When you look in the mirror, what’s the first thing you notice? If you’re losing your hair, chances are your eyes are fixed on your scalp and what’s lacking, thinning, or receding. The good news is that you’re not alone. Pattern hair loss, also known as pattern baldness, androgenic alopecia, and androgenetic alopecia, is very common around the world, affecting people of all ages. Of course, the high frequency of hair loss isn’t much of a comfort for most people. Most people simply want their own hair to stop hiding and come back to the surface.
But is it possible for those suffering from pattern alopecia to reverse their hair loss? There is no easy answer to this question. In the past, the answer was a definitive “no.” Today, however, developments in medicine provide hope for those looking to restore their head of hair.
Although the underlying reasons for androgenic alopecia remain unknown, researchers believe that changes in androgen (male hormones) activity are primarily responsible for pattern hair loss. And while the term “androgen” refers to male hormones (namely testosterone and androsterone), females carry these hormones as well, albeit typically in much smaller numbers (between one-tenth and one-twentieth the amount in the average male). A combination of genetics and environmental factors can cause this variation in androgen behavior.
In other words, androgenic alopecia can affect both men and women at various stages of their lives. That said, men are more likely to develop this condition due to their higher androgen levels. The American Hair Loss Association reports that 85% of men and 40% of women will experience some level of hair loss by the time they reach 50. The distinction between male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss is an important one in terms of prescribing treatments, as some treatments and dosages designed for male pattern hair loss should not be taken for female pattern hair loss for various reasons.
Certain individuals are more likely to develop pattern hair loss than others based on their genes and environment. That said, there are ways to prevent or at least slow down the progress of hair loss, and these methods are constantly improving.
The first form of hair loss prevention doesn’t involve medication at all. Individuals can simply make changes to their lifestyle that promote their hair’s health and normal growth cycle. These actions include:
Of course, even those who take great care of their hair cannot completely avoid the effects of female or male pattern hair loss. That’s why the second prevention method (medications) are sometimes necessary to put the brakes on hair loss. In fact, some individuals have even experienced hair regrowth after taking these drugs over a period of time.
Currently, the two most common and effective medications to combat pattern hair loss are Minoxidil (best known as Rogaine) and Finasteride (Propecia). Neither of these drugs represents a complete hair loss cure, of course, but they’ve been shown to stop hair loss in its tracks and even regrow hair in some cases. Additionally, finasteride is only meant to treat male pattern baldness, not female pattern baldness. Both drugs are only effective for as long they’re used, and results may not be visible for several months or more.
Minoxidil is a topical liquid that’s either sprayed or dropped and then gently rubbed onto the areas of the scalp where the hair is thinning. This medication originated as a high blood pressure treatment, but doctors discovered that as a side effect it could also promote hair growth wherever applied. While generally safe to use, Minoxidil can irritate one’s skin, alter hair color and texture, and lead to hair growth in unwanted places.
Finasteride comes in the form of an oral pill or a topical ointment. This medication lowers the amount of DHT, a natural hormone, which in turn increases hair growth and slows down hair loss. While finasteride (in conjunction with minoxidil) can regrow hair where it has receded or thinned, this drug can yield side effects such as loss in sex drive or performance.
So, can you reverse pattern alopecia? It’s possible, yes, but only some individuals have regained their hair after proper treatment, and even those must continue their treatment regimen to maintain their hair restoration. As of now, it’s easier and more likely to prevent and slow down hair loss than it is to bring back one’s full head of hair. Still, it seems likely that one day both male and female pattern baldness will be a thing of the past. Perhaps that day is coming sooner than later.
At Premier Dermatology Partners, our experts aim to inform our patients about the benefits and risks of various skin treatments, including those aimed at preventing or reversing hair loss. To learn more about our team and all the services we provide, contact us.