Hair loss is usually nothing to worry about. Did you know that we can lose between 50 and 100 hairs every day, usually without even noticing? Often, thinning hair is just one of the more annoying things about getting older.
There are several types of hair loss, however, and it can be temporary or permanent. Pattern hair loss (or baldness) is the most common – it’s permanent, and often down to your age and family history. If your parents had thinning hair, it’s possible that you will, too.
But if you’ve noticed your hair is getting thinner, it’s a good idea to identify the cause. And if it’s bothering you, there are treatments available that might help to make your hair thicker.
Why is my hair thinning?
As well as pattern hair loss, there are other possible causes of hair loss, including:
- a lack of vitamins or minerals, such as iron
- thyroid or autoimmune disorders
- trauma to the hair from over-styling
- inflammation of the scalp
- taking certain medicines
It’s always worth seeing your doctor if you have hair loss. They can give your hair a full examination, check for any medical conditions and recommend a suitable treatment if necessary.
Treatments for thinning hair
Thinning hair can have a big emotional impact, so you may be keen to find a treatment that encourages thicker, fuller hair.
If you have thinning hair due to pattern hair loss, medical treatment is a possibility. One option is a lotion or foam called minoxidil, which may be available from the pharmacy. It doesn’t always work, but it can help with regrowth in the short-term, for as long as it’s used. Men can try a similar treatment called finasteride, but women shouldn’t use this.
If your hair is falling out in patches – known as ‘alopecia areata’ – steroids are an option. ‘Corticosteroids’ that you apply to the skin on your head in a cream, lotion, foam or ointment can help regrowth when they’re used regularly. They’re also easy to apply and painless. A steroid injection called an ‘intralesional corticosteroid’ can make hair grow in 4 to 6 weeks, but it can usually only be used on a small area of skin.
Cosmetic procedures for thinning hair
If you have permanent hair loss and you’ve tried other options with no luck, there are cosmetic procedures available. A hair transplant involves moving some of your head hair to an area that is thinning or bald, either by transplanting a thin strip of skin or individual hairs.
It’s an expensive procedure so it’s a big commitment, and you should get as much information about it as you can before you decide.
As well as speaking to your own doctor, be careful about who you choose to do the transplant – they should be qualified, experienced and registered with the relevant authorities in your country.
When to see a doctor
Although thinning hair is often normal, you may want to speak to your doctor for advice – particularly if you have other symptoms.
You should see a doctor if you’re worried about your hair loss, or if:
- you have sudden hair loss
- your head itches or burns
- you get bald patches
- you’re losing clumps of hair
- hair loss is usually nothing to worry about
- pattern hair loss can run in families, and often happens as you age
- if your hair is getting thinner, it’s a good idea to identify the cause
- there are treatments available, including medications and injections
- a cosmetic procedure called a hair transplant is an option if you have permanent hair loss
- if you’re worried or have other symptoms, speak to your doctor