Every person experiences some degree of hair loss, with most of us shedding 50 to 100 strands a day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Yet approximately 50 percent of men and close to 40 percent of women face tress fall that requires intervention or professional restoration. Causes vary, as do the types of balding patterns and treatment options. For August’s National Hair Loss Awareness Month, we take a look at how to combat lock loss.
Cause and Effect
Androgenetic alopecia, otherwise known as male and female pattern baldness, is most often caused by genetics and age. “People with androgenetic alopecia are born with inherited hair follicles that are sensitive to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT,” says Diane Stevens, Nioxin global stylist. “DHT prompts hair follicles to miniaturize over time, producing thinner and finer strands.” Eventually, those follicles become dormant and die, resulting in approximately 95 percent of all male hair loss, according to the American Hair Loss Association. The rate for women is slightly lower, at 70 percent. Though DHT is a powerful hormone, it can be combatted with hair-loss supplements or products containing certain key ingredients, such as plankton, algae, kelp and apple stem cell extract, all of which inhibit DHT formation.
In both men and women, hair loss may also occur following a trauma to the system, which initially triggers follicle thinning. “This common cause of temporary loss, called telogen effluvium, is due to the excessive shedding of resting, or telogen hair, following a bodily shock,” says Gretchen Friese, BosleyMD certified trichologist and stylist. Typical causes include severe stress and sudden weight loss, along with pregnancy, childbirth and menopause, which is why the condition usually affects women. The pattern of loss is diffuse, meaning it occurs all over the scalp. The good news? Though periods of shedding can last six months or more, it’s generally reversible. “Stress-recovery habits, including a healthy diet, exercise and meditation, may all aid in recovery,” says Friese. Hormone replacement therapy for women experiencing menopause is likewise an option.
Finally, involutional alopecia and alopecia areata cause hair loss that more typically affects men. The former is characterized by a gradual thinning that occurs naturally with age. “Over time, a higher number of hair follicles move into the resting phase and remaining hairs become shorter, finer and fewer in number,” says Stevens. Though no treatment yet exists, artificial hair restoration is an option. The latter affects close to 7 million people in the United States, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, and it’s defined by hair that falls out in a circular pattern via small, quarter-sized patches. “It can happen on both the scalp and other parts of the body, and medications like Minoxidil, which promote hair growth, may be prescribed,” says Friese.
Hair loss is a tricky and often painful subject to broach, but stylists can kick off this delicate discussion with clients when they first notice the potential problem. “If I have a client in my chair whose hair is looking a bit thin, I’ll often start the talk by asking if they’re having any concerns,” says Friese. “Conversely, you could try an empathic approach by mentioning any personal challenges you may have faced as a result of thinning.” Aim to gauge how much the client is losing, and steer toward gentle fact-finding regarding possible recent health or diet changes, exercise patterns, medication use and family history. “Most clients get emotional, so listen and let them know you’re there to help,” says Stevens. “Try not to diagnose the problem, but rather discuss changes you might see.” Overall, this conversation should be positive, leaving clients ready to consult with doctors and pursue best treatment options. Stevens continues, “Clients may often hesitate to bring up hair loss with a medical professional because they fear there’s no solution, but a stylist can allay those anxieties by letting them know about available treatment options.”