Hair loss is a concern that affects us all, although we hope it doesn’t. When we see more hairs than usual in the shower or the hairbrush, we suddenly wonder whether we might be losing our hair. It’s comforting to know that the human body sheds approximately 100 of its 100,000–150,000 strands of hair every day and new ones grow to take their place. As we age, this renewal process may slow where more hairs are lost than grown.
Real hair loss is most noticeable in men. What is commonly known as male- pattern baldness is an inherited condition called androgenetic alopecia and it may begin as early as age 20. Male hair loss is distinguished by a receding hairline or widow’s peak and thinning on the crown. The rate of hair loss may be slow, gradual, or fast. By age 50, about 50 percent of men will experience thinning and hair loss. For 40–50 per- cent of women, hair may begin to thin after age 50 (typically after menopause). This is called female-pattern baldness. Women tend to see their hair thin throughout the head, but most visibly on the crown. Significant hair loss for women before age 50 is rare and usually triggered by hormonal fluctuations, stress, or a secondary health concern.
Other kinds of hair loss include:
Alopecia areata: This form of hair loss is characterized by patchy baldness or bald spots. It affects both men and women equally, both adults and children, but it is rare, affecting less than 2 percent of the population. Hair loss due to alopecia areata is usually triggered by an immune system disorder. Once addressed, the hair usually grows back.
Anagen effluvium: This condition occurs when hair in the growth phase falls out prematurely. Prescription medications used for the treatment of cancer are the most common cause of this condition. Chemotherapy patients may lose up to 90 percent of their hair as a result of anagen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium: A natural part of the hair growth cycle includes a resting phase called telogen, which involves 10 percent of hair at any given time. Telogen effluvium occurs when up to 30 percent of hairs on the head are in the resting phase at any given time. This condition may be caused by physical or emotional stress, and hair growth will return to normal as stress is eased.
The health of your hair is a reflection of the overall state of your health, so it is im- portant to address hair loss from a multipronged approach that includes both the use of standard medical treatments to slow hair loss, and nutritional and lifestyle changes to address and improve health.
In my next post I will discuss which foods to eat for healthy hair and what foods to avoid.