases hormonal changes and age will cause thinning over the entire scalp while certain genetic conditions and medical treatments can result in spotty or total hair loss. For these cases, Hair Club may incorporate several technologies to achieve a desired result.

The main hormone is testosterone. Both men and women have testosterone in the blood, but men have higher levels. The skin of the scalp converts testosterone to another substance called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Hair follicles in areas that are destined to become bald seem to be especially sensitive to DHT, and shrink when exposed to it. Follicles on the sides and back of the head are not affected by DHT.

Confusingly, DHT is necessary for growth of the beard and hair on the chest. This explains why bald men can have bushy beards and hairy chests. Nobody knows how DHT produces opposite effects on hair growth on different parts of the body.

Heredity (genetics) is important. If you have relatives with thin hair or who are bald, you may well develop the same problem. This tendency can be inherited from either the mother's or the father's side of the family and can skip generations.

Ageing makes baldness more likely. Forty percent of men have noticeable hair loss by age 35, and 65% by age 60. Most elderly people have thin, fine hair even if they are not noticeably bald.

How quickly will I go bald?
It is impossible to predict how quickly anyone will go bald, from when they start to notice significant hair loss. Most men take 15-20 years to become completely bald, but a few are completely bald after only a few years.

Hair loss: true or false?
If your father has a full head of hair, you won't go bald: False

A tendency to baldness is inherited and probably involves a combination of genes. So you are not automatically in the clear even if your father has a full head of hair. It is not true, as sometimes claimed, that only genes from the mother's side are involved.

Brushing the hair 100 times a day will stimulate the circulation and prevent hair loss: False

Vigorous brushing is more likely to injure the hairs and make the problem worse.

Some hairstyles, like braiding can cause hair loss: True

Styles that pull or put tension on the hairs - such as tight ponytails or corn-rows - can cause hair loss.

Hats encourage hair loss because the hair can't breathe: False

Hair does not need to breathe. Only the root of the hair is alive, and this gets its oxygen from the blood in the scalp.

Frequent shampooing makes hair fall out: False

The 50-100 hairs we lose each day often become tangled with the rest of the hair, but are washed out when we shampoo. So we see what seems like a lot of hair in the shower after shampooing, but in reality these hairs have been shed earlier.

Blow-drying can worsen hair loss: True

The reason is that extreme heat damages the proteins in the hairs, making them fragile and liable to break off. Brushing the hair during blow-drying causes more damage. If you use a hair dryer it should be set on the coolest setting.

Hair coloring, perm solutions and hairsprays worsen hair loss: False

Hair dyes, perms and hairsprays do not affect thinning hair. Perms and hairsprays can help to disguise the problem. Remember, it is the follicle, which is located beneath the skin, that produces the hair. Chemical treatments can damage the hair strands but can't affect the follicle.

Baldness can be linked to heart attacks: Inconclusive

In 1999, doctors at Harvard Medical School found that men who had lost hair at the crown of the head had a 32% increased chance of coronary heart disease. Hair loss at the front of the head hardly increased the risk at all. Regardless of how accurate this study could be, if you have baldness at the top of your head, you should stop smoking, eat healthy, have your blood pressure checked and do some exercise.

Wash your hair daily with a mild shampoo; dirty hair lies flatter and looks more sparse.

Avoid anything that could make the hairs liable to break. After washing don't rub your hair vigorously or use a hot hairdryer. Rather, pat the hair dry with a soft towel or use a low setting on the dryer or, even better, let it dry naturally. Use a brush with soft bristles. Use a creame rinse detangler to undo any tangles, rather than pulling with a comb.

Protect bald areas from sun damage. Maxxam Hair Styling Products with sunscreen have been specially prepared for this purpose, and is available from Hair Club Centers. It is non-scented and non-greasy.


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