Hair Loss Introduction
Hair loss causes
The average lifespan of a single scalp hair is 3 -7 years, the hair then falls out and is replaced in three months by a new hair. The cause of hair loss can be due to the hair falling out faster than usual (shedding), regrowing back poorly or not growing back at all. In addition, the quality of the skin can be the cause, rather than the hair itself. There are a number of conditions and situations that cause hair loss which effect both men and women these are discussed below. As we mentioned earlier it is important to understand the cause of your hairloss and then you will be able to find the most appropriate treatment. The list of hairloss causes below can affect men or women.
Other hair loss causes – alopecias
Strictly speaking alopecia simply means hair loss but doesn’t explain what the cause actually is. For example:
is a common cause of hairloss, more so in women and gives a patchy type of hair loss, which spontaneously improves, usually after a few months.
Most noticeable on the scalp, it can affect eyebrows, beards or general body hair loss. If severe, this cause of hairloss, can become alopecia totalis which is loss of all body hair (like the Olympic swimmer Duncan Goodhew). The cause of the hair loss is an auto immune disease, where the skin recognizes the hair as a “foreign body” and tries to reject it.
Androgenic alopecia is in fact male pattern hair loss and not to be confused with these other types.
Traction Alopecia is where the cause of the hair loss is damage to the hair follicle by pulling on the root or bulb of the hair – effectively plucking it out slowly. Often this damages the hair so much it doesn’t grow back or only weakly.
Examples include Afro braiding, Sikh twisting the hair under the turban and simple but very tight pony tails.
This can be either acutely (trauma) or chronically (tight hairstyles, dreadlocks, Sikh custom). Traction progressively cause damage to the hair root by pulling on the hair. Overplucking of eyebrows is essentially the same thing. View our gallery photos of traction alopecia transplants.
Eyebrows and eyelashes
Eyebrow hair transplants can be very successful in cases where hair has been lost due to excessive plucking, trauma or congenital lack of eyebrows.
Eyelash damage is also often caused by trichillomania and eyelash extensions, where the glue just rips out the eyelash as the extension is removed.
The technique is exactly the same as scalp hair transplants but the hair is placed in the eyebrows, either thickening up a sparse area or totally recreating the eyebrow line. Initially, the hair does tend to be faster growing and curlier, so needs training and trimming but it does settle down to blend very well with existing eyebrow hair (which tends to be slower growing and straighter). These techniques can also be used for beards, mustaches, sideburns and even eyelashes. View our gallery photos of eyebrow transplants.
Burns cause hair loss by physically heating and killing the hair follicle and surrounding skin cells. Superficial burns may cause the hair to be burnt off (flash burns) leaving the deeper skin and hair bulb undamaged (and will regrow) or the burn may be deep and causing contracted scars with no hair growth.
Burns obviously damage the skin but it is the deep burns that cause hair loss. Because hair roots don’t regenerate in scarred or burnt skin, hair is permanently lost. However, hair transplants can survive in reasonably healthy scarred tissue so this can still help such patients. Hair transplants can grow quite well in burn scars and so is very useful in helping to cover up facial burns to eyebrows, beards, moustaches and scalp. Other techniques may also be needed to restore the hair. Find out more about Hair transplants
This is a wide ranging category, as many medications can cause changes in hair quality or hair loss. Usually, these side effects are uncommon but do occur and there is some overlap with the Hormonal category below i.e. Oral contraceptive pill.
Chemotherapy drugs are used to attack rapidly growing cancer cells, unfortunately these drugs also attack other rapidly growing cells in your body, which include your hair roots. Chemotherapy can cause hair loss not just on your scalp but on other areas of your body, sometimes your eyebrow or public hair falls out.
There is often a characteristic loss of sideburn hair in front of the ears when patients have facelifts performed, although there are now newer techniques to avoid this.
This is caused by loose skin in front of the ears being removed during the facelift. Unfortunately, the sideburn hair gets removed and this lack of hair here can look “wrong” or the surgeon may place the scar around the ear line but this scar can be visible if there is hair missing from the sideburns. Again, standard hair transplant techniques are used to re implant hair and can be easily replaced by hair transplantation. See Cindy Jackson have her sideburns restored. (link)
Although typically hormones cause hair loss most commonly in women, there are some hormonal changes that affect men equally.
Examples include thyroid disease (both hyper and hypothyroid) and tumours that secrete high levels of growth hormone, testosterone, adrenaline or other important hormones. This hair loss cause also includes medically prescribed drugs, as well as recreational or performance enhancing drugs such as steroids.
Radiation therapy hair loss
This hair loss cause is quite similar to a burn in some respects. Essentially, the skin is damaged by the radiotherapy treatment but usually recovers. However, hair is very sensitive to the radiation and is killed by it.
This can be due to an actual burn or more usually, it is because fast growing cells such as hair roots, that are more susceptible to radiotherapy damage. The surrounding skin can be left still fairly healthy but the hair has been killed. This is not a problem on the body but in hairy areas such as the scalp, it is obvious when a patch is missing.
Fortunately, hair transplanting is usually successful, the only problem is if there is a large area to cover and some of the donor area has also been damaged.This means that hair transplants can be very successful in replacing lost hair on the scalp or face when patients have received radiotherapy for brain tumours for instance. link to gallery
If caused by trauma, then the hair loss cause situation is again very similar to burns, above. Old fashioned hair punchgrafts and scars from other previous hair surgery, can be improved in a number of ways: Rows of punchgraft “dice” scars can be removed simply by excision, usually with immediate improvement.
This also applies to poorly healed strip scars. Alternatively, we can place hair transplants into the scar and this will camouflage the scar, in the same way that it does for burn scars. However, each case is different and you need to discuss the detail with one of our professional hair consultants. See our gallery for photos relating to scar repair and hair transplants.
Tricillomania is a similar cause to excessive plucking of eyebrows. Obsessive pulling or twisting of scalp hair causes damage to the hair root until it no longer grows properly. Once the patient has stopped the Obsessive Compulsive behaviour ( OCD ), then the damaged hair can be replaced by hair transplant surgery.
There are some diseases that cause hair loss that are not treatable using hair restoration techniques. Please contact us if your condition is not covered by this information and you require further advice.
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