Hair loss and its treatment have concerned people for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians massaged their bald spots with a mixture of crocodile, lion and hippopotamus fats to encourage hair growth.
In fact, hair loss "cures" over the centuries have mostly fallen very much into the area of medical quackery. Shampoos and conditioners can temporarily improve the appearance of existing hair, without reversing hair loss; while hair restoration surgery has greatly improved, but is still far from perfect. Recently, science has taken us out of the "snake oil" age with some new medicines that really do prevent baldness for some people.
Hair loss is an amazingly widespread condition. In America up to half the male population will experience some degree of hair loss by the age of 50.
Of course for some men, going bald is not a worry; but for others, hair loss can have severe psychological and social consequences. Hair loss can contribute to self consciousness and anxiety and to loss of self-esteem. And extensive hair loss at a relatively young age can have an even greater psychological impact.
Causes of Hair Loss
Some types of hair loss are related to bacterial or fungal infections and should be treated. Physical damage to the hair leading to hair loss can be caused by constant bleaching or pony tails and braids that are too tight.
However, by far the most common cause of hair loss is known as androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. This is an inherited condition triggered by a sensitivity to a naturally occurring chemical called dihydrotestosterone. The hair follicles stop growing normal hair and instead grow soft, fine, pale hair. Eventually the hair stops growing completely. Hair is usually lost first from the front of the head, especially at the sides, and on the top of the head at the crown.
Female pattern baldness is similar; however, hair is lost from the top and the centre of the head without a receding hair line. The loss is less prominent than in men, and starts as an overall thinning of the hair.
A lotion is now available, previously on prescription only, which is one of the new effective treatments for hair loss. This lotion is manufactured in two strengths, 2% and 5%, and can be used by both men and women. A new gel formulation makes it easier to apply.
Another medication Propecia has also proven to be successful in treating hair loss, but is suitable only for men. This medication is in the form of a tablet taken orally and requires a doctor’s prescription.