Hair loss has different causes.
Male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness are the most common form of hair loss. This is due to a hormone, called dihydrotestosterone. This typically starts with a receding hairline, with hair then thinning out around the temples and crown.
Alopecia areata describes patchy hair loss which isn't permanent. Telogen effluvium is the name for alopecia where hair thins across the scalp.
The initial symptoms of hair loss are relatively obvious - however, different types of alopecia have different symptoms.
Medically deemed androgenic alopecia, pattern baldness usually starts around the late 20s/early 30s and typically follows a set pattern (hence the name). Male pattern baldness tends to start with hair receding around the hairline, and then thinning on the crown and temples. Female pattern baldness tends to only affect the top of the head and the crown. This is hereditary, and is caused by the presence of a hormone, related to testosterone. Around 50% of men will be affected.
Alopecia areata affects one or two people in every 100, and begins at a much younger age, usually teenagers and young adults. This results in temporary patches of baldness and in 60% of cases, begins before the age of 20. It is thought to be caused by the immune system, and there is no cure. However, hair will usually grow back within around 12 months.
Telogen effluvium is similar to alopecia areata, but rather than losing patches of hair, sufferers find their hair thins and sheds across the scalp. This is often caused by stress.
Hair loss is also a side effect of chemotherapy - a common treatment for cancer. In most cases, hair will start to return after the course of therapy ends.
There’s no cure for hair loss. But various solutions are available, depending on the severity of the problem. This may range from wigs to special shampoos which may help slow down the process.
Whilst hair shampoo products may help to slow down hair loss, they usually won't promote new hair growth or entirely prevent hair loss.
Many people prefer to opt for a wig to cover baldness. Acrylic wigs mimic real hair, and don't need styling, but will only last 6-9 months. Partial or fully real hair wigs last four to five years, but will need to be set and styled regularly.
For male-pattern baldness, two drugs are available. Finasteride, taken in tablet form, stops the body converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. This in turn stops the hair follicles from shrinking (which would usually push hair out and cause baldness). Finasteride may take up to four months to take effect, and does not work on female pattern baldness.
Minoxidil is a lotion applied directly to the scalp. It can treat both female and male pattern baldness, but again, may take a few months to start working visibly. Minoxidil only works whilst it is being used - after ending treatment, hair will begin to fall out again.
Alopecia areata usually passes within a year. In more severe cases, corticosteroid injections may be used, topical corticosteroids, or immunotherapy, all of which can help stop the immune system attacking and killing hair follicles.
Hair loss surgery, such as a hair transplant, hair implantation, or scalp reduction, may also be considered.
A top hair transplant surgeon has warned men under 30 that they should avoid the procedure.
Hair can start to recede and start to withdraw from the temples and crown at anytime. For some males this process can start as early as the final teenage years, but for the majority of men it happens in their late 20’s and early 30’s.