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3 Common Misconceptions About Hair Loss
By Dr. Meena Singh
Hair loss is a very troubling condition for many who experience it. For others, it can be seen as a normal sign of aging. However, because the majority of both men and women will experience some form of hair loss by the age of 60, we all have our ideas and misconceptions about what causes it and how we can treat it.
1) It’s your mom’s fault that you’re balding.
The most common type of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, otherwise known as male or female patterned hair loss. In men, if often starts with progressive hairline recession and often thinning at the crown. In women, their part may simply appear wider over time with an increased ‘see-through’ nature of the scalp. We now know that at the cellular level, androgenetic alopecia is caused by the developmental failure of hair-making cells, termed dermal papillae cells. We also know that this failure is influenced by dihydrotestosterone. However, contrary to the popular belief that balding is passed down the maternal lineage; an individual’s likelihood of balding is a combination of genetic, environmental, and systemic factors. This fact can be illustrated in twins. We would expect that if one twin is balding, then the other should be as well. This is termed the twin concordance rate. Some studies have shown that balding happens in both twins only about 88% of the time.
2) Rogaine and Propecia do not work.
Rogaine and Propecia are the only FDA approved medications for the treatment of male and female pattern hair loss. Rogaine is a topical medication applied to the scalp. It is unclear how Rogaine works, but it may act on prostaglandin synthesis. Studies have shown that it can slow down the rate of hair loss and rethicken hair in 85-90% of users. Propecia is an oral medication that works by blocking the formation of dihydrotestosteone. It can slow down hair loss in 88-92% of users. Used in conjunction, Rogaine and Propecia act synergistically and increase the efficacy than using either medicines alone. Both medications take at least 6-9 months to start working. Therefore, those who quit using them before 6-9 months may feel not have seen the full effects yet. In addition, many will not experience regrowth or rethickening of hair; they may simply see the rate of hair loss decrease.
3) Your hair sheds more than normal.
Hair grows in three phases: 1) Anagen (growing) 2) Catagen (resting) 3) Telogen (shedding). The majority (85-88%) is in the growing phase and about 10-15% of hairs is in the shedding phase. Therefore, we should expect that we are going to lose at least 100-150 hairs daily. Sometimes stressors can cause the hair to shed more. This is called telogen effluvium. Instead of 10-15% of hairs shedding daily it increases to 20-40% of hairs shedding. The most common causes for telogen effluvium are post-pregnancy, change in hormones, thyroid disease, iron deficiency, change in medication, or serious illness or hospitalization. There is good news! Telogen effluvium is typically temporary. Most individuals will experience less shedding within 6-12 months.
These are just three of the many misconceptions that we have about our hair and hair loss. As a dermatologist who specializes in medical and surgical treatments for hair loss, I have heard it all! Hopefully this article helps to clear up some of the more common myths that I hear.