Alopecia is the general medical term for hair loss, a common condition that emerges when the hair production cycle is somehow disrupted. While thinning and balding can happen to any area of the body that grows hair, alopecia affects the scalp most often.
At RVA Regenerative Wellness in Midlothian, Virginia, we take an individualized, multimodal approach to treatable cases of hair loss that aims to stop the process in its tracks, reinvigorate stressed or dormant follicles, and restore a full head of healthy hair.
Read on as hair restoration specialist Jennylle Zanzi, FNP-C, explains how the hair growth cycle works, and discusses common causes of growth cycle disruption and hair loss.
A short tutorial on hair loss
The scalp has, on average, about 100,000 hair follicles that cycle through periods of growth, rest, shedding, and regeneration. The four distinct phases of this growth-shed cycle are:
- Anagen: The active-growth phase that can last for years
- Catagen: A transitional, 10-day phase where hair stops growing and gradually separates from its follicle
- Telogen: A two or three-month phase where the follicle rests
- Exogen: The momentary “shedding” phase that occurs when a hair finally falls away from its resting follicle
At any given time, 85-90% of the hair follicles on your head and body are in the active-growth phase. After a follicle sheds its hair, it returns to the active-growth phase and begins forming a new hair shaft. Most people lose 50-100 scalp hairs each day as part of this natural cycle.
Primary causes of alopecia
If something disrupts the hair growth cycle or damages a hair follicle, your hair may begin to fall out more quickly than it can regenerate. This is what leads to alopecia, which can cause characteristic hair loss symptoms like a receding hairline, hair falling out in patches (balding), or general thinning.
The four most common causes of alopecia are:
1. Genetic predisposition
Known as androgenetic alopecia, hereditary hair loss is the most common form of hair loss, affecting an estimated 50 million men with male-pattern baldness and 30 million women with female-pattern thinning in the United States.
In men, androgenetic alopecia typically causes either a well-defined pattern of hair recession starting above the temples and/or progressive thinning at the crown until a bald patch forms. In women, genetic hair loss often causes all-over thinning that’s most noticeable at the top of the head, causing a widening middle part.
2. Physical or emotional stress
Physical or emotional stress is another frequent cause of excessive hair shedding. Known as telogen effluvium, this type of alopecia tends to cause hair to fall out by the handful when you shampoo, comb, or run your fingers through your hair.
Stress-induced hair loss may occur:
- Following pregnancy and childbirth
- When recovering from major surgery
- After a severe illness or infection
- In the aftermath of death or divorce
This type of hair loss often emerges weeks or even months after the triggering stress episode and can cause significant scalp hair shedding. In many cases, hair shedding starts to decline within a year, and hair regrowth increases.
3. Harsh hair care and styling
If you frequently color, perm, or relax your hair, you could weaken your hair leading to breakage and increased shedding, or or you may eventually damage your hair follicles and experience irreversible hair loss.
Once a hair follicle is damaged, it can no longer grow hair. When enough follicles in an area are damaged, you can develop permanent bald patches. Pulled-back hairstyles, such as wearing tight ponytails regularly, can also weaken hair shafts, damage follicles, and cause permanent hair loss over time.
4. Health issues
Basic nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances can lead to hair loss, too. Alopecia can be a sign of thyroid disease and related hormonal imbalances.
It’s also a common symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a chronic condition that causes a woman’s ovaries to produce excess androgens. Sometimes, hair loss is a product of a nutritional deficiency resulting from a lack of iron, protein, biotin, or zinc.
Hair loss treatment solutions
When hair loss is caused by stress, health conditions, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, or harsh hair care and styling techniques, addressing the underlying problem is often all it takes to stop the hair loss process and promote hair regrowth.
But when genetics causes hair loss, as is often the case, the right approach can make all the difference. Treatment may include topical or oral medication, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, and scalp-stimulating microneedling treatments. Targeted stress management strategies and nutritional support can also help.
To learn more about the hair restoration services available at RVA Regenerative Wellness, call 786-224-6878 or use our easy online booking feature to schedule a consultation today.