Age Related Hair Loss
As we age there are often changes that are unwelcome to our hair. We typically lose approximately 100 hairs daily, which is not noticeable as thinning hair since new hair is always growing. Hair grows at an approximately one-half inch per month. Hair is actually a protein (keratin) filament.
There are three phases of hair growth:
- Anagen (growth phase) when most of the hair is growing, lasting about 2-8 years
- Catagen (transitional phase) - hair growth slows and the hair follicle shrinks, lasting for 2-3 weeks
- Telogen (resting phase) - over time hair growth stops, the old hair detaches and new hair growth begins, lasting about 3 months
When this cycle is interrupted or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced by scar tissue, hair loss becomes noticeable. Approximately one-third of women experience significant hair loss (alopecia) at some point in their lives.
Common Reasons for Hair Loss
Women’s average age for menopause is 50. Hormones, stress, and aging are the most common causes of hair loss, which may change the texture and quality of the hair. Curly hair may straighten, or straight hair may curl, which depends on the hair follicles. As many as two-thirds of postmenopausal women may experience hair thinning or bald spots. This loss often has a greater impact on women than hair loss does on men. A woman’s emotional well-being and quality of life are greatly affected by alopecia.
Androgenetic alopecia is the same for men and women. A family history of baldness on either side of the family caused by genetic changes is the most common cause of baldness. Androgens are essential for normal male sexual development, and they are also important for sex drive and regulation of hair growth.
Other reasons for hair loss include:
- Iron deficiency
- Protein or protein calorific malnutrition
- Too many permanents, hot-oil or chemical hair color treatments
- Significant hair loss
- Medications (for cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, gout, and high blood pressure)
- Certain medical conditions, such as systemic lupus, thyroid conditions, childbirth or diabetes
- Radiation to the head
- Hairstyles that pull the hair too tight on the head
How to Get Your Curls Back!
Three Shapes of Hair Follicles
Curly Hair vs Straight Hair
My step-daughter is in her late 30s and was born with gorgeous naturally curly hair. She has not reached menopause, but recently her hair started growing in straight. This is not particularly uncommon.
Hair follicles come in three shapes:
- Straight follicles produce straight hair
- Hook shaped follicles result in curly hair
- Oval hair follicle produces wavy or kinky hair
A 2009 study concluded that curly hair has an 85-95% chance of being genetically inherited. The shape of the hair follicle determines the type of hair and texture. Curly hair is an autosomal dominant trait. One reason curly hair straightens is that the hair is shaped by the hair strand next to it. Since curly hair is an autosomal dominant trait, that means one parent has straight hair and one has curly. This impacts the hair follicle and the way the hair grows.
Balding in Men
A 2011 study found that the root cause of male baldness happens with aging when stem cells in the scalp lose their ability to make hair follicles.
Men tend to lose their hair in a telltale shape. A receding hairline, which results in baldness on the top of the head and leaves a horseshoe hair pattern around the head and spot baldness is also typical for men. Men who have this genetic trait may begin losing some hair even in their teens, and as many as 89% of men will have some hair loss in their lifetime.
Premature baldness occurs more frequently in men that are short, have heart disease or suffer from prostate cancer. While illness and medications may cause premature baldness, genetics is still the main cause.
"I love bald men. Just because you've lost your fuzz don't mean you ain't a peach." ~ Dolly Parton
Preventing baldness or hair from excessive thinning may be delayed or achieved by taking certain steps.
- Do not pull your hair into tight hairstyles.
- Comb and brush your hair gently.
- Do not shampoo too often or rub your hair too vigorously with a towel.
- Stop smoking as some studies show as association for men’s hair loss.
- Do not compulsively twist, rub or pull on your hair.
- Avoid curling irons, hot rollers and harsh hair treatments.
- Avoid medications and supplements that cause hair loss.
- If you are receiving chemotherapy, ask about a cooling cap.
Receding Hairlines and Balding: How to Detect Balding
Treatments for Hair Loss
Women and men may have less hair loss with a higher protein diet and one rich in complex carbohydrates. Vitamins C, B, D3 and A are important, and minerals influence hair growth. The important minerals include zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, selenium and copper. A healthy diet is very important for women during menopause to prevent hair loss.
There are some treatments for hair loss that may be effective, including:
Minoxidil (Rogaine, generic versions) and finasteride (Propecia), which is applied directly to the scalp. It should stimulate fine hair growth in a minimum of 2 months, but it takes up to 6 or 12 months to be effective. Typically, the peak hair growth is in 4 months.
Laser devices emitting a low-energy laser light may stimulate new hair growth for fine hair that is thinning. A hairdresser or therapist is the safest way to use this treatment. Be sure to protect any bald spots from the sun.
Hair transplant is also a surgical treatment that removes an area of the scalp with good hair and transplants it into a bald area. Scalp reduction is another surgical treatment that removes a bald area and the hair-bearing scalp is brought forward.
Beautiful Long Hair
When to Consult a Doctor
It is important to see a doctor for the following hair problems:
- Losing hair very rapidly or at a very early age
- Losing hair in an unusual pattern
- Pain or itching along with hair loss
- Skin on the scalp is red, scaly or otherwise abnormal
- Losing hair along with acne, facial hair or an abnormal menstrual cycle
At least some hair thinning with age will occur for most senior citizens, so you either seek treatment or love yourself the way you look.
Hair Loss Questions
Has hair loss been a problem for you?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Pamela Oglesby