hair-loss-basicsThe condition of the hair has been a concern to people since time immemorial. While no one dies from ‘old hair’, the condition of ones’ hair negatively impacts how a person feels about themselves and can have a negative impact on quality of life.

Hair follicles are complex organs composed of the dermal papilla , dermal sheath , outer root sheath , inner root sheath  and hair shaft (see below).

Hair Loss and Hair Disorders Occurring From Internal and External Factors

The hair follicle are sensitive structures, making them susceptible to many factors which cause changes in hair growth and pigmentation.There was a very comprehensive article published by Dr. Ralph Trueb, entitled Oxidative Stress in Ageing Hair, in the International Journal of Tricholology, January-June 2009 issue. This article provides some excellent information as to what happens when hair ages.  The article provides a plethora of information on hair and points out that, “like the skin, the hair follicle is subject to intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) aging”.  The article points out that hair can be affected by extrinsic factors such as too much sun exposure, smoking, and diet, but other factors that cause hair loss and aging, come from intrinsic reasons such as genetic predisposition.

What is Aging Hair?

The article states that ‘aging’ of hair involves many factors, from genetic programming, to hormonal, and environmental mechanisms.  Some internal factions that cause hair loss is androgenetic alopecia known as hereditary hair loss and pattern baldness.  Genetic programming also leads to premature graying.

“Experimental evidence supports the hypothesis that oxidative stress plays a major role in the ageing process”.  So, what is “oxidative stress”?   Without getting too complicated, humans need oxygen in order to live, yet the simple act of breathing in oxygen results in the formation of highly reactive molecules called free radicals. As the free radicals interact with other molecules in the body, they cause oxidative damage to hair and skin.  The body has a lot of defenses to fight these ‘free radicals’, but there are also dietary  supplement that are specifically designed to fight the effects of free radicals, such as the HairMax Essential Dietary Supplements.

Why Does Hair Become Grey?

As we all know, graying of hair is a natural occurrence as we age.  The color of hair is determined by the amount of melanin in the melanocytes of the hair follicle.  As we age, there are many biological theories explored in the article which contribute to greying which are very complex, but basically the follicle and its functions change as we age.  Simplistically, the melanocytes produce less melanin as we age, and therefore hair begins to turn grey. White hair indicates that no more melanin is being produced in the melanocytes.

What is Hereditary Hair Loss?

Androgenetic alopecia (AGA) know as hereditary hair loss and pattern baldness is a very common occurrence in both men and women.  It affects “at least 50% of men by the age of 50, and up to 70% of all males later in life”.  “Estimates of occurrence in women have varied widely, though recent studies claim that 16% of women aged under 50 years are affected, increasing to a proportion of 30-40% of women aged 70 years and over”.   This type of hair loss is caused by genetic programming with the hair follicle, and is passed down from ones’ parents.    According to the article the major causes of this type of hair loss is mostly dependent on the impact of the conversion if the hormone testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and its effect on androgen receptors in the hair follicle.   Both men and women have testosterone in their body, although in different amounts.  Pattern baldness can be successfully treated with topical minoxidil which is the only approved drug for treating women, with minoxidil and finasteride being the only approved drugs for men. The laser phototherapy medical device, the non-drug HairMax LaserComb® has FDA Clearance and been proven safe and effective for treating male and female pattern baldness. As a point of information, a recent article was published in the April 2014 issues of the peer review medical journal, The American Journal of Clinical Practice.  The authors compared the results in hair growth with the HairMax and with published results for Rogaine® minoxidil and finasteride/Propecia® and found them to be comparable.

Other Factors in Hair Loss

Inflammation of the hair follicle also plays a significant role in causing AGA. One theory explores the role of external causes of inflammation in the article: “keratinocytes themselves may respond to oxidative stress from irritants, pollutants, and UV [sunlight], by producing nitric oxide” leading to inflammation and hair loss.

“Senescent alopecia is simply hair thinning found in those over the age of 60 years of age, which involves a progressive decrease in the number of anagen follicles and hair diameter.  Using topical products can help thicken hair and make it more lustrous.  As an example, the HairMax® Hair and Scalp Treatments are a collection of products that are scientifically designed to help restore hair to a more natural appearance.

Hair Loss From Smoking is being recognized as a factor that contributes to hair loss.  The article states “The mechanisms by which smoking causes hair loss are multifactorial, and probably related to effects of cigarette smoke on the vascular structure of the hair structure”.  Effects of smoking causes DNA damage to the follicle, which in turn leads to release of toxins that cause inflammation.

Hair Loss Caused by UV/Sun Damage – Hair is a natural photoprotectant which helps assure that sunlight is filtered before reaching the scalp.  As we age and hair thins, more sunlight reaches the scalp.  This causes the production of free radicals, which leads to oxidative injury, and contributes to follicular inflammation.

In conclusion, hair loss and hair disorders can be caused by a number of factors both internal and external.  However, no one has to accept these changes if they don’t want to, as there are many ways to fight back.  There are drugs and the lasercomb which have been proven to treat hair loss successfully, and there are many topical and leave-on products available, that help restore hair to its more natural and healthy state.