A Patient Journey for Hair Loss
Regardless of our age or gender, hair - or lack thereof - plays a huge part in our identity. Losing hair can be really distressing, particularly if you don’t know why it’s happening or have any way of slowing down the process.
We conducted some research on hair loss and thinning which found that 76.5% of 650 members surveyed were living with some kind of hair loss or thinning. 74% of those were women, the majority of whom were aged between 31 and 60 - meaning that hair loss is a huge concern for many. Shedding and balding can be caused by a number of things, including hormonal shifts or disorders, stress, nutritional deficiencies, genetics and age. 6.5 million men live with male pattern baldness in the UK, with 25% losing a noticeable amount of hair by the time they reach 30.
Pattern baldness aside, alopecia is a cause of hair loss, with two in every 1,000 people in the UK living with Alopecia Areata (an autoimmune condition that causes hair to fall out in patches). There are so many different types of hair loss - from hair pulling to telogen effluvium (excessive hair shedding), traction alopecia (from tight hair styles) to scarring hair loss.
There are lots of reasons why you might start to lose hair.
Hairstyling: Tight hairstyles that pull the hair (traction alopecia), heat damage and harsh dyes can lead to increased hair shedding. If you tend to wear your hair in tight buns, braids or extensions, it’s worth considering taking a break one in a while - or wearing it in looser styles.
Male pattern hair loss: There are currently 6.5 million men living with some kind of balding in the UK - a huge number. It’s so common. High testosterone and hormonal factors can exacerbate what is mainly a hereditary condition.
Female pattern hair loss: According to the NHS, around 50% of women over the age of 65 experience some kind of female pattern hair loss. It tends to become most noticeable after the onset of the menopause. Conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome can also lead to female balding, and as that tends to be caused by a hormonal imbalance, it’s something that can be reversed with the right hormonal support.
Diet deficiencies: What we eat has an impact on every part of our bodies. Our hair needs the full gamut of nutrients to thrive and grow. If you’re eating a diet that’s light on protein, biotin and vitamins, focus on eating foods rich in those nutrients and think about supplementing.
Stress: Stress and anxiety can cause excessive shedding. Perhaps you’ve been working more than usual, having to deal with family issues or you’re working out more intensely at the gym. Our bodies don’t understand the difference between physical and emotional stress - and pressure can be accumulative.
When to see your GP
If you notice that you’re shedding more hair than usual or you have patches of missing hair, visit your GP. We can tell a lot about our health from our hair so don’t ignore changes in thickness and growth. It’s not a matter of vanity - it’s a window into how well we are overall.
They might be able to help themselves, or they may refer you to a specialist such as a dermatologist. Keep a symptom diary so you can have a more informed discussion. Note down how fast your hair seems to be thinning or how much hair comes out when you brush. Keep a record of anything out of the blue - particularly stressful events, changes to your diet (it may be worth keeping a rough note of what you eat anyway), other symptoms. The more information you can present your GP with, the better.
Depending on who you end up seeing, your GP or specialist could suggest a number of things. They might recommend you see a dietician or start talking therapy to rebalance your stress hormones and diet. If you think you have something like PCOS (hair loss is just one symptom), you might want to find a hormonal specialist who can help you manage and rebalance androgen levels - which in turn could have an impact on your hair regrowth. For male and female pattern baldness, there are a number of options. Topical minoxidil and finasteride tablets have proven effective for slowing down hair loss and encouraging hair growth - but they don’t work for everyone. Hair transplants may be an option for some people and if you think that’s the path you want to go down, talk to your GP about finding a reputable surgeon.
Join our myhairloss support programme for further support.