Hair Loss Treatments Myths Vs Facts:
Do they really work?
Understanding hair loss
Understanding hair loss requires an understanding of hair growth. Hair follows a cycle comprising two to six years of growth stage (anagen), one to three weeks of no-growth stage (catagen) and twelve weeks of resting stage (telogen) after which the hair shaft falls off (exogen). The cycle restarts and new hair starts growing. In the anagen stage, hair growth is defined by quick cell differentiation and division in the hair follicle followed by the hair shaft growing in length. In the catagen stage, there is a regression of the hair follicle.
This hair-growth cycle means that there is natural hair fall every day. Typically, there is a loss of 50 to 100 hairs in a person. The status of the hair-growth cycle gives a hint as to the nature of hair loss. If hair is healthy the growth cycle restarts. On the other hand, if the hair follicle does not get out of its shrinking stage to restart hair growth is hampered. The break in growth cycle can be caused by genetics, specific types of medication, chemical hair treatments, faulty diet, stress and hormones.
Types of hair loss
Androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness) is the medical term used for the most common form of hair loss, which is attributed to genetics. The hair loss in women is characterized by thinning of hair whereas in men it is characterized by receding hairline or lack of hair growth.
Alopecia areata is the medical term for another form of hair loss which manifests as bald patches on the scalp. This form of hair loss is due to autoimmune dysfunction where the immune system attacks healthy hair follicles impeding it from growing hair.
Telogen effluvium is another form of hair loss in which hair follicles stop growing hair. This is typically temporary often occurring after high fever, surgery or childbirth. It can also occur due to medications such as birth control pills and blood thinners besides iron deficiency or thyroid imbalance.
Facts and myths of hair loss treatments
This background on the growth and fall of hair is seminal in understanding facts and myths about hair loss treatments.
Patients experiencing hair loss might consider visiting a specialist centre such as the London Hair Transplant Clinic to get a factual evaluation done and assess appropriate treatments. But as a starting point, take a look at the facts and myths about hair loss treatments detailed below.
1. Before even thinking of hair loss treatment, a doctor should
- • Seek patients’ family history especially about paternal and maternal baldness in the family
- • Seek information about any recent medical events prior to noticing hair loss
- • Physically examine the nature of baldness
- • Order a scalp biopsy
- • Conduct tests to detect autoimmune disorders or lack of specific nutrients
The results of these tests and examinations will determine the causes of hair loss based on which the doctor would plan the course of treatment. Based on this determination there could be a simple solution or a complicated one. For instance, telogen effluvium is hair loss which is temporary and can be addressed differently as compared to an alopecia areata which is a function of autoimmune disorder.
2. Hair transplant surgery comprising two types – Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) and Follicular Unit Excision (FUE) – are beneficial in the treatment of non-genetic hair loss. In this procedure, the surgeon removes active hair follicles from the back of the head and implants them in areas where hair loss has occurred. This procedure is good for filling up bald spots. However, this procedure is indifferent if baldness is genetic.
3. A new treatment known as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is gaining ground as an effective treatment. By removing red blood cells from blood of the patient, the PRP is injected into bald areas where hair follicle production is seen to increase besides lengthening the hair-growth cycle.
4. Apart from PRP, specific proteins and chemicals used to cook fast-food fries have been linked to the production of hair follicles. Another research area is the use of laser therapy to stimulate hair thickening. Research is continuing along these lines and new therapies are being considered to treat hair loss.
5. Male or female pattern baldness can be treated by applying Regaine, an MHRA approved topical ingredient to regrow hair. Regaine, which contains minoxidil that is used to treat hypertension, vitalises hair follicles that enable a longer growth cycle. However, female patients with hair loss due to autoimmune disorder can benefit by retaining existing hair without hair growth.
6. Corticosteroids injections to the bald areas can stimulate hair to regrow.
1. On genetics, there is a myth that baldness is genetic inheritance only from the mother’s side which is just a myth because genetic inheritance can be from either the father’s side or the mother’s side or both sides.
2. There are too many causes of hair loss and there is no ‘one size fits all’ kind of treatment whether through medications or other treatments.
3. Many vitamins and supplements taken orally or contained in shampoos claim to stimulate hair-growth. Some may claim MHRA approval but the fact remains that MHRA does not monitor the effectiveness of these products, only that they are safe to use. Since no monitoring is done, MHRA approval is meaningless in terms of effectiveness for any single product.
Overall, the facts debunk the myths and hair loss treatments do work provided patients get appropriate professional help.
Image source – Pexels