Common Symptoms & Causes of Hair Loss in Men

Common Symptoms & Causes of Hair Loss in Men

Hair loss is very common in men and almost all of us will lose some our hair in our lifetime. Some men lose it all early, others gradually thin, many develop the typical pattern of a receding hairline and a bald patch at the crown.

But before you go jumping to any conclusions, it’s helpful to understand a little more about hair loss. Not all hair shedding means hair loss and not all hair loss means you’re going to go completely bald. Hair loss is complex, can occur for a number of reasons, and importantly, is often very treatable.

Read on to learn more about the common symptoms and causes of hair loss in men.

Common Symptoms of Hair Loss in Men

First, we need to understand how hair actually grows. Hair grows in a natural cycle of growth, rest and fall known as the hair growth cycle. Each of the unique hair follicles, the little organs that make your hair, grow hair according to their natural hair growth cycle, with each hair following its own rhythm in its own time. Each hair grows, then rests, falls out, and is replaced by a newly regenerated hair. As the hair cycle is long, anywhere from 4-7 years, you will shed about 50-100 hairs a day, with each of those shed hairs being replaced by a brand-new hair.

Problematic hair loss begins to occur when the hair cycle becomes disrupted. This can happen because of the body’s response to things like hormones, health/illness, diet or age, among many other things. Hair cycle disruption means more hair fall, slower hair growth, and eventually leads to a process called hair miniaturization where the follicles become so disrupted, they lose their ability to grow hair

How much hair do you need to lose before it’s considered hair loss? Here are some potential signs that it might be more than just your daily shedding...

A Receding Hairline

The progression to hair loss, baldness or hair thinning often starts to show with a receding, M-shaped hairline. For most people, a receding hairline usually begins with thinning around the temples, rather than sudden hair loss. You may notice a few stray thin and wispy hairs remaining on your hair line as it recedes, or you may be able to see your scalp easily when looking in the mirror. These are signs that there is disruption of the hair cycle in the follicles of the frontal region.

Why does it tend to occur at the hairline first in some men? We don’t really know, but it appears that the follicles in certain regions of the scalp are more prone to hair cycle disruption than others.

Clear Thinning on Your Crown

As with the frontal region, male pattern baldness often begins with diffuse thinning that occurs over the crown. The follicles at the crown are some of the most susceptible to hair cycle disruption and most men will experience some thinning in this area. At first, it may not be noticeable unless you part your hair. You may only clue into your thinning area by getting an unexpected sunburn, or if one of your children makes a comment during a ride on your shoulders.

Excessive Shedding When Showering or Brushing

Everyone loses some hair in the shower or when they’re combing or brushing. But more than a few strands of hair at a time could be a sign of hair loss. It might not necessarily mean male pattern baldness, especially if you only experience a week or two of excessive shedding.

Temporary hair loss can happen for a whole host of reasons, including stress, illness, weight loss, or diet changes. Larger amounts of shedding every day over more than a week or two might suggest something larger is at play.

Your Scalp Has Become Prone to Sunburn

A thick head of hair protects your head from those harsh UV rays. But once thinning starts, your scalp will start to burn more quickly. It’s an indirect way of identifying thinning on your crown, but if you’re not spending more time than usual outdoors and your scalp has become more sensitive to the sun, this could be why.

Common Causes of Hair Loss in Men

Each hair’s lifespan is driven by its natural hair growth cycle, comprising three critical stages: growth, regression, and resting. Growth usually continues over 5 to 7 years. At the end of the growth period, a series of biochemical events occur, inducing the follicle to go into a period of change, regression and preparation for rest. Key to the regression process is a protein called FGF5, which can be thought of as the conductor and instigator of the transition out of growth and into rest. The resting stage is a roughly three-month process where an older hair rests while a new hair is formed to take its place. The newly growing hair pushes the old hair out of the follicular pore and as each hair cycles in its own time, the average human loses some 100 hairs every day in this way.

Problematic or pathological hair loss usually results from a disruption to the hair growth cycle, generally causing a growth phase that is too short and where follicles regress prematurely. Shorter growth and early regression mean more hair shedding, more hairs resting and thinner, poor quality hair.

First, it’s important to note that not all hair loss automatically means you’re going to go bald. In fact, many people experience hair loss for a whole variety of factors as diverse as stress, illness, scalp infections, surgical procedures, malnutrition or diet changes, and more.

In many cases, hair loss isn’t permanent, and your hair will grow back once balance is restored in your body and in your hair cycle. So why might you be losing hair?

Male Pattern Baldness

The most common type of hair loss in men is male pattern baldness, sometimes referred to as androgenetic alopecia. This type of alopecia is characterized by the specific pattern of balding at the crown and frontal areas that progresses (either rapidly or slowly) to baldness or sparse hair on the top of the head. The back and sides are rarely involved. Why the hair loss occurs in this pattern we don’t really know, but it is thought that the hair follicles at the top of the head are more susceptible to hair cycle disruption than others.

We know that there are over 150 different genes (article 1, article 2 & article 3)involved in the process of pattern baldness, with different combinations at play in different men. A common factor in some men is a change in the receptor to androgens, specifically a version of testosterone called DHT. Changes in the way the androgen receptor responds to DHT results in biochemical signaling changes ultimately resulting in premature exit from the growth phase and entry into regression, likely via the protein FGF5. Another common issue is a change in the function of the FGF5 gene itself. FGF5 is responsible for stopping the growth phase of the hair cycle. More FGF5 means premature regression, more hair fall, more hair loss, and a shorter growth cycle.

Autoimmune Disease

What is usually referred to as “alopecia” is a number of autoimmune diseases where the body attacks the hair follicles. The most common form is alopecia areata, where hair falls out in circular patches. Less common are alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis, which cause loss of all of the hair on the head or entire body respectively. These conditions need to be treated by a dermatologist. Alopecia areata is often treatable and self-limiting, but can relapse in times of stress.

Tight Hairstyles

That man bun or those cornrows may be doing your hair more harm than good. Tight hairstyles can cause traction alopecia. Each follicle has its own muscle called the arrector pili and when the hair is under constant pressure, it can cause this muscle to detach. If the arrector pili detaches, it also takes with it a small population of stem cells that are important for hair cycling. Once this happens, the hair follicles become weak, dysfunctional and may die.

An excessive use of hairdryers and chemicals may also damage the hair follicles, resulting in dysfunction or death, so go easy on the treatments and look after your scalp.

Age

As we age, our follicles lose the ability to grow strong, high quality hair. With each successive hair cycle, the follicles gradually lose their ability to regenerate, they slow down and begin producing thinner, less substantial hairs. Some of this is just biology, some is changes in hair cycle signaling from e.g. a buildup of FGF5 and is also due to damaging free radicals in the scalp. Free radicals are by-products of metabolism that are usually taken care of by the body’s own antioxidant defenses. However, as we get older, we tend to produce more free radicals, e.g. form inflammation, and our antioxidant defenses are diminished. This leads to an excess of free radicals that cause inflammation and protein damage leading to hair cycle dysfunction. Shampoos, conditioners and scalp treatments containing FGF5 fighters and botanical antioxidants, such as the évolis® Professional range are important in combatting this aging process. Natural antioxidants such as mangosteen, pomegranate, goji berries and green tea fight free radicals and inflammation associated with aging, while essential oils such as lavender and rosemary support scalp health.

A Changed Diet

Your body is an amazing machine that manages and conserves its energy balance. The body preferably maintains the nutrient and energy supply to vital organs and other essential functions over those that are not so vital. When you alter your diet or restrict nutrients, this changes the energy balance of your body and the system will shuttle energy to the brain, heart, liver and other vital organs and away from other energy intensive processes such as hair or nail growth. This results in the hair follicles slowing down may cause them to enter into the rest phase of their hair cycle. The hair fall wont’ happen straight away, but there will be an increase in shedding and hair thinning 2-3 months after the change in diet occurred. The hair change is often reversible, but follicles may become a little dysfunctional and need a little help to get back to their best.

Physical or Emotional Stress

As with changes in diet, stress and illness impact the way the body handles energy. In times of stress the body’s energy balance moves to a constant, moderate to low level activation of fight or flight mode. The constant state of stress shuttles energy away from the follicles. Similarly, when you are sick and your body is under a lot of physical stress, energy is preserved for vital functions and defense. Hair suffers as a consequence. The changes seen in hair after physical and emotional stress mirror that seen with changes in diet, with hairs prematurely entering into rest and then falling en masse a few months later. As with diet, the follicles may become dysfunctional and need a little help to get back on track.

Get on Top of Your Hair Loss or Receding Hairline

Losing your hair might be distressing but there are things you can do to prevent hair loss or promote regrowth and a fuller hairline.

évolis® has produced a range of products developed after years of research into the hair growth cycle. Our hair loss treatments actively promote a longer hair growth phase by targeting the protein (FGF5) that initiates the transition out of growth and into follicle regression and rest. As most forms of hair loss, regardless of the root cause, involve a shortening or change in the hair growth cycle, and because FGF5 is the main signal in the body to initiate follicle regression, blocking FGF5 can be effective in many cases.

Blocking FGF5 lengthens the hair’s growth cycle, reduces excessive hair fall, and increases the proportion of actively growing follicles. So if you are recovering from stress or injury, experiencing pattern hair loss, or worried you might be, try our évolis® products today to see how you can achieve a thicker, fuller head of hair.

About the Author

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Dr Dominic Burg
PhD, Chief Scientist

Dr Dominic Burg is a biochemist and systems biologist with expertise in hair and scalp biology, particularly hair cycle signalling. An accomplished science communicator with a career spanning academic research and the private sector, Dr Burg is the Chief Scientist for pioneering hair and scalp health leaders évolis.

 

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