Everything you need to know about alopecia.
Have you recently discovered a matted ball of hair sat staring at you in your shower drain? Or you’ve started seeing slightly more scalp showing when you tie your hair up? There is a chance that you might be suffering from alopecia.
First things first, hair loss is a totally normal part of life. In fact, the average person loses 50-100 hairs per day! Yeah, a day. And this is simply our hair working its way through the different stages of the hair cycle.
Let’s take a quick look at the 4 stages of normal hair growth...
- Anagen: The growing phase
- Catagen: The transition phase
- Telogen: The resting phase
- Exogen: The shedding phase
It’s no secret women have a significant harder time with hair loss than men. There, we’ve said it. For men, hair loss is seen as a very normal part of ageing. And some people might not even know that thinning and balding can happen to women too. With 79% of women claiming their hair is a huge a part of who they are, it’s not surprising over 1 in 10 women suffering hair loss seek support from a mental health professional.
Sadly, being part of a society that governs a woman’s value based on her appearance, it isn’t uncommon for women suffering hair loss to feel enormous levels of shame and embarrassment. Why? It’s basically down to the fact that hair is considered a key ingredient to whether you are considered ‘attractive’ or not – which, hands down, should not be the case. We believe beauty comes in all forms.
So, what is alopecia?
Alopecia is the word used to describe when you reach a level hair loss that is more than your normal amount. It’s an umbrella term used to define a range of hair loss types, from just a few patches of thinning to complete baldness. Alopecia isn’t contagious, but some types are genetic if your family members are affected by them.
One of the biggest demons someone suffering alopecia deals with is the psychological impact. This change in our appearance can fuel low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Quite frankly, putting us in a bit of an identity crisis. Over time these feelings can lead to a decline in our mental health, which can result in depression and anxiety.
When faced with comments like ‘it’s just hair loss’ or ‘just a cosmetic issue’ or even ‘thank goodness it’s just hair loss’, hair loss sufferers often feel extremely lonely, exposed, and isolated in their struggles. But what are the physical signs that you have alopecia?
Early signs of alopecia
- Your hair starts to break more often.
- You feel like you are shedding more hair than previously.
- You find clumps of your hair on your pillow.
- You find clumps of hair coming out when you wash it.
- You discover a bald patch on your scalp.
- You notice a change in your fingernails or toenails (small white lines, small indents, or loss of nail condition).
Advanced signs of alopecia
- Multiple bald patches across the scalp.
- Loss of beard hair or bald patches in the beard.
- Hair in areas like eyelashes, arms or legs is falling out.
Types of Alopecia
As we mentioned earlier, alopecia is an umbrella term for a range of types. So, the next stage in someone’s hair loss journey would be identifying which one they are experiencing.
Remember, if you are experiencing any kind of hair loss, GLOWWA would always (yes, always) recommend going to speak to your doctor.
Below we will discuss all forms of alopecia (it gets a bit technical and latin-y but please stick with us)...
Alopecia Areata: Hair to falls out in round/ oval patches on the scalp (can affect eyebrows, eyelashes, and beards too), equivalent to the size of a coin. It’s an autoimmune condition, which means it is caused by the body mistakenly attacking our hair follicles and structures from where our hair grows.
- Alopecia Totalis: More extensive hair loss that can cause total loss of hair on the scalp.
- Alopecia Universalis: Total loss of hair on scalp, face and body.
- Diffuse Alopecia Areata (Alopecia Areata Incognita): Sudden thinning of hair all over scalp rather than hair loss patches. Tricky to diagnose as looks very similar to other types of hair loss.
- Alopecia Areata Ophiasis: Hair loss from the sides and lower back of scalp.
- Alopecia Barbae: Hair loss affecting the beard and moustache.
- Androgenetic Alopecia (Pattern Hair Loss): The most common type of progressive hair loss, affecting 50% of men over 50 and 50% of women over 65. It’s also known as male pattern hair loss/female pattern hair loss, due to gender differences in physical symptoms. While men have hair falling out in a well-defined pattern, for us ladies, our hair becomes thinner all over rather than specifically on the temples. It’s caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors, but mostly associated with the sensitivity of the testosterone (hence the name androgenetic) receptor (specialised cells that detect a stimulus) on the hair follicle.
Scarring Alopecias (Cicatrical Alopecias): These are a group of rare disorders that cause hair follicles to be destroyed and then replaced with scar tissue, leading to permanent hair loss. For some people this hair loss is gradual without symptoms and unnoticed for long periods, others it can be rapid and leave you with severe itching, burning and pain.
- Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia: Hair loss beginning in the centre of the scalp and spreads outwards slowly.
- Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia: Hair loss across the front of the scalp (i.e. the forehead and sideburns) and can also affect the eyebrows. Sufferers tend to be post-menopausal women but is can also affect younger women and men. It’s becoming more and more common.
- Lichen Planopilaris: Patches of scalp start to appear, mostly on the sides, front and lower back of the scalp. It usually affects younger women, although it can affect most age ranges and more rarely men.
- Chemotherapy Induced Alopecia (Anagen Effluvium): Hair loss after chemotherapy, and renowned as being the most visibly distressing side effect of commonly administered chemotherapeutic drugs. If your hair is going to fall out, it’s typically within a 2 to 3 weeks timeframe of starting treatment and gradual. For most people their hair will return once chemo has finished. Yet, in some rare cases the hair doesn’t grow back, but this only tends to happen with high doses of certain drugs.
- Telogen Effluvium: More hairs than usual move into the telogen (resting) phase and shed, meaning your notice more hair falling out then you usually have. With this type of alopecia, you don’t have patches, you’ll just experience general thinning. It’s often linked by a physical or psychological trigger (a stressful event) and naturally resolves. People tend to notice about 1-3 months after the major stress i.e. stressful life event, an accident, an illness, giving birth, significant weight loss, medication change.
- Traction Alopecia (hair loss): Hair loss due to being pulled in the same way for a long time. Usually created by extensions, hairstyle, or relaxers.
- Trichotillomania (hair pulling): Hair loss caused by the psychological condition whereby you can’t stop pulling your hair out. Eyelashes, eyebrows, and scalp are the key areas typically affected by hair pulling.
You still with us? Good.
So, what do you do if you are suffering from any of the above? Sadly, there is currently no cures for alopecia. Good news though there are treatments that your GP, dermatologist, or trichologist (hair expert) could prescribe you. Yay! Be aware though that treatment effectiveness varies depending on the type of alopecia you are experiencing. And no treatment is 100% effective.
- Steroid injection: Injections given into bald patches.
- Steroid creams: Cream applied to bald patches.
- Immunotherapy: Chemical applied to bald patches.
- Light treatment: Shining ultraviolet light on bald patches.
- Tattooing: Tattoo used to look like short hair and eyebrows
- Hair transplant: Hair is removed from back of head and moved to thinning patches.
- Scalp reduction surgery: Sections of scalp with hair are stretched and stitched together.
- Artificial hair transplant: Surgery to implant artificial hairs.
- Finasteride and minoxidil: These are the main treatments for male pattern baldness. Minoxidil can also be used to treat female pattern baldness. Women should use finasteride.
- Wigs: Synthetic wigs (last 6 to 9 months) or real-hair wigs (last 3 to 4 years).
- GLOWWA Hair Food: Our HAIR FOOD vitamins provide daily nutritional support for longer, healthier hair growth, improved condition, and shine.
GLOWWA These capsules contain a natural blend of hair specific ingredients including Biotin, B12, Zinc, L-Lysine, MSM, Niacin, B5, B6, Vitamin C and Coconut Water for the ultimate at home healthy hair treatment.
After consistent regular use our customers have reported many of the following benefits:
- Healthy Hair Growth
- Reduced Shedding
- Improved Condition
- Increased Shine
- Healthy Glowing Skin
- Stronger Nails
- Wellbeing benefits
Results can often be noticed as little as 12 weeks, with optimum results being achieved from consistent ongoing use. Hair Food can be used all year round to support and maintain your healthy hair growth journey.
If you are feeling low about your hair loss, take some time to reach out to your GP as they might be able to get you some counselling. Similarly, speaking to others who are going through alopecia is also very important for your mental wellbeing. We’d highly recommend joining a support group to meet others. Whether this is meeting up with a local group in person, or something online, it is totally up to you, and what feels best for your situation.
Always remember you are not alone, and you are doing amazing.