Thinning hair, regardless in men or in women, is a common and distressing condition that affects more than 90% of men and 40% of women by the time they are age 40.
Female-pattern baldness is usually characterized by diffused hair loss, followed by progressive and irreversible decline in overall hair density. For most women, hair is a key part of our identity. There is a strong social stigma attached to women with thinning hair.
The society is generally tolerant towards men with hair loss, however the same cannot be said for women. Hair loss and baldness can cause psychological stress due to their effect on appearance, especially in women.
It is unfortunate that the medical community pays very little attention to women’s hair loss. This is largely because genetic hair loss is not life threatening, and our society forces women to suffer in silence.
Types of hair loss
ANDROGENIC ALOPECIA This condition affects both men and women. This condition is often described as male pattern baldness in men and women pattern baldness in women. Doctors believe that the same condition is actually caused by different factors in both genders. Androgenic alopecia is not fully understood by many doctors.
MALE PATTERN BALDNESS This is generally regarded as hair loss in men due to genetic factors. As a man ages, he is likely to suffer from thinning hair if his father did. Hair loss in men are often characterized by receding hairline, and in severe cases, baldness.
FEMALE PATTERN BALDNESS Hair loss in women are generally more diffused. Most women experience hair thinning more or less uniformly all over the scalp.
TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM It is a form of temporary hair loss that usually happens after a traumatic event, such as stress, shock, death in the family. This condition can also occur if there is hormonal imbalance following pregnancy.
ALOPECIA AREATA This is a common autoimmune disease that often results in unpredictable hair loss. It causes hair to fall out in clumps, causing round patches on the scalp. This happens when your immune system attacks your own body. In this case, your hair follicles are attacked, causing your hair follicles to weaken significantly.
Management of hair loss
Medical treatments are available for male-pattern and female-pattern hair loss, though there is no cure for it. It is important to manage your expectations when you undergo hair loss treatment.
The aim of hair loss treatment is to slow the rate of progression of hair loss, rather than stimulate hair regrowth. However in some cases, people may see increased hair density and regrowth.
MINOXIDIL One of the most common first-line treatments that doctors would recommend is the topical application of Minoxidil. It comes in 2% and 5% strength, often available in pharmacies or doctors’ office.
Minoxidil is a potassium-channel opener and vasodilator. It works by increasing the blood flow to the scalp, bringing important nutrients to the ends of the hair follicles to improve the overall hair and scalp health.
Some doctors believe that Minoxidil lengthens the anagen phase (active growth) of the hair follicles, shortens the telogen phase (resting), and induces strengthening and enlargement of miniaturized follicles.
ORAL MEDICATION Antiandrogen therapy is usually recommended as a second-line treatment for hair loss. These drugs inhibit production of androgen. Some of these drugs include spironolactone, flutamide, and cyproterone acetate.
Finasteride is also a common drug sold under the brand names Proscar and Propecia among others. It is used mainly to treatment hair loss in men. It is not recommended for women because there is currently little evidence to support its efficacy in women.
REGENERATIVE MICRO-GRAFT PROCEDURE In some aesthetic clinics in Singapore, doctors may offer a micro-graft technique known as Regenera Activa. It is a convenient tool developed for stimulating the scalp and inducing regenerative procedures using healthy hair.
This treatment is completely safe because it uses your own body’s cells and growth factors to assist with the regeneration of the inactive hair cells.
A very small area around the back of the head is shaved to extract some tissue samples from the area. The tissues are then placed in a container that contains a solution to extract the cells.
After that, the solution is extracted from the container and injected into the areas where hair loss is experienced.
Hair loss, while relatively common, can be an embarrassing condition to cope with. As such, the doctor has an important role in providing hair loss treatments to support the patient. Your doctor should be able to work with you to administer the first-line of treatment quickly, as any further delay in treatment may worsen the condition and increase the chance of irreversible, permanent hair loss.