Premature baldness, particularly in men, is for many an inevitable process that simply comes with aging. It’s frustrating and annoying and for some people a major source of embarrassment. Some people try to act on their premature baldness with a variety of clinical methods (and snake oil ones too), whereas others just embrace the inevitable and take this new follicle challenge in their mature stride. There has been a lot written and advertised on how to “fix” baldness but less about what actually makes it happen. Let’s find out why people can go prematurely bald.
Premature baldness is a process that usually occurs in someone’s late teens to early twenties. When hair noticeably starts to thin at the front of the scalp and is followed by considerable hair loss and more scalp exposure, premature baldness has likely started. Studies show that people lose around 100 strands of hair a day and regeneration of hair takes around 6 months. So if someone is losing more than 100 strands of hair and not seeing hair regeneration in the 6 months and is in the age range mentioned, premature baldness is likely underway.
Losing your hair prematurely can often be simply down to genetics unfortunately. Hereditary hair loss is something that can’t be avoided really. Women may notice hair thinning and a widening part and men will see a receding hair line and a bald spot developing at the top of the head.
A cause for premature baldness is DHT (dihydrotestoterone), specifically an increase in it. DHT is an androgen, a male sex hormone that helps men develop male-body features. When DHT production increases with age it essentially shrinks hair follicles. When the follicles naturally die, it then becomes harder for the body to grow more hair and eventually it won’t. While this largely occurs in men, women are not exempt from this.
The thyroid plays a significant role in premature baldness. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can contribute to premature baldness, but can be stopped and even reversed with some thyroid treatments. Alternatively some anti-thyroid drug treatments can contribute seriously to hair loss also, so it becomes a very slippery slope either way for people with thyroid problems leading to their hair loss.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that can develop when our immune system actually starts to attack hair follicles. The hair follicles hold our hair in place, so when they are attacked our hair falls out. This can occur anywhere in the body, but will be most obvious on the scalp and face. While ranging in severity, alopecia areata can occur to anyone at any age, but normally under the age of 30.
Sometimes our previous hair choices in life can have an adverse reaction later when it comes to retaining our luscious locks. Extreme, aggressive hair treatments and styling in our younger years can be detrimental later for our hair health. Perms and hot ironing are big culprits here, as are hot oil and hot comb treatments. Prolonged or continuous dyeing and blow-drying hurt the hair also. All these treatments either pull at hair roots, cause heat damage or burning and inflame the hair follicles. So try to avoid getting bright blue punk spikes, no matter how awesome you think they’ll look!
It’s well known that major life changes and trauma can affect our hair. If after suffering major trauma and stress (usually 2 to 3 months after) a person notices clumps of hair coming out, that’s a sign that something is wrong. What happens is the growing hair, in what’s called the anagen phase, suddenly shifts into a catagen phase, or resting phase. Then two to three months later it moves into a final stage called telogen and starts to fall out. Giving birth is a huge culprit here, but this is largely due to a massive hormonal shift in the body. Female hormones increase significantly during pregnancy, usually making hair thicker and healthier. When the hormone balance shifts back to normal after giving birth, the extra hair stops growing. The good news is that hair loss due to stress, life changes and pregnancy are usually not permanent and will return to normal when the stress subsides.
So there you have it. Much of premature baldness and hair loss is hereditary and unavoidable. Sure it’s treatable, but time and genetics usually always win. Certain conditions can contribute to hair loss, as can hairstyle choices. And then there are of course stress and unavoidable life events that have an adverse reaction to hair growth.