Can you reverse hair loss?
The most common form of hair loss is male pattern hair loss, (or androgenic alopecia) which affects around 10 million men in the UK. Male pattern hair loss is a genetic condition passed on from parents to their children, and occurs in men who are hypersensitive to the sex hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT is found near the top of the scalp and causes the hair follicles to shrink until they cannot produce any more hair.
At the moment, it’s not possible to reverse a man’s hypersensitivity to DHT but there are some treatments available that can be used to block the production of the enzyme that turns testosterone into DHT in the first place. This reduces the overall levels of DHT in the body and can restore normal hair growth.
Which treatments are available?
There are various different treatments for hair loss.
Propecia is taken in tablet form and contains the active ingredient finasteride. Propecia treatment will only affect hair on the scalp and works by blocking the creation of DHT, which is known to shrink hair follicles and cause hair loss. By lowering the levels of DHT in the body, Propecia can stop and even reverse hair loss by restoring normal hair growth. Propecia has been shown to decrease hair loss and increase regrowth in 90% men.
Propecia is a branded medication but you can also buy Finasteride in tablet form that works in the same way. Neither Propecia nor Finasteride tablets should be handled or used by women or children.
Minoxidil can be used by both men and women experiencing hair loss and comes as a cream or foam, which should be massaged into the scalp. It works by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles on the scalp and have been proven to reduce hair loss, but some people will find that the hair that grows back will be relatively weak to the rest of their hair.
How much hair loss is normal?
One of the biggest myths about hair loss is that losing hair every day means you must be going bald: even people who aren’t affected by pattern hair loss will lose quite a lot of hair daily. As a rule, it is totally normal to lose around 100 hairs a day and these will usually grow back.
However, if you are losing significantly more than this and there is little regrowth then it is likely that you have pattern hair loss. If you lose lots of hair suddenly or over a short period of time, you should consult your GP immediately, as this could be the sign of an underlying medical condition.
The hair growth cycle
Your hair follows a specific cycle of growth with three distinct phases that all occur randomly and can be happening simultaneously for different hairs on your head: the anagen, catagen and telogen phases. Each phase has certain characteristics that will determine the length of individual hairs.
The anagen phase is the active phase of the hair growth cycle. Most of the hair on your scalp will be in this phase. During the anagen phase, hair grows at a rate of about 1cm every 30 days. The hair on your scalp will stay in this active phase for between 2 and 6 years.
The catagen phase is the transitional stage that lasts for about 2-3 weeks. About 3% of the hair on your scalp is in this phase at any one time.
The telogen phase is the resting phase and lasts for about 100 days for scalp hair and longer for hairs on the rest of your body. About 6-8% of the hairs on your head will be in this phase.
Because each of these phases can happen simultaneously, it means that one set of hairs could be in the anagen phase, whilst another set of hairs on the other side of the scalp are in the catagen or telogen phase and growing at a completely different rate.