Whether you’re worried you might be losing your hair or are looking for ways to prevent hair loss from happening, you’ll most likely get bombarded with information on the internet, and not all of it is accurate. There is a ton of misinformation out there about hair loss and receding hairline, what it is, and how to prevent it.
This guide will help you sort out the right information so you can be ready to take the next steps to prevent hair loss.
What is hair loss?
Here’s the deal: hair loss isn’t as simple as just finding your lovely locks left behind on your pillow in the morning, or tangled in your brush, or coating the bathroom sink.
Not all hair loss is the same. A maturing hairline isn’t the same as male pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia). The Norwood Scale is a handy chart to determine if you’re actually balding or if your hairline is simply maturing, Norwood Scale. There are seven stages. (are there pictures we could attach for this?)
Stage 1: This is called the “control stage” where hair loss isn’t noticeable.
Stage 2: There is slight evidence of a receding hairline, usually around the temples.
Stage 3: This is when hair loss starts to become noticeable. The hairline recedes back and starts to form a defined “M” pattern. If you are experiencing a maturing hairline, this is where a receding hairline will stop. If you’re losing your hair, you’ll go past this stage.
Stage 4: Significant hair loss occurs at this stage. The hairline might start resembling a “U” shape and a bald spot at the crown is noticeable.
Stage 5: There’s a strip of hair between the top and the crown, which is now noticeably smaller and thinner.
Stage 6: Baldness is almost complete. The top and the crown are fully joined together and a defined “U” shape occurs.
Stage 7: There is a thin ring around the sides of the head and baldness is almost complete. The remainder of the hair is thinner and weaker.
A diagnosis at stage 3 or later on the Norwood Scale indicates male pattern baldness.
A maturing hairline is not the same as male pattern baldness. It is a natural and common occurrence in men where the hairline travels back about a half-inch from where it used to be. It’s a natural part of maturing and nothing to be concerned about.
What causes hair loss?
In cases of hair loss, there are a myriad of reasons why it could be happening, from lifestyle and diet to an underlying medical condition or medications. According to the Canadian Hair Loss Foundation, there are over 100 potential causes of hair loss. Here are just a few of them:
Genetics: Your genetics can be linked to the most common cause of hair loss and hair thinning. The good news is that hair loss can be slowed or stopped with proper treatment.
Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels can trigger hair loss. These hormones include testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and androgens.
Medications: There are some medications that can lead to temporary or persisting hair loss. These can include medications for high blood pressure, acne, antidepressants, medications to treat cancer, and others. If you are taking medications, talk to your doctor first.
Radiation or chemotherapy: These are intense treatments that target cancer cells. In the process, normal cells can suffer and that includes the cells that make up hair follicles. The good news is that once treatment is over, your hair can grow back.
Stress: Stress can have a significant impact on a whole cascade of body functions. Hair is no exception. If you’re stressed out, your hair will most likely let you know. Stress-related hair loss is often attributed to a type of hair loss known as telogen effluvium. With this type of hair loss, regrowth is possible over time.
Lifestyle: Diet and exercise play an important role in the health of your whole system, including your hair. But not only that, what habits you keep, such as smoking or drinking, can also have a significant effect on hair loss.
Hairstyling: If you’re rough with your hair, your hair won’t be happy. Over-styling and using harsh chemicals and hair dryers can all wreak havoc on your hair. If you’re a fan of over-styling or using a lot of products, you might need to give your hair a bit of rest to let it recover every now and then.
Once you and your doctor determine what is causing your hair loss, you can start deciding on what to do about it. If you’re concerned about future hair loss, there are ways to help keep your hair as healthy as possible.
How to prevent hair loss
Preventing hair loss can include a combination of treatments, including prescription, lifestyle, and what styling products you use on your hair.
Here are some ways to prevent hair loss.
1. Talk to your doctor
It’s always wise to consult your doctor first. They are a great resource and it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. It just means that they might have some advice and solutions for you. They also might be able to pin down why you’re losing your hair.
Your doctor can also identify underlying causes that might be more concerning. Once you’ve ruled out reversible causes like hormones, Felix’s healthcare practitioners can help you with the next steps in treating hair loss.
2. How’s your diet?
What you put into your body is just as what you put on it, and hair is no exception. If your diet is lacking nutrients including proteins, vitamins, and minerals, your hair will suffer for it. While male pattern baldness isn’t caused by poor diet, you can help to prevent further hair loss by addressing what you eat.
Proteins are one of those building blocks of life, and your body simply can’t function without them. They make up everything from the muscles that move you to your immune system.
Hair follicles are made mostly of a protein called keratin. Deficiencies in this protein can cause hair follicles to weaken, leading to hair loss.
You can increase your protein intake by including foods such as nuts, beans, eggs, fish, dairy, chicken, and turkey.
Just like protein, your body needs a full complement of vitamins and minerals to function properly. It’s always a good idea to eat a healthy diet packed with antioxidants that fight oxidative stress which ages your hair. Items like spinach, kidney beans, walnuts, and blueberries are all packed with antioxidants.
If you’re supplementing your diet with these vitamins and minerals, make sure you tell your doctor first.
3. Be gentle with your hair
How you treat your hair can have a huge impact on hair thinning and hair loss, and in some cases, can actually be the cause of hair loss.
There are a few things you can do to prevent hair loss and keep your locks as lustrous as possible.
Avoid over-styling: Over-styling your hair can leave it dry and brittle, leading to hair loss. Hair dryers and hot irons can damage the hair shaft and strip your hair of its natural moisture. If you don’t need to style it every day, it’s best to let it rest.
Avoid elastics: This means that bun might need to take a break. Pulling the hair tight can actually pull it out at the root, leading to hair loss. Why not let those luscious locks down?
Regular washing: Washing your hair regularly with mild products can go a long way in keeping your hair thick and healthy. While it can’t prevent all types of hair loss, it can help keep the hair you have looking as healthy as possible.
4. Medical treatments
There are some medical treatments for hair loss that don’t fall within the medications category, but that your doctor might consider depending on the cause of your hair loss.
Laser therapy is conducted with low-level lasers and has shown some signs of helping improve hair density for people with genetic hair loss or hair loss caused by chemotherapy or radiation.
Laser therapy works by stimulating epidermal stem cells, and is something that can be done in a clinic or at home. It may take many treatments to see results.
Platelet-rich plasma is a treatment used to help stimulate growth in areas already impacted by hair loss. It is an injectable solution of platelet-rich plasma and may take many sessions to see results.
Minoxidil (also known as Rogaine) stimulates hair growth. It’s probably the most well-known hair loss medication on the market. It’s a topical cream that you apply to your scalp and acts as a vasodilator, which opens blood vessels, helping to bring more blood to the surface. More blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients. And that means hair growth.
It’s important to note that minoxidil is not a cure. It will help delay further hair loss but it can’t bring hair back. If you stop using minoxidil, your hair loss will continue.
In Canada, minoxidil can be purchased over the counter in concentrations of 5% or lower. It can be used in combination with finasteride (which helps prevent the shrinkage or continued shrinkage of hair follicles).
Some side effects of minoxidil can include:
Changes in hair colour or texture
Continuous itching or skin rash
Muscle strain or spasms
Cold or flu-like symptoms
Some more serious side effects include:
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
If you are experiencing serious side effects or your side effects are worsening, seek medical assistance immediately.
Finasteride (or the brand name medication Propecia) was first approved by the FDA in 1997. Finasteride is used to treat male pattern baldness by preventing testosterone from converting to DHT, stopping or reducing the shrinkage of hair follicles. It can’t however cause hair to grow back.
Finasteride takes patience. You’ll most likely start to notice a difference around three to four months. For the full effects of finasteride, you’ll likely need to wait around six to nine months. If you discontinue using finasteride, hair loss will continue.
In order to mitigate side effects, finasteride is usually prescribed at low doses. Some side effects can include:
Decreased sex drive
Depression and anxiety
Breast enlargement and tenderness
Rare and more serious side effects of finasteride include:
Swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or face
Lumps or pain in the chest area
If you experience any serious side effects or your side effects worsen, seek medical assistance immediately. If you feel suicidal while on finasteride, stop using it right away and go to your nearest emergency department.
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications that help treat autoimmune conditions. For some people whose hair loss is a result of alopecia areata or scarring alopecia, corticosteroids can help counteract the effects of these conditions. Steroid treatments are usually administered every 4-to-6 weeks and can only be obtained with a prescription.
Androgens are sex hormones that can destroy or damage hair follicles. Antiandrogens are a prescription-only medication that helps to inhibit the damaging effects of androgens. If you take this medication, you’ll have to wait usually around 2-to-4 months of daily use to start to see results. Like finasteride and minoxidil, antiandrogens need to be taken continuously otherwise hair loss will start again.
Hair loss prevention shampoo
While hair loss prevention shampoo has active ingredients that help prevent DHT from building up on your scalp, it can still be purchased without a prescription. It can be added to a finasteride and minoxidil regimen to help ward off further hair loss.
6. Other methods
There are other natural methods that can be used to prevent hair loss, depending on what is causing your hair loss.
How are your stress levels?
As mentioned above, stress can have a significant impact on hair health. If you’re stressed, your hair might be one of the casualties. Stress-related hair loss is often attributed to a type of hair loss known as telogen effluvium. With this type of hair loss, regrowth is possible over time.
Working towards reducing your stress levels is something you should talk to your doctor about. There might be other factors that are contributing to your stress, and other negative health outcomes as well.
Get a massage
While there is no conclusive empirical evidence that a scalp massage will help prevent hair loss, it does feel amazing. By massaging the scalp, you bring blood to the surface. And blood means oxygen, which is essential for healthy hair follicles.
Talk to a healthcare practitioner
Preventing hair loss shouldn’t be a burden and making the right decisions can take some help. There are a lot of options out there and finding the right course of action for you can take a bit of trial and error.