Can you inherit the baldness gene?
Yes, both male and female pattern baldness are inherited. In males, the gene can come from either parent, in females, if only one parent carries the gene, it is less likely to be passed on. This is because women have a higher level of oestrogen in their blood.
What is the cause of hair loss?
There is not as yet, one single answer to this question, nor does it seem that there is going to be. One of the principal culprits is the male hormone, DHT, this triggers an attack on the hair follicle resulting in the follicles inability to produce terminal hair. The reason for this could be that DHT somehow alters the follicle, causing it to be regarded as a foreign body and is therefore attacked by the body’s own white blood cells.
A possibly related factor is that elevated androgens trigger increased sebum production, which can lead to increased microbial and parasitic activity. In either case, the hair follicles will progressively miniaturize so that with each successive growth cycle, the hair shaft becomes shorter and thinner until it finally turns into tiny colourless hair sometimes referred to as peach fuzz.
In men, male pattern baldness typically follows the classic horseshoe or ‘V’ pattern, though diffuse thinning can also occur. It has been noted that both the number of androgen receptors and the level of 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone to DHT, are higher in susceptible areas than in the rest of the scalp, hence the characteristic ‘V’ shape. Women’s hair loss tends to be diffuse in nature and is primarily the result of a change in the hormonal structure.
Can stress cause hair loss?
Yes it can. Stress has been directly linked with hair loss especially that linked with large amounts of physical or emotional stress. Serious injury to yourself or a loved one can induce hair loss as can the stress of surgery.
The most common form of stress related hair loss is known as Telogen effluvium. When the hair enters a stage of telogen effluvium, it stops growing and some 2-3 months later, falls out. This is a less serious form of hair loss since the hair will almost always grow back again and you should return to a full head of hair within 6-9 months.
At what age is it normal to start losing your hair?
The onset of baldness can happen at any time from the age of 16 onwards, particularly in males. When hair loss starts early like this, it can result in near complete baldness by the time the man reaches his early 20’s. Almost one third of men are bald by their late thirties, this could be due to the early and rapid onset of male pattern baldness, though this tends to manifest itself a little later, around the early thirties and takes sometimes 20 years or so to lead to complete baldness.
Is baldness an indicator of future heart problems?
There is some research to suggest that there may be a link between hair loss and future heart problems. A paper published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2008 established that men with hair loss at the crown, were 40% more likely to suffer with heart problems and those with a receding hairline had an increased risk of 28%. The study dictated that should you suffer from male pattern baldness, you should adopt a healthier diet and lifestyle, check your blood pressure regularly and stop smoking.
More serious is another form of stress related hair loss known as alopecia areata. This form of hair loss is produced when your own white blood cells attack your hair follicles. This will usually manifest as hair falling out in patches, often over the entire scalp and sometimes over the body too. In this case, the hair may not grow back without treatment.
Can hair styling cause hair loss?
Yes it can. This form of hair loss is mechanical rather than physical. If you pull on your hair, some of it is likely to come out. If you repeatedly pull on your hair through wearing it in a tight ponytail or weave you are encouraging more of it to fall out.
Hair treatments like extensions or the use of hot rollers in hair styling are also not kind to hair and can result in damage, breakage and hair loss.
Will wearing hats, toupees, wigs, helmets or sports headgear encourage hair loss?
The wearing of any type of headgear can cause damage to your hair through abrasion if your headgear is worn too tightly.
Can I literally wash my hair out?
Many people become concerned when they see the number of hairs that appear in the bath from time to time after a shower but the act of showering or bathing in itself, does not cause hair loss. The hairs that are left in the bathtub after showering are simply those that have been shed as part of the hairs’ natural growth, shed and regrowth cycle of your hair.
Can hair dryers, rollers, straighteners and any other heat source cause hair to fall out?
Extreme heat will damage the hair. It will make the hair brittle and liable to breakage. If you follow this with vigorous brushing you will damage your hair still further. You should take care that any of these hot styling implements do not get so hot as to permanently damage your hair and ensure that they do not touch your scalp. This can result in permanent damage to the hair follicle itself and stop future hairs from growing at all.
Do cosmetic products like hair sprays, shampoos, conditioners, perms and hair dyes damage hair or improve it in any way?
The answer to this question lies in the use of the word cosmetic. All these treatments are cosmetic meaning that they will improve the look of the hair. Conditioners can improve the structure of the hair but only superficially as proteins can fill tiny gaps in the hair shaft. Beyond this other treatments will colour the hair or appear to give it more body but that is the limit of what they can do. There is no way that these products can penetrate the hair follicle itself and so they cannot nourish the hair and do not encourage its growth.
Can you prevent hair loss through vigorous brushing which stimulates the circulation?
This is a popular misconception, in fact all you will succeed in doing by brushing your hair vigorously, is damage it and encourage it to fall out quicker. Your hair is very strong, one of the strongest natural fibres known to man in fact but it is still delicate and needs to be looked after with care.
If you want to stimulate blood circulation in the scalp, which has been proven in some cases, to help stem the tide of hair loss, the way to do it is to gently massage the scalp with the pads of your fingers.