What are the most common causes of hair loss?
Are my parents to blame?
In a word, yes.
Unfortunately, the vast number of people that lose their hair are predestined for the fall! A hereditary condition that develops after puberty is the main culprit. The biology behind this is that androgens (linked to testosterone) stop hair follicles producing hair in a patterned distribution.
This is known as androgenetic alopecia (AGA) or “male pattern baldness”. Typically, hereditary or genetic hair loss is better understood in men than in women. “Female pattern baldness” is also affected by androgens, alongside other factors, and is still the subject of research.
What are the other causes of hair loss?
Other causes of hair loss, hair thinning and baldness are less common and include:
- thyroid disease
- iron deficiency
- high fever
- surgery or general anaesthesia
- certain medications
- autoimmune diseases (such as lupus, lichen planopilaris, and alopecia areata)
Stress is also a factor in alopecia, although it is thought to speed up hereditary hair loss rather than to be a cause in its own right.
Androgenic Alopecia and the hair cycle
Just like human life, human hair has a life cycle in its own right. A human head of hair is made up of between 80,000 and 150,000 hair follicles, which produce hair in cycles. The first period, otherwise known as the period of production (anagen) lasts anywhere between two and six years. This is followed by a short transition phase (catagen) and finally a resting phase where the hair follicles are dormant (telogen).
In androgentic alopecia, hair begins to shrink in diameter and potential length during each cycle until it eventually disappears.
Typical symptoms of hair loss (it’s not going to get any better)
In male pattern baldness, the first symptom you will see is the hair thinning on the top of the head. Over time the bald patch will get larger and larger. Sometimes this will lead to complete baldness in men, except at the back and sides of the scalp where hair is usually genetically permanent.
Hair loss can lead to a more negative self-image
Each one of us develops a mental image of “self” during the second decade of life which in most cases corresponds to end of puberty. This is how we recognize ourselves in front of the mirror. At a certain stage we do not even need the mirror any more to keep that image, because this is now a picture of how we feel like.
Losing hair is certainly amongst the first signs of aging to modify our aspect and makes us look at the mirror and say “this is not me”. In fact we feel exactly the same as before.
Our hair is one of the most defining aspects of our appearance. A healthy head of hair makes us look attractive, youthful, and desirable. Our appearance directly affects our own self-image, and most of us want to maintain a self-image that is youthful and healthy looking.
Our appearance also affects how we interact with other people, both in how others respond to how we look, and how our appearance affects our own self-confidence. Having a full head of hair can improve quality of life, success in business relationships, and success in romance.