If at some point in your life you experience an intense hair loss, it doesn’t mean that you suffer from alopecia. When stress, anxiety and certain phases of the hair growth cycle occur, you could lose more hair than usual, but that’s not a sign of baldness.
Although alopecia is more common among men, women can also develop it and, in this article, we’ll show you everything you need to know about hair loss and if it’s possible to stop it.
What is alopecia?
It’s an abnormal hair loss also known as “baldness”. It’s possible to suspect the presence of alopecia when a person loses more than 100 hair strands a day. This condition can occur on the scalp, but also on other hair-covered body parts like the armpits, eyebrows, eyelashes, genitalia and others.
Androgenic alopecia, also called “common baldness”, is the most prevalent type, but there are other forms that we’ll explain further on. Depending on the type, this illness can be reversible or irreversible.
How is alopecia classified?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), alopecia is classified the following way:
- Alopecia totalis: loss of all scalp hair, so the patient ends up being completely bald.
- Alopecia universalis: rare condition in which the patient loses hair entirely, including eyebrows, eyelashes and head hair.
- Alopecia areata: the patient loses hair in certain areas because of an immune disorder that causes the body to attack its own hair follicles.
What can cause alopecia?
This condition can be developed at any age, but it is most common in adolescence and adulthood. Usually, lost hair will regrow after a year. If the disease is caused by an immune reaction, hair will fall in certain areas, creating bald patches on the scalp. Some conditions like vitiligo and thyroid disorders may also lead to baldness.
Causes of alopecia
A variety of factors can cause hair loss.
- Genetics: hair loss can be inherited, especially among men.
- Aging: as the years go by, hair loses its strength, people go through hormonal changes and baldness can appear.
- Stress: having a stressful life causes hair to fall out more.
- Diet: a low intake of minerals, vitamins and nutrients.
- Excessive use of products and tools: using too many hair products, blow dryers and hair straighteners can lead to an excessive hair loss.
- Medication: some drugs like contraceptives, anticoagulants and antidepressants can cause hair loss.
- Pregnancy: during pregnancy and after labor, women can lose hair.
- Diseases: lupus, diabetes, anemia, hypothyroidism and syphilis are some of the diseases that can cause hair loss.
- Cancer treatments: radio and chemotherapy make all head hair and body hair fall out.
- Larger amounts of hair on pillows, bathtubs and showers.
- Itchiness and redness in the scalp.
- Hair more oily than usual and presence of severe dandruff.
- Great amounts of hair on the brush after using it.
- Beard, eyebrow or eyelash hair loss.
- Brittle, debilitated hair.
- Receding hairline at the temples.
It’s the most common form of alopecia and it can be treated to regain lost hair and regenerate the scalp.
- Androgenic: it’s an inherited baldness that affects men the most and it’s rare among women.
- Areata: usually, hair falls out in sections, but sometimes it can happen in the entire scalp.
- Diffuse: due to a medication side effect, to hormonal changes or to a disease.
- Traumatic: due to external factors such as hair dye, straighteners, permanents, blow dryers and chemicals.
- Drug-induced: certain medications can cause hair loss, but once the treatment is discontinued, hair tends to grow back.
- From diseases: some diseases and their treatments can produce hair loss.
Hair follicles are destroyed or damaged and it can be due to five factors:
- Hereditary diseases: Darier’s disease, icthyosis, aplasia cutis congenita, incontinentia pigmenti, epidermal nevus syndrome, epidermolysis bullosa or porokeratosis of Mibelli.
- Infections: candida folliculitis, kerion or favus.
- Dermatitis: discoid lupus erythematosus, dermatomyositis, lichen planus and sclerosus and scleroderma.
- Tumors: trichoepithelioma, lymphoma, metastasis.
- Clinical syndromes: folliculitis decalvans, frontal fibrosing alopecia, alopecia pavimaculata or erosive pustular dermatitis of the scalp.
How to stop alopecia
When hair loss occurs due to stress or to a non-scarring alopecia cause, it will eventually regrow, but when it comes to scarring alopecia, there are no entirely effective solutions.
Several supplements can help you slow down hair loss, but up until now, the only medications approved by the FDA to stop alopecia are finasteride and minoxidil. Other than that, hair transplants often are a solution.
A medication recommended for men only that has to be taken from the first stage of the balding process. It works by stopping hair loss, but it doesn’t help regain hair in the areas where it has already fallen out. That’s why it needs to be used after the first symptoms of alopecia appear.
Found in spray or lotion, it can be used by men and women alike. Minoxidil is a vasodilator that promotes healthy hair follicles and stops alopecia. Its results can be seen quicker than those of finasteride and it must be applied twice a day in dry hair.
Among the options you have, you can choose a hair microtransplant, that is, a transplant carried out hair by hair. You could also go for a follicular unit transplantation, where a patient’s hair is transplanted in groups of 1 to 3 hairs that will grow naturally afterwards.
One can turn to these effective methods when suffering from an irreversible type of alopecia.