Hair loss is referred to as gradual or sudden loss of hair from the scalp or other parts of the body where hair normally grows. Hair is made of keratin protein and produced in hair follicles in the outer layer of the skin. On average, a human has around 100,000 to 200,000 hair follicles on the scalp. Every hair has a life cycle: active hair growth phase, transitional hair growth phase, and resting phase. After completing the resting phase, hair is shed, and new hair replaces it to continue the cycle. As people age, their rate of hair growth slows. However, losing up to 100 strands of hair per day is considered normal.
Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. Alopecia is a generic term that doesn’t imply any particular cause of hair loss. There are several types of alopecia, each with different causes and characteristics. Alopecia is divided into 2 major categories: non-scarring alopecia where hair follicles are intact and scarring alopecia, where the hair follicles are irreversibly damaged. Some of the common alopecia types in the non-scarring category include following:
- Androgenic alopecia: A genetic condition that can affect both men and women and it is the most common type of hair loss. It is also known as male-pattern baldness or female-pattern hair loss. Male-pattern baldness is characterized by a receding hairline and gradual disappearance of the hair from the crown and front of the scalp. The onset of female androgenic alopecia can be any time after puberty, but the hair loss can become severe with age 1. In women, overall thinning of the hair can be seen with this condition.
- Alopecia areata: This type of hair loss is sudden. It is caused by an autoimmune disease where your own cells attack hair follicular cells by accident. The affected individual will notice small round patches of areas with no hair on the scalp or other parts of the body.
Alopecia totalis and universalis: Alopecia totalis is total loss of hair on the scalp. Alopecia universalis is the total loss of hair from all over the body including eyebrows, pubic hair, and eyelashes.
- Traction alopecia: This kind of hair loss is due to the constant pull or tension to the hair. It could develop due to tight ponytails, braids or hair extensions. Over time, this tension can damage hair follicles and lead to hair loss.
- Telogen effluvium is one of the common forms of hair loss. This type of hair loss is triggered by stress, illness, surgery, hormonal changes, or medications. People with this condition will never completely lose all their scalp hair, but the hair can be noticeably thin in severe cases. In most cases telogen effluvium is limited to the scalp, but in more serious cases it can affect other areas, like the eyebrows and pubic hair. This is usually a temporary condition and once the underlying cause is treated, hair growth will resume.
Scarring type hair loss is less common and often caused by autoimmune diseases. There are multiple scarring type hair loss including, lichen planopilaris (LPP), frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA), central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA), discoid lupus erythematosus(DLE),and folliculitis decalvans.
It is important to note that diagnosing the specific cause of hair loss requires a medical evaluation. If you are experiencing significant hair loss, consulting a healthcare professional, preferably a board-certified dermatologist is crucial to identify the underlying condition. There are many factors that can cause alopecia.
- Genetics(family history): Genetics plays a significant role in hair loss. The most common type of hair loss known as androgenic alopecia, often referred to as male-pattern baldness in males or female-pattern hair loss in females, has a strong genetic component. Androgenic alopecia is influenced by a combination of genetic factors and hormonal changes. If your parents or grandparents experienced hair loss, you are more likely to develop it as well. It is believed that multiple genes contribute to this type of hair loss and their interactions with hormones like dihydrotestosterone (DHT) play a crucial role.
- Hormonal imbalances: Fluctuation or disruption in hormone levels can inhibit hair growth and lead to hair loss. Increased levels of some of the hormones such as testosterone, DHT, thyroid hormones, and cortisol (stress hormone) can cause hair loss. However, increased levels of estrogen during pregnancy can prolong the growth phase of hair leading to thicker and fuller hair. During menopause, estrogen levels drop, and this can trigger excessive shedding, causing telogen effluvium.
- Medical conditions: There are several medical conditions that can lead to hair loss, either directly or as a secondary symptom. Some of the common medical conditions that can contribute to hair loss include, hypothyroidism (decrease thyroid hormone), hyperthyroidism (increased thyroid hormone), polycystic ovary syndrome, lupus, Cushing’s syndrome, iron deficiency, vitamin deficiency 2 [vitamin B, D, biotin (vitamin B7)], malnutrition, eating disorders, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.
- Medication and supplements: Several medications and supplements have been associated with hair loss as a potential side effect. Hair loss caused by medications is known as drug induced hair loss or medication induced alopecia. Some examples of medications and supplements that can potentially lead to hair loss includes, chemotherapy drugs, anticoagulants, antidepressants, beta blockers, anticonvulsants, acne medications, hormonal medications, thyroid medications, gout medications, weight loss medications, vitamin A supplements, excess selenium supplements for muscle growth, and iron deficiency. It is important to note that not everyone who takes these medications or supplements will experience hair loss. If you suspect that a medication or a supplement is causing hair loss, consult with your provider for alternative medication.
- Stress: Chronic stress can increase the level of cortisol hormone (stress hormone) in your body. Cortisol can disrupt the normal hair growth cycle leading to increased shedding.
- Hair styles and hair treatments: Certain hair styles, especially those that exert tension or stress on the hair and scalp can lead to a type of hair loss known as traction alopecia. Different hair styles that can cause traction alopecia includes, tight ponytails, braids and cornrows, extensions and weaves. Hair treatments such as chemical treatments and heat styling can also damage the hair and lead to breakage and hair thinning.
Hair Loss Treatments in Greater Phoenix, AZ
There are multiple treatment options available for hair loss in both men and women. Following are some of the commonly used hair loss treatments.
- Topical minoxidil: This is the only over the counter medication approved by FDA to treat hair loss in both men and women. There are different strengths to this topical medication and both 2% and 5% minoxidil solution can be bought without a prescription. Minoxidil is applied directly to the scalp to promote hair growth and slow down further hair loss. If you stop using it, you will start losing hair again and your hair might fall out faster than before. It comes in different forms, such as a foam or liquid. It is sold under the names Rogaine® or Theroxidil® or under the generic name, minoxidil. At Saguaro Dermatology, we offer a topical minoxidil and finasteride treatment.
- Oral finasteride: A prescription medication that inhibits the conversion of testosterone to DHT (dihydrotestosterone), which is responsible for shrinking hair follicles in androgenic alopecia patients. This is also approved by the FDA to use in the treatment of hair loss.
- Low level laser therapy (LLLT): LLLT devices such as laser combs or caps use low-level lasers or light-emitting diode (LED) to stimulate hair follicles and improve hair growth.
- Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy: PRP therapy involves drawing a small amount of a patient’s blood, processing it to concentrate platelets, and then injecting the platelet-rich plasma into the scalp. The mechanism behind PRP injections is not completely understood. Studies show that the increased concentrations of growth factors in PRP may stimulate or encourage hair growth.
- Hair transplant surgery: Follicular unit transplantation (FUT) or follicular unit extraction (FUE) involves transplanting hair follicles from donor areas to areas with thinning or no hair. In FUT, an area of donor tissue is removed and transplanted to individual hair follicles. In contrast, during FUE, the grafts are extracted as individual follicular units and implanted the same ways as FUT. However, the FUE procedure is more popular than the FUT procedure as it leaves no visible scarring in the donor area.
- Shampoos and other topical treatments: Prescription strength shampoos, corticosteroid creams, and other topical treatments can address underlying scalp conditions and inflammation that contribute to hair loss. Some hair care products contain ingredients like ketoconazole, caffeine or botanical extracts that promote hair growth and improve hair health.
- Nutritional and hormonal supplements: Nutrafol, vitamin D, iron, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals play a role in hair health. It is recommended to consult a healthcare professional before starting supplements. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy may be used to address underlying hormonal imbalance contributing to hair loss.
It is important to note that the effectiveness of these treatments can vary depending on the underlying cause of hair loss, individual’s response, as well as other factors. Consulting a dermatologist is the best option before starting any treatment because a dermatologist can diagnose the cause of hair loss and prescribe the best personalized treatment options for you.
Does hair loss treatment work?
It has been shown that the effectiveness of minoxidil on hair growth is significant. The FDA has approved both minoxidil and finasteride for hair loss since those treatments have shown efficiency in clinical trials 5. Individual results can vary depending on the overall health and the underlying cause of hair loss. As hair regrowth takes time, you have to be patient and consistent with your chosen approach.
What hair loss treatment is the best?
Effectiveness of hair loss treatment would depend on multiple factors. Individual treatment plans depend on the type of alopecia you have. You might have to combine a few different treatments at the same time to see a positive result. It takes time to see the effect of treatments on hair loss. Some patients see a reduction in hair loss and new hair growth within 3-6 months. However, hair loss treatment response varies.
Hair loss treatment in Ahwatukee, Phoenix, Mesa, and Sun City West Arizona
The staff at Saguaro Dermatology are dedicated to providing you with the highest quality of care, innovative practices, helpful resources, and the state-of-the-art technology to prevent and treat a multitude of skin disorders for patients in the Ahwatukee, Central Phoenix, Mesa and Sun City West area. Our dermatologists are experienced in treating skin conditions including hair loss and are ready to help you.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing stress, and staying hydrated can contribute to overall hair health improvement. It is natural to lose up to about 100-150 hair a day. But severe hair loss can affect the way you feel about your appearance. If you are not sure what is causing your hair loss and which treatments to choose, contact an experienced dermatologist. The team at Saguaro Dermatology has successfully treated individuals with a multitude of skin conditions, including hair loss. Our board-certified dermatologists along with our caring and experienced staff are always ready to help you at Saguaro Dermatology, conveniently located at four campuses in Ahwatukee, Central Phoenix, Mesa, and Sun City West AZ.