Hair loss in men is common. More than 80% will experience noticeable hair loss in their lifetime. There isn’t one single cause of hair loss, but many factors working together in combination, resulting in a disruption in the way that hair grows. Hair loss in men tends to occur in different groups of men at different times and follows a specific pattern.
Early onset hair loss tends to be heavily driven by genetics and will affect a small proportion of men as early as their twenties; this hair loss is often aggressive and needs to be addressed early.
Slow, progressive hair loss occurs in some men in the mid-thirties extending into the 40’s, driven by genetics and lifestyle factors such as stress, diet and over-work.
Aging related hair loss can start to occur at different times, but usually in the late 40’s where 50% of men will have already experienced significant hair loss, and beyond.
To learn more about hair loss, hair changes in men and why these occur, read on below.
First, Understanding Hair Growth
At any one time, the average person has about 100,000 -150,000 hairs on their head. Each hair is grown by a special organ called a follicle. Each of the follicles 100,000+ follicles are unique from their neighbors, growing independently. What is really special about the follicles is that they grow in a cycle, different from any other organ in the body. They grow, rest, fall, and then are completely regenerated anew from stem cells in the scalp. This pattern is known as the hair growth cycle.
Anagen: When your hair is actively growing, it’s in what is scientifically known as the anagen phase, which lasts seven or more years in a healthy follicle. About 85% of the hairs on your head are in this stage at any given time.
Catagen: At the end of the growth phase, follicles are signaled to go through a series of dramatic changes that rearrange the structure of the follicle, they begin to shrink, and a special part of the organ known as the dermal papilla, which is something like a control center, detaches form the follicle and it loses the ability to grow. This process is known as Catagen, or the regression phase and takes about two weeks.
Telogen: Once the follicle has gone through catagen, it enters the final phase, known as telogen or the resting phase. Lasting about three months, where the hair simply sits in the scalp. During the resting phase, a new follicle starts to regenerate from remnant populations of stem cells which interact with dermal papilla cells to form a new follicle. As the new emerging follicle gets bigger, it pushes out the old resting hair shaft, causing the hair to fall.
The biochemistry and signaling that controls the amazing process of hair growth and follicle regression and regeneration is quite complex, and we don’t fully understand it yet. As with any other complex process, it can be quite east to throw a spanner in the works and disrupt the status quo. All sorts of external pressures can impact the hair growth cycle, from diet, to stress, aging, hormones and genetics. Often it is a combination of these things.
Science also tells us that there about 150 different genes that may be involved in men that are predisposed to baldness, with different combinations appearing in different men. There is a common theme though, with the protein FGF5 appearing on the scene.
FGF5 is a negative influencer of the hair cycle; stopping growth in its tracks and causing follicle regression. That’s its only role in the body. Stopping hair growth. Too much FGF5 means more follicles are regressing, more are resting and falling and less are growing, which leads to thinning, and eventually, hair loss, through complete hair cycle disruption. To learn more about FGF5 and the signs of hair loss: read on.
The Main Signs of Hair Loss in Men
As part of the hair growth cycle, your head will naturally shed some 50-100 strands of hair every day, which is about 0.05% of your total hair. This is a normal part of your hair cycle, and these hairs will be replaced by shiny new ones regenerating in your scalp.
However, if the hair cycle is disrupted the growth phase becomes short. If each follicle is growing for less time, a higher proportion will be resting and falling, resulting in thinning, sparse hair. Eventually, when hair the hair cycle disruption becomes too advanced, hair loses its ability to regenerate altogether and follicles can die. Once they go this far there is no turning back. Early intervention is the key.
If your hair is changing and you’re losing hair at a faster rate than usual, it’s not always noticeable at first. Some early signs of hair loss include:
- Seeing an increase in the amount of hair in the bathroom, sink, shower or pillow
- Noticing thinning hair at the hairline and temples, with isolated single, fine hairs
- Hair growing more slowly than usual
- Widening of your part line
When hair loss becomes more advanced you may notice:
- Being able to see your scalp shining in the mirror when bright light is shining from above
- A receding hairline and thinning around the temples
- Thin and sparse areas at the temples and crown
- Loose hair that is easily pulled out
Learn more about the signs of hair loss in men.
The Different Types of Male Hair Loss
Hair loss or thinning hair in men can happen for a variety of reasons. It can be temporary, a result of hormone sensitivity, a skin disorder or scalp infection, poor nutrition, stress, age, or the consumption of certain medications. What is known as male pattern baldness and lifestyle related hair changes are by far the most commonly seen forms of hair loss. Inflammatory hair loss conditions are more rare. Sudden or complete hair loss can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as an autoimmune illness or underlying disease, so if this is happening to you, you should see a doctor.
Male Pattern Baldness
Androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, is the most common kind of hair loss to affect men (although it can also affect women). Pattern baldness has no single root cause: The latest science tells us that at least 150 different genes are involved and many different combinations of these may be involved in any individual. By far the most common, are genes involved in response to androgens such as DHT, some Vitamin D related genes and the hair growth regulator FGF5.
Male pattern baldness is called “pattern baldness” because it always happens in a predictable format with the crown, temples, and frontal regions being affected, as opposed to the back and sides. We don’t know why this happens, but the follicles at the back and sides of the head appear more resistant to hair cycle dysfunction than those on the top, regardless of the cause, be it aging or genetic pressure. This strange quirk is why hair transplants can be successful. Usually the hair at the back of the head is harvested and “planted” into the front and crown. Moving the hairs into new locations doesn’t change their resistance to hair cycle dysfunction, making hair transplants a good option for those too far gone for topical treatment.
So why do the follicles on the top of the head fall out in pattern baldness? The answer for you is as unique as you are. It will be a combination of your genetics, your age and your lifestyle all combining to put pressure on your hair cycle, leading to hair cycle shortening, follicle miniaturzation and follicle death. The key culprit in this process, regardless of the combination of factors impacting the follicles, is FGF5, the stop signal in the hair cycle and key villain in shortening the growth phase. Preventing hair regressing and falling can be as simple as removing the universal stop signal. It’s that simple.
Telogen effluvium describes the falling of large number of follicles at once. Telogen effluvium is usually caused by a severe life event, illness or stress that makes large numbers of follicles enter the resting phase of the growth cycle at once. After a period of rest, lasting 2-3 months, the follicles fall in large numbers.
Telogen effluvium can be quite reversible, and can be self-limiting, but sometimes results in prolonged hair cycle dysfunction and hair thinning. In these cases, repairing the hair cycle dysfunction by blocking the stop signal FGF5 can be beneficial in restoring a long and healthy hair cycle.
Alopecia Areata and other medical hair loss types
There are a number of medical hair loss types that require specialist help. If your hair is falling out in round patches then you may have alopecia areata or a fungal infection, such as ringworm. If you are noticing your hair is falling in large quantities and involves your eyebrows and other body hair, then you may be suffering from alopecia universalis or alopecia totalis. Alopecia areata, universalis and totalis are generally autoimmune conditions where the body attacks the follicles leading to hair loss. Treatments include topical or systemic steroids, under medical supervision.
If you are noticing excess hair loss accompanied by itching or burning, or if there are bumps, lumps or pimple like skin changes then you may be suffering from a scarring alopecia or other skin condition. In these cases you should make the trip to a dermatologist specializing in hair.
How to Prevent and Treat Hair Loss
Prevention and treatment of hair loss can be quite simple. Provided you have one of the common forms of hair loss, solving the issue can be as easy as getting to the root of the problem by stopping hair cycle shortening. Regardless of the pressure causing the hair loss, be it genetics, diet, stress, aging or lifestyle, hair cycle shortening and dysfunction are always present. the key to Preventing and Reversing this problem is blocking the master signal in your body that stops the hair cycle: FGF5. It’s that simple.
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