Every person suffering from hair loss encounters a wide variety of myths about both its cause and its cure. We want you to know the real story on hair loss causes and effective treatments so that you can decide whether surgical hair restoration is a viable option for you.
No matter what the infomercials claim, hair loss is not caused by clogged follicles, frequent shampooing, poor circulation, the presence of mites or the wearing of hats and helmets.
On rare occasions, reversible hair loss can occur as a consequence of thyroid disease, iron deficiency, high fever, general anesthesia, crash diets or specific medications. In certain individuals, dermatological scalp disorders due to lupus, lichen planopilaris and alopecia areata can also lead to temporary or permanent hair loss.
In addition, hair loss in women can be triggered by specific hereditary factors or hormone-related events that include childbirth and menopause. (For more on causes of female hair loss, refer to the For Women page.)
However, for the vast majority of men experiencing hair loss, the culprit is hereditary androgenetic alopecia, commonly referred to as male pattern baldness. Two-thirds of American men will have some degree of hair loss by age 35. By age 50, roughly 85 percent of men will have noticeably thinner hair.
Male pattern baldness typically begins after puberty, when the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) affects the hair follicles of men who are genetically susceptible.
In order to understand the phenomenon of male pattern baldness, you should know about the normal life cycle of human hair.
By week 22, a developing fetus has all of the hair follicles ever to develop about 5 million follicles on the body, with one hundred thousand of those follicles on the scalp. The follicle resides in the skin, and the hair shaft is visible above the scalp.
Hair on the scalp grows roughly .3 to .4 millimeters per day, totaling about six inches per year. Human hair growth and shedding is unlike that of other mammals because it is random and not seasonal or cyclical. Hair on your scalp is always undergoing one of three stages that affect its growth or shedding:
- Anagen is the active phase. During this two- to six-year phase, cells in the root of the hair divide rapidly, causing it to grow about 1 centimeter every 28 days.
- Catagen is a transitional stage that lasts 2-3 weeks and affects about three percent of all hairs at any given time. In this phase, club hair (a type of hair that has stopped growing) forms.
- Telogen is a phase lasting about 100 days. During this time the follicle is completely at rest, and the non-growing club hair matures. Approximately six to eight percent of all hairs are in the telogen phase at a time. About 25 to 100 hairs in the telogen phase fall out normally each day.
In male pattern baldness, genetically vulnerable scalp hair (usually hair in the front and top of the scalp) begins to shrink in both diameter and potential length during each life cycle, eventually disappearing.
Hair on the back and sides is usually genetically programmed to be permanent. It is from this plentiful supply of permanent hair that Dr. Brownell harvests follicles during hair transplant surgery.
Ideal Candidates for Hair Restoration
Men with the following conditions or attitudes make the best candidates for surgical hair restoration:
- Men experiencing male pattern baldness
- Men who realize that some hair loss may continue after surgery, even with the use of prescription medications
- Men whose balding pattern has stabilized, and who would like more hair to regain their youthful appearance
- Men who have lost hair due to injuries, scarring, or burns
- Men who have lost hair due to face lifts or other cosmetic procedures
- Men who want to thicken or restore eyebrows, and beards
- Men who want hair in an area where little exists