Hair loss – why does it happen and best ways to stop it?

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Losing your age at any age can be a worry, but even more so when it's premature or severe.

We all develop some degree of hair loss as we age but obviously this is far more pronounced in men.

A third will be experiencing hair loss by the time they are 30, 40% by 40 and around half by 50 and 80% by the age of 70.

Hair loss eats into your self-esteem and studies have shown that it can also impact on your relationship and even career prospects

(there is evidence to show that bald men earn less than men with hair). 

Here Crown Clinic's consultant surgeon Asim Shahmalak explains why men and women lose their hair (10% of Crown Clinic's patients are women) and how

this hair loss can be treated by a hair transplant – either a FUE (follicular unit extraction) procedure or the more traditional method, FUT (follicular unit transplantation).

What is your hair made of?

Hairs are tiny shafts of a protein called keratin. They are anchored in a group of specialised cells called hair follicles, which supply oxygen and nutrients to the root (or bulb) of the hair, and lubricate the hair with an oily substance called sebum. The human body is completely covered with hair follicles, except on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the lips. Mostly, hair follicles are tiny, and the hairs they produce don't grow long enough to protrude from the pore.

The areas where hairs do protrude (and are visible above the skin) include the armpits, face, around the genitals, the front of the chest, the back, and most profusely, on the scalp of the head. A scalp typically contains about 100,000 hair follicles.

Hair is in a constant cycle of growth, rest, and renewal. Hairs grow and then are shed, but because they grow at different rates they don't all shed at once.

How does hair loss start in men?

It tends to start at the sides of the scalp (above the temples) and on the crown, and spreads from there. As the hairline recedes backwards, the patch gets larger.

This is known as male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia. 

Hair loss in women?

Yes, women get it too but it is less common than in men. It is often not permanent and grows back after periods of hormonal change (pregnancy, menopause).

The pattern of permanent hair loss in women tends to be different than in men. Women tend to thin right across the top of the scalp rather than in patches. This can be even more distressing because the hair loss is over a greater area.

What are the causes?

This is the one case where you really CAN blame the parents: genetics is far by the biggest cause of hair loss. It's a myth to say that the mother's side of the family is more influential – both sides can pass it on. This natural hair loss can be made worse by other factors – medication, over-styling, poor diet and other factors.

How to cover up bald patches?

The only permanent way to combat hair loss with natural hair is to have a hair transplant. This transplanted hair is permanent and should last for the rest of your life. Everyone has a permanent  'horseshoe' on the back and sides of the scalp where donor hair can be harvested by FUE or FUT and replanted in the balding areas. Techniques have improved markedly over last 20 years and patients using a skilled surgeon such as Dr Shahmalak can expect wonderfully blended new hair covering up their bald spots. It takes between six months to a year for the transplanted hair to grow back.  

Our Surgeon

Dr. Asim Shahmalak

Dr Asim Shahmalak is a world-renowned hair transplant surgeon who performed the UK’s first eyelash transplant in 2009. He runs Crown Clinic – one of Britain’s most successful and best known hair transplant clinics. He has treated a number of high-profile industry leaders and celebrities including the medical broadcaster Dr Christian Jessen, best known for Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies.

Expert hair transplant surgery by Dr Shahmalak

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When the sun comes out, we know that we need to apply sunscreen to protect our skin, but many people forget to pay the same care to protecting their hair. Between the sun, sea and swimming pools, many of our favourite summer activities can significantly damage our hair – so the next time you go out to enjoy the sunshine, find out what you can do to protect it.

 

Why does sun damage the hair?

 

Sun damage to the hair is caused by the harmful UVA and UVB rays, which damage the outermost layer of the layer – the cuticle – and weaken the protein structure of the hair, making it dry, brittle and more prone to breaking. Some people find that their hair lightens in the sun, as the rays act in a similar fashion to bleach, stripping the melanin from the hair.

 

Protecting your hair from the sun

 

Wearing a hat is an easy way to protect your hair and scalp from the sun, especially if you’re outside when the sun is at its strongest. Hair SPF is also an option, which can usually be bought as a spray to be misted over the hair. Pay extra attention to the scalp – many people forget that the scalp can burn just as easily as the rest of the skin, ending up with an itchy, flaky, burnt scalp. If you do burn your scalp, rinse your hair in cool water and apply aloe vera to the affected areas, and make sure to keep your head covered when going outdoors.

If your hair is looking dry, try a deep conditioning treatment to restore some of the lost moisture to the hair, and avoid wearing your hair in any tight styles that may pull on the scalp. Summer is also a good time to temporarily stop using hairdryers, straighteners and any other hot tools to avoid adding to the sun damage.

 

Protecting your hair from the sea

 

Salt water is notorious for drying out the hair. It leaches moisture out of it, making it incredibly brittle and tangled, which can cause significant breakage. Before you go swimming, saturate your hair with clean water to prevent it from absorbing as much salt water, and don’t let it sit in your hair – rinse it thoroughly as soon as you get out of the sea. Deep conditioners and hair masks will also help replenish the moisture.

 

Protecting your hair in a swimming pool

 

Just like salt water, chlorinated water is very harsh and drying on the hair, so you can take similar precautions to swim in the sea. You could also try a swimming cap, as this not only prevents the chlorine from damaging your hair, but it will also protect your scalp from sunburn. If you have highlighted or blonde hair, be especially careful when in a swimming pool, as the copper and chlorine in the water have been known to form a film that sticks to the proteins in hair, turning it a green shade. Thankfully, this isn’t permanent, but make sure to enter the pool with wet hair and rinse it as soon as you get out.

However you are spending your summer, if you have any questions or queries about your hair, take a look at our hair advice or give our team a call.

Over the past few months, there have been a significant number of reports in the news of people experiencing hair loss after being diagnosed with COVID-19. As a result, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed hair loss as a possible long-term effect of the illness, along with symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and joint pain. 

A study published by the medical journal The Lancet reported that 22% of the patients it had observed suffered from some degree of hair loss six months after falling ill, with women being more affected than men. 

 

Why does COVID-19 cause hair loss? 

 

Although there are several studies linking coronavirus and hair loss, many of the reports we hear about are anecdotal – at the moment, it’s too soon for scientists to officially establish a link between the two. 

However, the type of hair loss that COVID-19 sufferers are reporting seems to be consistent with telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium occurs when more hairs than usual suddenly enter the shedding phase of the hair growth cycle at once, causing a more noticeable amount of hair to shed at once. It’s normal to lose up to 150 hairs per day, but if you spot that you’re losing much more than that – such as clumps coming out when you’re brushing or washing your hair – it could be telogen effluvium. 

Due to the length of the hair cycle, telogen effluvium typically occurs two or three months after a period of significant stress, which can include illnesses such as COVID-19. When undergoing stressful situations, the body puts all its resources into maintaining essential functions only – which, unsurprisingly, does not include hair growth. As a result, you end up with hair loss. 

However, several other conditions can cause hair loss – such as thyroid issues or nutritional deficiencies – so if you are concerned, visit your GP, who can rule out other underlying causes with a simple blood test. 

 

Will my hair grow back after having COVID? 

 

If the hair loss is the result of telogen effluvium, most people will find that the hair will eventually grow back without the need for treatment. Typically, once the trigger or stressor is removed, the hair will grow back on its own. 

If you notice that the hair loss is persisting, there are a number of medical, cosmetic and hair transplant treatments available to help – Crown Clinic offers a range of options to support those struggling with hair loss, so don’t hesitate to get in touch

When performed by a qualified, experienced hair transplant surgeon, hair transplants are a very safe procedure. Hair restoration is a minimally invasive treatment that allows patients to return home the same day, with the procedure only requiring local anaesthetic. 

However, if you undergo a hair transplant abroad – such as in Turkey – the risk attached is much higher. 

 

Risks of hair transplants in Turkey 

 

It’s no secret that undergoing hair transplant surgery in countries such as Turkey is a gamble. Every year, countless patients are reeled in by the low prices and package deals offered by overseas clinics. Many of the clinics boast ‘five-star’ ratings and an active social media presence, duping unsuspecting patients into thinking they are visiting a reputable clinic. Although, when you dig a little deeper, you may discover the reviews are faked and the ‘after’ pictures are heavily edited or taken from other clinics. 

Another trick that patients fall for is believing that a surgeon will be carrying out the procedure, as many of the clinics advertise that a surgeon leads them to convince patients that they are legitimate. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean a surgeon will be carrying out the hair transplant itself. In fact, many clinics hire under-qualified technicians with little training to keep the costs down, only seeking the supervision of a surgeon if the procedure goes wrong. 

Over the years, Crown Clinic has fixed countless botched hair transplants, mainly from overseas clinics. The most common problems that we see are unnatural-looking hairlines and unsightly scarring as the result of the surgery being carried out by unlicensed practitioners. Other risks are infections, as sanitation is often extremely poor at the clinics and damage to the scalp due to the result of the incorrect tools being used to carry out the surgery. 

 

Are there any side effects to having a hair transplant? 

 

If you choose to have a hair transplant in the UK with a reputable surgeon, side effects will be minimal. The hygiene standards will be incredibly high, meaning the risk of infection is negligible, and you will be given clear instructions on how to take care of your scalp after the procedure. Crown Clinic has an excellent aftercare service, offering a day-by-day guide to ensure optimum healing and results.  

Unlike at overseas clinics, where it can be impossible to follow up after the procedure to discuss any concerns related to your hair transplant, Crown Clinic is more than happy to answer any questions you may have during this phase.