I think that it is what many of us feel when we think about the gradual (and perhaps not so gradual) loss of our hair. The song makes me want to insert hair into the song, “Where has all my hair, long time passing....”
Every day since as long as we can remember, we notice the few follicles in the sink after we comb our hair, or on our clothes, or in the tub when we get out of the shower. Little by little, until some point we look in the mirror and go ‘WHOA, wait a minute! This is getting serious!’ Thinning is one thing; I can deny there is a problem for quite some time. But when large stretches of real estate on my head start looking downright barren, this has got my attention.
So what is the deal with the loss of my hair? The phenomenon is most often labelled male pattern baldness or MPB, and it bothers us – quite a lot, actually.
It is easy to see the end result: lack of hair. But where does it all start and what does it look like? Understanding hair loss is the first step to keeping one’s hair intact and allows us to keep it growing strong longer than we typically think. So, let’s take a quick survey of what is happening here. In a later article we’ll talk about some things we can do about it. In this article we’re going to talk about the most common form (MPB) and some of the factors that contribute to it.
Hair loss or male pattern balding (MPB), technically known as androgenetic alopecia, is most common in men but can occur in women as well. It is really only a matter of time before a majority of men experience noticeable hair loss or thinning. It will vary across groups. For example, Caucasian males seem to be effected earlier than Japanese males.
Most people have an average of 100,000 hairs on their head, most of which are growing at any one time. The average person loses approximately100 hairs a day from regular activities. This hair loss is normal and will typically re-grow at a normal rate in what is described as hair cycling.
The hair follicle growth cycle alternates between rest and activity and goes through the following phases: growth (anagen), transitional (catagen), and resting (telogen) phases. During these phases, the follicle shrivels, falls and makes room for new hair.
Follicles start to recede towards the front of the head accompanied by thinning at the top and centre of the head. The thinning on the top ultimately turns into a large patch and meets up with the receding hair line in front, leaving hair around the sides and back of the head in a George-Costanza kind of pattern.
‘Hey, believe me, baldness will catch on. When the aliens come, who do you think they’re gonna relate to? Who do you think’s gonna be the first ones getting a tour of the ship?’ –George Costanza
Well, George, maybe not. Anyhow, male baldness is largely genetic and thus hereditary. It affects each person differently. Between the ages of 20 and 30, men will notice some thinning while by the age of 35 about two-thirds of American men will have some degree of hair loss. By age 50, approximately 85% experience significant thinning.
As we age, two key things happen: (1) the growth/replacement cycle slows and (2) the anti-regrowth factors begin to have their effect. Let’s talk about the latter point a bit more.
Our hair follicles are genetically sensitive to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a by-product of testosterone conversion in the body, a hormone that is typically higher in men. DHT in a way is like a toxin that over time shrinks follicle size and life cycle, leading eventually to those empty patches we often see. In essence, we’re losing ground in the replacement process due to this conversion of testosterone into DHT.
Although it is believed that age, genetics, and testosterone are the important players in the hair loss ‘game,’ there are other factors that can accelerate and enhance hair loss, sometimes temporarily. Let’s summarize a couple of these:
1) Stress or serious disease can cause temporary thinning, but is typically not the cause of long-term MPB.
2) Damage to your hair through the long-term use of dyes, heat, and styling gels can weaken the follicles giving them a shorter life.
3) Damage to your body through drugs, alcohol and/or cigarettes often weaken the body and dehydrates it, preventing nutrients from nourishing the hair.
While we recognize that hair loss is a fact of the aging process, we also know that there are ways to minimize or slow the loss of hair.
Our hair works just like any other part of our bodies. If we set in place a healthy regimen of rest, better diet, keeping away from toxins in our environment and our intake, as much as possible, and add supplements to our daily routine, we will likely set the stage for healthier hair.
This hair loss thing is troublesome, to be sure, but all may not be lost if we get a good diagnosis and a treatment regimen in place. We just might be able to slow down, even reverse, some of the loss we have had. I know I’m working at it.
So, be encouraged. There are some things that might be done. We discuss some of these in the article What Are My Options in Hair Loss Treatment? (which will be posted in a few.... uh, units of time;)
Where has all my fine hair gone, long time passing....
You might find the information linked here useful as well. (I’m going to ask you to ‘sign up’ on your way through, but check out the preview page anyhow;) -> Hair loss information link.
[Here’s my caveat, and I must say it. These discussions are not intended as professional or medical advice. You should consult with your doctor when making decisions regarding this or any other medical condition you may have or wish to discuss.]