In the last few years, the problem of hair fall has even debuted in Bollywood films and everyone has had a field day with hair loss. The heroes in these movies go through a variety of adventures trying to keep their mane intact. While funny, these movies are quite an accurate reflection of society’s views on premature balding. Also, the state of mind of the protagonist undergoing hair loss is quite accurately depicted – starting with a simple lack of confidence to outright fear that affects daily life.
Hair loss becomes much more complex when seen from the society’s lens of what is ‘normal’. This makes understanding the subject of hair loss and what you can do about it quite important.
Health Shots spoke to Dr Sejal Saheta, Dermatologist and Veneorolgist, InUrSkn, who explained to us when hair fall shouldn’t be taken lightly.
So what exactly qualifies as hair fall or hair loss?
Dr Saheta says, “Hair grows everywhere on the human skin except on the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet. But many hair are so fine that they are virtually invisible. The average adult head has about 100,000 to 150,000 hairs and loses up to 100 of them a day; finding a few stray hair on your hairbrush is not necessarily a cause for alarm.”
Hair fall, in this sense, is a natural process and a part of the hair growth cycle. Our hair grows in three phases, namely anagen (growth phase), catagen (resting phase) and telogen (falling phase). It is when the telogen phase of the cycle becomes much faster than the anagen phase that you start seeing the effects of hair fall, where there is a reduction in the density of hair or bald patches start to appear.
What are the different types of hair fall?
There are primarily 4 different types of hair loss.
1. Androgenetic Alopecia:
This is commonly called male or female pattern balding. It is genetic in nature and generally brought on as a person ages.
2. Telogen Effluvium:
This is when acute hair fall occurs suddenly. The reason for this can vary largely, ranging from stress to crash diets to a lot more.
3. Alopecia Areata:
A patient with this condition develops bald spots not only on the scalp, but also sometimes on the beard, etc. It is an autoimmune condition triggered by stress.
4. Scarring Hair loss:
This is an irreversible type of hair loss that can be caused because of burns or certain skin diseases and cannot be treated.
So when should you worry about hair loss?
One should worry about hair loss in the following scenarios:
- If you have a sudden visible increase in the number of hair you shed in a day.
- If you find a patch on your scalp, beard etc where there is a sudden loss of hair.
But these are just the apparent and visible areas of concern and these are actually not as common.
“The most common type of hair loss, namely Androgenetic Alopecia (male and female patterned balding) is generally a gradual process where the hair loss may be slow initially but increases steadily. In this case, the best thing to do is to keep a track of the pattern of hair growth on your head,” says Dr Saheta.
It is interesting to note that for males and females the pattern of hair loss can vary substantially and hence one should consider the below variations before arriving at a conclusion that they are suffering from hair loss.
Dermatologists use a different scale for gauging the extent of hair loss in women. The most commonly used scales are the Ludwig scale and SInclair Scale for hair loss. These define hair loss based on perceptible thinning of hair on the crown which becomes more apparent when the hair is parted from the center.
Who should you see, if you suspect you suffer from hair fall?
Dr Saheta suggests that one should go and see a dermatologist who can actually determine the extent of hair loss and the appropriate line of treatment for the same. It is important to note that ‘dermatologist’ is the only degree and qualification that is recognized by the medical council of India as a specialist who can deal with issues of skin, hair and nails. Titles like trichologist, hair specialist etc, are generally adapted by a person after undergoing a training in subjects of hair treatment from private entities. It is best to check the exact ‘medical’ qualifications of your treating doctor before engaging in a dialogue with them.
What are my treatment options if I am diagnosed with hair loss?
Your dermatologist will generally follow the following line of treatment:
- The first line of action is to improve one’s lifestyle. This includes reduction in smoking, improving diet, exercise patterns etc.
- The treating dermatologist may also prescribe medications based on minoxidil drug which can aid in hair growth and also prescribe certain medications that affect the hormonal levels and hence slows down hair loss.
- The next line of treatment for hair fall is to use non-invasive therapies like Meso and PRP which basically work by infusing or injecting growth factors into the scalp. Such growth factors help in extending the growth phase of the hair and delaying its fall.
- The final and ultimate line of treatment remains hair transplant, in which case hair follicles from areas of the scalp that are less prone to breakage are transplanted to the areas devoid of hair follicles.
In the end, please remember, hair fall is natural and normal and unless it affects your work or societal presence taking drastic steps is not recommended. Acceptance of one’s physiology is probably the best resolution for most cosmetic problems including hair loss.