Hair Loss: Myths & Facts for Men and Women
Though it’s a topic that many people don’t like to talk about, hair loss – or alopecia – is very common. For those affected, the search for genuine hair loss treatments can become an expensive and time-consuming obsession, because despite all the “miracle hair loss cures” you’ll see advertised, there are no long-term solutions available.
Thankfully not all types of hair loss are permanent, and for those that are, there are a couple of tried and tested treatments that can work wonders in the short term. The important thing is to separate the hair loss myths from the hair loss facts.
Hair Loss Myths
Though there are several different types of alopecia, when most people discuss hair loss they are referring to male or female pattern baldness. This type is hereditary and irreversible in some cases. It is characterised by the gradual thinning and eventual loss of the hair on the top and sides of the head.
You may have heard that rinsing your hair in cold water, massaging your scalp, or standing on your head will help reverse this kind of hair loss. However, while all these things boost circulation to the scalp, they do not encourage hair growth, because permanent hair loss is not affected by blood flow.
There are also a number of myths that discourage you from regularly wearing a hat, putting a lot of product in your hair, or using a hairdryer. But in truth, none of these will ever lead to permanent hair loss.
Lastly, it’s important to be wary of most hair loss treatments available in health shops and pharmacies. Despite the rave reviews and convincing slogans, there is little evidence to suggest that things like saw palmetto, caffeine shampoo or hair loss vitamins can encourage regrowth in someone suffering from hereditary hair loss.
Hair Loss Causes
Now that you’re familiar with the common myths, it’s time to get down to the facts.
Hair loss can be caused by many different things. Male pattern baldness is genetic, and caused by the male hormone DHT attacking the hair follicles. It is not known precisely what causes female pattern baldness, but it is thought to be hormonal.
Other kinds of alopecia can be caused by a variety of diseases, including autoimmune conditions, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes. Temporary hair loss can be caused by intense stress, hormonal changes, alterations to your diet, and certain medicines. Medical treatments such as chemotherapy also commonly cause short-term alopecia.
Certain lifestyle factors can also play a part. Steroid use is thought to contribute to baldness if you are already genetically predisposed to it, and a recent study showed that protein shakes can have a similar effect.
Effective Hair Loss Treatments
The first step to treating your hair loss is getting a proper diagnosis from a doctor or hair specialist. Temporary hair loss will resolve on its own, while certain permanent types (such as alopecia totalis) are untreatable.
Male and female pattern baldness, meanwhile, can be effectively treated in the short term with two specific treatments: finasteride and minoxidil. In the UK, finasteride is best known under the brand name Propecia, while minoxidil is known as Regaine.
Propecia is a prescription tablet taken once a day to tackle male pattern baldness. It can only be taken by men, as it works by blocking the effects of DHT (the hormone that causes the hair loss). To see the effects of Propecia, you have to take it for three to six months, and continue to take it for as long as you want to halt and reverse hair loss. Propecia is the most effective treatment for male pattern baldness currently available in the UK.
Regaine is a foam or lotion rubbed into balding areas of the scalp every day. It can be used by men or women and is available without a prescription from high street pharmacies. It is not quite as effective as Propecia, but is still a safe short-term hair loss treatment for men and women suffering from hereditary baldness.
If you are concerned about hair loss then we recommend that you speak to your GP in the first instance. It may be that your GP is unable to prescribe for you on the NHS but you can obtain a medication called Finasteride online or via a trichology service near where you live.