Are hair loss treatments worth it?

Hair loss, also known as alopecia, is a common concern affecting millions of people. It can impact not only your appearance but also your self-esteem and confidence. Studies have shown a link between hair loss and increased anxiety, depression, and social isolation.

While losing 50-100 hairs a day is normal, excessive hair loss can be caused by various factors. Androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male or female pattern baldness, is the most prevalent type, affecting an estimated 50% of men by age 50 and a significant portion of women after menopause. 

Other types of hair loss include telogen effluvium (temporary hair shedding often triggered by stress or medical conditions) and alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease causing patchy hair loss).

However, many hair loss treatments are available. This blog post from Capstone Medical Centre aims to explore these options, helping you understand their effectiveness and whether they might be a worthwhile solution for you.

Understanding Hair Loss

Hair loss occurs when the natural hair growth cycle is disrupted, leading to excessive shedding or a complete halt in hair growth. 

To understand hair loss, it’s important to first look at the normal hair growth cycle, which consists of three phases:

  • Anagen (growth phase): The active growth phase lasts 2-7 years for scalp hair. During this time, the hair follicle rapidly produces new hair cells.
  • Catagen (transition phase): This short phase (around 2 weeks) signals the end of the growth cycle. The hair follicle shrinks and detaches from the blood supply.
  • Telogen (resting phase): This phase lasts about 3 months and is completely inactive. The hair eventually falls out, and new hair begins to grow in the follicle, restarting the cycle.

Several factors can disrupt this cycle and cause hair loss. Here’s a closer look at the most common types of hair loss:

  • Androgenetic Alopecia (Male and Female Pattern Baldness): 

This is the most prevalent type, affecting an estimated 50% of men by age 50 and a significant portion of women after menopause. It’s caused by a combination of genetics and sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone derived from testosterone. 

DHT shrinks hair follicles, shortening the anagen phase and leading to thinner, finer hair and eventual baldness in predictable patterns.

  • Telogen Effluvium (Temporary Hair Loss): 

This type of hair loss can affect both men and women and is often triggered by a stressful event, such as illness, surgery, childbirth, significant weight loss, or emotional distress. 

Must Read: Can Weight Loss Cause Hair Loss?

Telogen effluvium causes temporary hair shedding, usually noticeable 2-3 months after the triggering event. Hair growth typically resumes on its own within 6-12 months.

  • Alopecia Areata: 

This autoimmune disease is when the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, leading to sudden patchy hair loss on the scalp, beard, or eyebrows. It can affect people of all ages, and the cause remains unknown. While there’s no cure, various treatments can help stimulate hair regrowth.

Other Less Common Causes of Hair Loss

  • Medical Conditions: Certain conditions like thyroid disorders, iron deficiency anaemia, and scalp infections can cause hair loss.
  • Medications: Some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, blood thinners, and antidepressants, can cause hair loss as a side effect.
  • Stress: While chronic stress can trigger telogen effluvium, the exact link isn’t fully understood.

Hair Loss Treatment Options

Hair loss can be a significant concern, but fortunately, various treatment options are available to help manage it. 

Here’s an overview of some popular methods:

Medications:

There are several categories of medications used to treat hair loss in Australia, each with different administration methods:

  • Topical medications: These medications are applied directly to the scalp, often in liquid or foam form. They may work by stimulating hair growth, increasing blood flow to the scalp, or blocking hormones contributing to hair loss.
  • Oral medications: These medications are taken by mouth in tablet form. They may work by blocking the conversion of testosterone to a form that can contribute to hair loss or by regulating hormones that influence hair growth.
  • Injectable medications: While less common for hair loss treatment in Australia, some emerging therapies may involve injections into the scalp. These might deliver medications or use substances like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to stimulate hair growth.

Surgical Hair Restoration

  • Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE): 

These surgical procedures involve transplanting healthy hair follicles from a donor area (typically the back of the scalp) to bald or thinning areas. 

FUT involves removing a strip of scalp containing hair follicles, which are then dissected into individual follicular units for transplantation. 

FUE involves extracting individual follicular units directly from the donor area. 

Qualified dermatologic surgeons perform both procedures and can offer permanent results. However, they are also expensive and require some downtime for recovery.

  • Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT): 

This treatment involves using low-energy lasers to irradiate the scalp. The theory is that LLLT may improve blood circulation, stimulate hair follicles, and promote hair growth. LLLT devices are available for home use or in-clinic treatments. However, research on the effectiveness of LLLT for hair loss is ongoing, and results can be variable.

Other Options

  • Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy: 

This treatment involves injecting a concentration of a patient’s own platelets into the scalp. The idea is that PRP may stimulate hair growth, but current research is inconclusive, and more studies are needed to determine its long-term effectiveness.

Important Considerations

The best hair loss treatment option for you will depend on the cause and severity of your hair loss, overall health, and individual preferences. Consulting a qualified dermatologist or hair loss doctor in a hair loss clinic is crucial for diagnosis and personalised treatment recommendations. 

Evaluating Hair Loss Treatments: Are They Worth It?

Hair loss treatments can be a valuable tool in managing hair loss, but it’s crucial to approach them with realistic expectations and a personalized plan. There are some key factors to consider:

  • Consult a Qualified Hair Loss Doctor: 

The first step is to schedule a consultation with a qualified hair fall doctor or dermatologist. They can diagnose the underlying cause of your hair loss, which is essential for determining the most effective treatment approach. A proper diagnosis will also help avoid wasting time and money on treatments that may not suit your situation.

  • Effectiveness Depends on Cause and Severity: 

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for hair loss. Treatment effectiveness depends on the cause and severity of hair loss. For example, some medications may be very effective for androgenetic alopecia but may not be helpful for other types of hair loss, like alopecia areata. Consulting a specialist allows for a tailored treatment plan that addresses the root cause of hair loss.

  • Weighing Treatment Options: 

When considering different treatment options, it’s essential to factor in several aspects:

  • Cost: Hair loss treatments can vary significantly in cost. Some medications are generally more affordable than surgical procedures like FUT or FUE.
  • Potential Side Effects: All drugs and procedures carry some risk of side effects. Discuss these potential side effects with your doctor and weigh the risks against the possible benefits.
  • Realistic Expectations: Hair loss treatments are not a magic bullet. Most treatments require consistent use for several months before noticeable results appear, and some maintenance may be needed to sustain benefits. Having realistic expectations about the timeline and degree of hair regrowth you can expect.
  • Commitment Required: Hair loss treatment often requires ongoing commitment. Many medications need to be applied consistently to maintain benefits, and surgical procedures require some recovery time.

Conclusion

Hair loss can be disappointing, but there’s no need to lose hope. Effective hair loss treatments are available, offering solutions for various types and severities of hair loss. The key to successful treatment is a personalized approach. 

The first step is to consult a qualified hair loss doctor at Capstone Medical Centre. We can diagnose the cause of your hair loss and recommend a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and goals. 

Sources: 

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS): https://www.abs.gov.au/
  • American Academy of Dermatology: “Hair loss: Diagnosis and treatment”
  • Mayo Clinic: “Hair loss: Causes”
  • Harvard Health Publishing: “Hair loss: Treatments and medications”