Hair loss is an upsetting blow to your self-confidence, but alopecia (its medical term) is surprisingly common. So, we spoke to the experts about the most common hair loss causes, and how to treat them. Because, the good news is, it can be fixed!
- Dr Kevin Alexander has 20 years’ experience in the treatment of hair loss at Dr Alexander’s Hair Loss Clinic in Bedfordview. Read more about what he does at www.hairloss.co.za
- Dr Larry Gershowitz is an expert in hair transplant surgery, and has been the medical director of Medical Hair Restoration clinic in Cape Town for 20 years. See his treatments at www.medhair.co.za
- Dermatologist, Dr Jennifer Jones is a hair loss specialist with over 26 years’ experience.
The most common types of hair loss
This condition is genetic, diffused hair loss most often occurring on top of the scalp. Hair on the sides and back may be affected too. Globally, it affects about 50% of women over 65, but it can also occur in younger women. It’s caused by high androgen-hormone levels that shrink hair follicles, causing them to produce shorter, thinner hairs that shed sooner. Hair loss is permanent, but further loss can be slowed with treatment.
How to treat it
Anti-androgen drugs like Androcur and Diane 35 may be prescribed to lower androgen levels, helping thinning hair become fuller. Your specialist may also prescribe a topical 5% minoxidil lotion for use on your scalp twice daily, indefinitely.
With this condition, the immune system attacks hair follicles, causing small, round bald patches on the scalp (or other parts of the body). It isn’t permanent, but regrowth can take many months.
How to treat it
It’s traditionally treated with corticosteroid injections in the scalp every six weeks to suppress this abnormal immune response.
Although it’s temporary, in telogen effluvium, also known as regular hair shedding, rises up to 80%. It could be due to hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause, or physical or emotional stress. Certain meds can also bring it on.
How to treat it
Treatment depends on the root cause; the specialist may do a blood test for thyroid function, and hormone/iron levels.
According to a recent survey conducted across SA’s major cities, over a third of women over 30 show signs of hair loss. Statistics from Harvard Health researchers also show almost 70% of postmenopausal women will suffer from some form of alopecia.
Take this hair loss test
Normally, about 10% of our hair is in the shedding phase at any point in time, meaning we lose up to 100 hairs a day. If you’re concerned you’re losing more than this, you can do a simple hair-pull test at home – just wait at least 48 hours after washing your hair to do it. For the test, take a section of hair (about 1cm thick) between your fore-finger and thumb and slowly pull down the length of the hair shafts. If over 10 hairs come out, it’s best to contact a hair loss specialist to investigate it further.
Which other treatments are available?
In cases of permanent hair loss, strips of still-active follicles are surgically taken from the back or side of the scalp and replanted individually in the balding area. It’s an expensive procedure (from R30 000 to R50 000), but it has a high success rate.
Ideal for temporary or even permanent partial hair loss, this solution, also known as a pull-through wig, allows your own hair to be blended with that of a hairpiece for a natural, fuller look. Wig Beauty uses this integration system – their hairpieces have a breathable mesh base with openings through which you feed your own hair, ‘integrating’ it with that of the wig to conceal hair loss. It is then secured in place with snap-lock comb clips. The hairpieces come in various colours, and can be washed and styled – the results are normally impressive.
A great range of integration hairpieces is Envy, available at Wig Beauty, from R1 950.
This cosmetic treatment is also the most budget-friendly. Hair fibres are made from keratin and look like a fine powder. These stick to your hairs, temporarily thickening them so your scalp doesn’t show through. There are various products available online, but one of the most popular is Virtual Hair, which come in six different shades. At Virtual Hair, from R460.