For many of us, hair loss and aging seem to be BFFs. It seems inevitable that as we age our hair will thin and recede. Surprisingly, hair loss isn’t exclusively a male problem. Approximately 50 percent of all women over the age of 50 experience a similar condition. The good news is there are strategies to help you keep your hair on your head where it belongs.
Understanding Hair Growth Phases
- Anagen: The Growing Phase usually lasts 2-7 years, and the length of this phase determines the length of our hair.
- Catagen: The Transition Phase lasts about ten days. During this stage, the hair follicle decreases in size and detaches from the dermal papilla.
- Telogen: The resting phase generally lasts around 3 months. Around 10-15% of the hair on your head is in this phase at any given time. While the old hair is resting, a new hair begins the growing phase.
- Exogen: The shedding phase is when old hair detaches and sheds, and new hair continues to grow. It is perfectly normal to lose about 100 hairs per day, no matter your age.
Androgenetic Alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness, is a common form of hair loss in both men and women who are genetically pre-disposed. In women, hormonal changes can affect hair growth patterns. Dermatologist, Dr. Doris J. Day, comments, “As we age, overall hair density changes and individual strands become finer.” It’s not uncommon for menopausal women to experience hair thinning and the growth of unwanted hair simultaneously. For example, it is possible to notice less hair on the head but more hair on the upper lip or chin. Men tend to grow hair in their nose and ears. Where is the justice in that?
Causes of Hair Loss:
Hair growth and hair shedding is impacted by a number of factors:
- Hormonal changes
- Poor nutrition
- Everyday stress
- Damage caused by the environment
- Over styling
Results-driven treatments for hair loss
If you’re dealing with thinning hair, Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, a Miami based dermatologist, suggests using Minoxidil. “It doesn’t grow hair, but it helps strengthen existing hair and makes it look fuller,” she said. Rogaine, Minoxidil’s brand name, is made for men and women and is used topically to help you thicken the hair on your scalp. You must, however, continue using the product to keep the regrowth of your hair. The most popular formulation for women is Women’s Rogaine Treatment for Hair Loss & Hair Thinning Once-A-Day Minoxidil Foam. Never use this medication if you are pregnant.
Key to helping minimize hair loss and even promote hair growth comes from within. Foods containing Vitamins A, C, calcium, biotin, niacin, iron and zinc are essential for hair, shine, thickness and growth. Supplements such as Viviscal with its marine proteins and IMAGE HNS®, a proprietary blend of nutrients, including horsetail extract, a rich source of silica, will help to promote healthy hair, nails, and skin.
Seeking out a board-certified dermatologist with a focus on hair loss is the best access to more robust prescription medications for hair thinning and hair loss. FDA-approved Propecia is the brand name for finasteride, which blocks 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone, a naturally-occurring hormone in the bloodstream, into another form of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). In some men, high levels of DHT signals genetically predisposed hair follicle cells to miniaturize, eventually leading to hair loss. Consistent use of Propecia not only helps stop hair loss but can often result in significant hair regrowth. This medication is not recommended for women of child-bearing years.
One of the newest prescribed medications that’s been shown to be quite effective for hair loss is called Formula 82M. This formulation contains a combination of Minoxidil and Retinoic Acid, so it can be used by men and women. Formula 82M is applied topically to the scalp twice daily and must be used consistently to avoid hair loss.
Low Level Laser Therapy
Yet another approach to hair loss is through the process of photo biostimulation using FDA-cleared low level laser light energy to grow hair. The mechanism of action with this technology is infra-red laser energy that, when directed on weakened hair follicles, is converted into cellular energy and enhances cellular metabolism, ultimately strengthening and thickening hair. Low Level Laser Therapy also reduces inflammation and increases blood flow and is used to treat a multitude of medical conditions. It’s painless, recommended for both men and women and requires a minimal time commitment.
LLLT therapy can be done in a physician’s office with a laser hood device that you sit under or with a smaller portable one that can be used anywhere, whether it’s a hand-held device or a laser cap. There is a variety of portable device types with a full range of price points from just over $100 to upward of $3000.
One of the newest hair loss technologies is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection. It has been found that high concentrations of platelets in plasma cells help promote hair growth by prolonging the growing phase of the hair cycle. Hair transplant surgeon, Dr. Alan Bauman says, “The goal is to improve the function of the weakened hair follicles.”
PRP can be used alone or in combination with freeze-dried placental stem cells or other stem cell formulations. This treatment is a 3-step process: the patient’s blood is drawn; the blood is spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelets and plasma; the physician then injects the plasma into areas on the scalp. Among other benefits, PRP helps to repair blood vessels and promote cell growth. “And there are virtually no side effects from PRP, except for a mild feeling of pressure at the injection site,” says dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, M.D. The price range for this therapy runs anywhere from $500 to $2500 or more.
The most expensive but permanent approach to hair loss is hair restoration surgery. Years ago, hair transplants were more invasive, painful and much less natural-looking. Fortunately, the latest technologies and techniques are minimally invasive, basically painless and surgical outcomes offer extremely natural results for hair regrowth.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
Unlike the large hair “plugs” of the past, which contained many follicles, with the FUE technique, single follicular units are extracted from the patient’s scalp and are implanted where hair is sparse or lacking. The latest FUE systems include automation which helps increase the speed of this process.
“Strip-harvesting” is an older technique where a strip of scalp is cut from the “doner site” (back of the scalp) and hair grafts on this strip are then implanted in the “recipient sites” (where more hair is required). With the FUE technique, there is no cutting, no scalpel, no sutures and no scar in the back of the scalp to have to heal or show. Of course, the FUE technique is more expensive than strip-harvesting but either way, depending on the amount of follicular grafts required, you’d be spending anywhere from a few thousand dollars to upward of $20,000 big ones!
There are a host of other products, treatments and natural lifestyle changes that could help nourish and even help grow hair or slow down its demise, but those that have been presented here seem to offer the best outcomes.