Not all hair loss is the same—we asked a trichologist about different symptoms to look out for.
Hair loss isn't uncommon—we'd be surprised to hear if there isn't someone in your life who hasn’t faced it at some point or another. Whether there's a clear reason for hair loss, like falling estrogen levels after having a baby, or it happens without warning, hair loss is frustrating. But you’re alone—in fact, over 80 percent of men and nearly 50 percent of women experience significant hair loss during their lifetime, per NYU Langone.
If you're looking for a better understanding of your hair loss or doing research for a loved one, we're here to help. Ahead, we've curated a guide to the most common types of hair loss, with expert insight from certified trichologist William Gaunitz, WTS.
Male and female-pattern hair loss, known as androgenetic alopecia, is the most common type of hair loss, says Gaunitz. “It's driven by genetics and a sensitivity to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Your body basically knows androgenic alopecia is a part of your genetics, so it doesn't invest the energy to regrow it.” This can happen at any given point in your life after puberty, and it's usually categorized by a widening of the center part in women and a receding hairline in men.
Telogen effluvium is "trauma-based shedding caused by an event that is either physical or emotional," says Gaunitz. He notes that this causes you to lose excessive hair in a short period of time, but it is reversible. “If you do not have underlying androgenetic alopecia, nutritional alopecia, or inflammation, the hair loss will be temporary and grow back,” says Gaunitz.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which your body attacks your hair follicles. “That causes the hair to break off—usually in small round patches the size of a quarter—about 3 millimeters off the top of the scalp and create what is called in trichology ‘exclamation point hair,’” says Gaunitz. “It looks like almost nothing or like peach fuzz to the naked eye."
Alopecia areata can change into an advanced form called alopecia totalis that spreads from a circle to the entire head, including the eyebrows, eyelashes, and facial hair. Left untreated, it can go a step further and affect the entire body, turning into something called alopecia universalis.
Nutritional alopecia isn't technically a medical term, but Gaunitz says it's becoming increasingly common amongst patients and should be on the public’s radar. He characterizes it by low blood levels in three key areas: vitamin D3, serum zinc, and ferritin. "If any of those three are at the low end of normal or below the normal level, it can cause significant thinning in most people," he says. He adds that it shouldn’t be overlooked, especially since it can aggravate predisposed alopecia areata or DHT-related androgenetic alopecia.
What to Do About Hair Loss
First off, don’t worry—you have plenty of options. Once you have a better grasp of the type of hair loss you’re facing, it’s best to visit a trichologist to get a confirmed diagnosis and come up with a personalized treatment plan. From Minoxidil (an FDA-approved drug) to PRP injections (an in-office procedure where your own blood is separated to remove platelet-rich plasma and injected into the scalp) to OTC scalp products and hair oils, there are many remedies for hair loss that can reap results in a matter of a few months.
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