Premature hair loss, which can affect women as well as men, can be a devastating condition for some. There are a variety of causes and a number of treatments that are aimed at dealing with it, and a qualified and experienced practitioner can advise you on both.
There are a variety of types of alopecia.
Androgenic alopecia; (more commonly known as male pattern baldness) is caused by hormones, or androgens, which will affect certain genetically predisposed hair follicles. Alopecia effects mainly men, but it can sometimes affect women. Lotions and potions; they aim to block the hormone that causes male hair loss at the same time as stimulating the blood circulation to nurture existing hair follicles.
Male alopecia is more common than female alopecia and affects around half of all men at some point in their lives. For women, it is more common over the age of 40, particularly after the menopause.
Alopecia areata; another type of hair loss that involves patches of baldness rather than a pattern of hair loss. It can occur at any age, but mostly affects teenagers and young adults, and it thought to be caused by a problem with the immune system. There is no proven effective treatment and in most cases the hair will grow back on its own, eventually. However, there are no treatments proven to be effective for this condition.
Scarring alopecia; occurs as a result of complications from another condition, such as scleroderma, lichen planus or shingles. The hair follicle is completely destroyed.
Alopecia Treatment: Am I suitable?
An experienced and qualified practitioner will be able to advise you on the case of your hair loss and what is the best treatment option for you.
Alopecia Treatments: What’s the treatment like?
Hair pieces or hair additions; if you aren’t suitable for surgery, then a hair piece might be the solution. Made of either human or synthetic hair, these are fixed to the scalp by tape, hair clips, skin sutures or are woven into the remaining hairs. They need to be replaced every two to three years and may require regular adjustments so the costs do accumulate. Also wearers often complain that they don’t feel ‘secure’ wearing them.
Camouflage and hair volumisers; there are a range of products that include sprays, fibres and creams, aimed at disguising hair loss. These include Nanongen Fibres and DermMatch Topical Shading.
Over the counter products; herbal preparations that contain substances, such as zinc and magnesium among others, can help. Minoxidil (known as Regaine) is a lotion that is available from the pharmacist that you rub on the scalp and it can slow down the process of hair loss and stimulate new hair growth. This is not a one-off alopecia treatment, as it needs to be applied constantly.
Prescription drugs; Finasteride (Propecia) is the newest drug treatment on the market. It comes in tablet form and can slow down hair loss and cause new hair growth. It needs to be taken constantly to be effective. MHT; also known as Micro Hair Tattooing. This is a scalp tattooing pigmentation procedure where natural-looking hair replications can create a cropped hairstyle. It can also be used to camouflage hair transplant surgery scarring. It is classes as permanent but the pigment will fade over time.
Follicular unit extraction (FUE); a method of hair transplantation that can be achieved without the use of a scalpel or stitches, which means no scars. Hair follicles are moved from areas of the body where hair is abundant, such as the back of the head or even the chest or back, to the scalp. It can be carried out under local anaesthetic.
Micrografting strip surgery; traditional hair transplants which involves some downtime, often leaves extensive scarring and potentially a less natural look, as follicles are taken in a strip.
Immunosuppressants are the most common treatment for alopecia areata. This treatment involves applying a steroid cream in a thin layer to the bald patch up to twice per day to re-stimulate hair growth. The body’s response to this treatment is unpredictable.
Alopecia Treatment: What about after?
After the cessation of treatment for alopecia by Finasteride (Propecia) any hair that was re-grown in the period of treatment will be lost within 1-12 months.
After undergoing MHT, very little aftercare is required although some patients will return to the clinic where they underwent the MHT procedure in order to adapt their ‘hairstyle’.
Some scarring, usually minimal, is common after undergoing FUE.
After receiving micrografting strip surgery, the patient will suffer some sort of swelling and bruising around the forehead, so it is usually advisable to take some time off work to recover. Scarring is also a possibility.
Because the course for using immunosuppressant therapy is so short, there are unlikely to be any side effects.
Alopecia Treatment: Are there any risks or side effects?
Treatment by Finasteride (Propecia) carries the long term risk of abnormal sexual function, as well as having been linked to depression.
Infected hair follicles or in-growing hairs (which can be painful) are a risk of FUE, occurring when hairs that are transacted continue to grow.
Alopecia Treatment: What will it cost me?
The over-the-counter products may not cost very much individually, but over time they will add up. MHT can cost from £500 to £2,000 depending on the degree of hair loss.
The price of hair transplant surgery varies widely depending on the success rate of the surgeon and the level of hair loss. You can expect to pay £2,000 for a session of FUE and as it might take a few sessions then this can prove very expensive.