By Kira Mayo
Hair. It’s among our most defining characteristics. It’s probably one of the first things you notice when you meet someone. As such, we spend a lot of time thinking about our hair. What if you think you don’t have enough hair? What’s “normal?” How can you prevent more hair loss?
Your hair normally goes through cycles of growth and arrest. The length of each cycle varies from person to person, but the growth phase generally lasts two to three years and the resting phase typically lasts three to four months. At the end of this resting phase, hair strands fall out and new ones begin to grow in their place, initiating the growth cycle.
People shed about 100 strands of hair per day. That may sound like a lot, but with 100,000 strands on your head, it shouldn’t make a visible difference. You may notice a difference if the rate of shedding exceeds the rate of growth, if new hair is increasingly thinner, or if hair comes out in clumps.
The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. Pattern baldness (also known as “androgenic alopecia”) is the most common type of alopecia, and it affects about one in three men and women. In pattern baldness, the growth cycle shortens, hair becomes thin and less sturdy, and strands become rooted more superficially, which makes them fall out easier. Heredity plays a big role in pattern baldness; a history of it in either side of your family increases your chances of balding, and also affects the age at which you begin to lose your hair, the speed at which you lose it and the pattern and extent of your hair loss.
So what are some things you can do to slow down the process? Minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia) are FDA approved drugs used to treat alopecia. Minoxidil prolongs the growth phase of the hair and transforms fine hair into coarse hair. Finasteride blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, decreasing the hormonal effects seen in male-pattern hair loss.
There are many other reasons for hair loss: poor nutrition, medications, and underlying medical conditions are some examples. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you notice increasing, sudden or patchy hair loss, and before using any medications to treat it.
Originally reported for CavalierDaily.com