Balding and hair thinning (also known as alopecia) used to seem like an inevitable consequence of genes and aging. Starting as early as their teens or 20s, men may lose hair in a horseshoe pattern that then expands over the entire top of their head. Women whose hormones fluctuate due to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or because of perimenopause or menopause may have also have “male-pattern” baldness, may notice that their part has widened or that their hair is thinner overall.
Other causes of hair thinning and baldness include:
- Alopecia areata — patchy loss of hair that’s reversible in 90% of cases
- Alopecia universalis — loss of hair from all areas of body, including eyebrows, eyelashes, and pubic hair
- Telogen effluvium — all of your hairs enter a resting phase simultaneously and fall out due to stress, poor diet, or other causes. Scarring alopecias — some kinds of trauma, including hot combs and inflammatory illnesses, destroy follicles so they can’t produce hair anymore.
What happens when your follicles flag
Whatever the initial cause of your baldness — fluctuating hormones or a medical condition — the problem from your hair’s perspective is that the follicles that produce and house the hairs are no longer hospitable. Normally, follicles support hairs through a growth cycle that can last for up to six years. If you’re losing hair, it’s because your follicles shut down new growth after a few months — leading to shorter, sparser hair — or stop producing hair entirely.
The skincare and hair experts at Specialists in Dermatology Houston and The Woodlands, Texas, help restore your follicles, so they can produce healthy hairs again. Depending on the cause of your hair loss, you may be able to regrow hair with appropriate treatments.
During your hair loss consultation, our dermatologists take a thorough medical history, examine your scalp, and may take blood tests to check your hormone levels or rule out various causes of telogen effluvium. If our experts establish that your hair loss is reversible, they design an appropriate treatment plan, including dietary changes or supplements to counteract protein and mineral deficiencies.
Treating alopecia in women
Women with hair thinning may have higher levels of androgens than normal, which creates a hair loss pattern that’s similar to that seen in males. Your doctor may recommend spironolactone, which blocks the effects of androgens on your follicles, so that they allow hairs to grow again.
You might also benefit from topical minoxidil, which reverses the follicular shrinkage that causes hair loss. Minoxidil re-stimulates hair growth after about 12 weeks when applied twice daily to small patches of thinning hair or baldness. You must continue to use minoxidil indefinitely, if you want continued hair growth.
Treating alopecia in men
Men with early hair loss that isn’t too extensive may also benefit from minoxidil. However, minoxidil is not appropriate for large bald spots.
Another effective treatment to help your follicles regain strength is oral finasteride. In men, finasteride blocks the production of androgens in the follicles to prevent hair loss. Finasteride is not appropriate for women of childbearing age, as it may cause birth defects. It is not effective in postmenopausal women.
You don’t have to feel self-conscious about thinning or balding hair nor sign up for painful surgery. Call us today for hair loss evaluation and treatment. You can also contact our experts with the online form.