Hair loss: types, causes, treatment
Although it is considered medically unproblematic in itself, it has a socially and emotionally stressful effect on many sufferers and can indicate deeper health disorders. What are the causes of hair loss (alopecia) and how can its progression be prevented?
What are the types?
According to appearance and/or cause, four types or groups of hair loss are distinguished:
Hereditary hair loss (androgenetic alopecia) is the most common form associated with the degeneration of hair follicles and affects around 80% of men (mostly forehead and back of the head) and 40% of women (mostly middle parting) - mainly in the second half of life, but in some cases earlier. Genetically determined, men lose their hair earlier than women.
Circular hair loss (alopecia areata) often occurs asymmetrically and is attributed to an autoimmune process. But psychological stress and hormonal factors also have an influence.
Diffuse hair loss (alopecia diffusa) occurs on the entire head, e.g. due to stress, hormonal changes or deficiencies.
Hair loss as a result of chemotherapy also counts as diffuse hair loss. Thus, drugs (e.g. chemotherapy) can trigger hair loss.
Other types of hair loss are due to mechanical stress (e.g. very tight braids, knots or head coverings), temperature or scarring (e.g. due to infections), among others.
How to recognize hair loss?
Within the natural hair cycle, a loss of up to about 100 hairs per day is normal. If this level is significantly exceeded, we speak of hair loss.
Visible indications of this are a conspicuous amount of hair on the pillow or clothing, as well as in the comb, brush or sink after washing the hair. The hair may appear increasingly sparse or thin and lacking volume. Light or bald patches may appear on the scalp - in men initially most commonly in the form of "receding hairline" and/or a receding hairline on the forehead, in women more commonly by a widened hairline in the area of the middle parting.
What are the most common causes?
Basically, hair growth is controlled by hormones and requires a healthy scalp. Only in this way can the hair follicles develop healthily for strong hair growth or, ideally, even form anew. The most common causes of hair loss include:
Hereditary factors (especially in men)
hormonal changes, e.g. menopause, childbirth, discontinuation of the "pill", thyroid hormone deficiency
Autoimmune processes (immune reactions against the body's own proteins)
Infections (e.g. fungal infections of the scalp)
Deficiencies, e.g. lack of vitamins A and D, iron, zinc, proteins or essential fatty acids, especially due to an unbalanced diet
Physical stress (e.g. pressure or traction on the hair root).
Chemical stress on the hair roots, e.g. from medications, aggressive care products, radiation, alcohol, nicotine or drugs.
Hair loss is often preceded by a so-called telogen effluvium: a hair naturally enters the resting or falling out phase (telogen phase) after two to six years, whereupon it increasingly loosens over a few months and then falls out.
However, in the case of attacked or undersupplied hair roots, this phase begins earlier, so that hair loss visibly increases. This condition is initially still reversible if the cause is removed promptly.
Drugs: Testosterone in focus
In the case of hereditary (androgenetic) hair loss, various drugs are used that usually reduce the effect or production of (dihydro-)testosterone.
Background: Hair roots in hereditary hair loss often react hypersensitively to this testosterone derivative and then atrophy under its influence. Therefore, a reduction of the hormone can slow down hair loss and promote the growth of new hair. However, internal use should be weighed against the possible side effects. In addition to depression, these include a reduction in responsiveness, libido and erectile function.
In women with androgenetic hair loss, prescription antiandrogens are also used, which block the (dihydro) testosterone receptors. However, this also means an intervention in the hormonal system (loss of libido possible), must not be used during pregnancy and should be carefully weighed against the benefits.
Externally applied active ingredients
Externally applied active ingredients have the advantage that they are applied directly at the site of action and therefore do not usually cause systemic side effects (affecting the whole body). These are mainly active ingredients whose circulation-enhancing properties can improve the supply to the hair root.
In the case of circular hair loss, doctors usually prescribe glucocorticoids in the form of cortisone creams to reduce the triggering immune reactions. Less frequently, the active ingredients are used internally, in which case they have a correspondingly higher potential for side effects.
The drugs often prescribed for hair loss sometimes show the desired effect, but are often accompanied by significant side effects such as headaches, itching and rising blood pressure.
Caffeine supports the growth of the hair root in the form of shampoos or tinctures. To stimulate blood circulation in the scalp and activate the hair follicles, these care products are massaged into the scalp.
Thymus peptides represent another treatment option: based on numerous independent studies and application observations, more and more physicians are recommending their use without side effects.
Research has shown that thymus peptides, applied externally, have a regenerating and strengthening effect on the hair follicles. The cell supply at the hair root is improved, the formation of new hair cells is supported and the growth phase of the hair is significantly prolonged.
Thymus peptides, on the other hand, are organic compounds that the body also produces itself. They are absorbed by the hair follicles and strengthen them. This is a natural biological process that occurs naturally in most people at a young age.
Only when the hormonal balance tips, whether for reasons of age or due to external influences such as stress, can the body no longer supply the hair follicles with sufficient amounts of hair on its own. In this case, a preparation containing thymus peptides can be used to treat all types of hair loss. Thymus peptides are thus an effective and side-effect-free alternative to chemical treatment.
A balanced diet with moderate consumption of stimulants provides the nutrients for a healthy skin metabolism. A daily, gentle brush massage (soft bristles) of the scalp should additionally stimulate the blood circulation of the hair roots.
Elaborate, but increasingly common: In addition to hair replacement, surgical hair transplantation - albeit purely symptomatic - is becoming increasingly common, usually involving transplantation of autologous hair follicles in many small units from more hairy regions of the head.
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