Hair loss is common throughout one’s life, particularly as we grow older, and it can occur for a whole host of reasons, so much so that the main cause can oftentimes be rather elusive. However, androgenic alopecia—or male- or female-pattern baldness as it’s more commonly called—tends to rank high among the most common types of hair loss, affecting approximately 50 million males and 30 million females in the United States alone. At the root of this particular type of hair loss, as well as a couple other types, are hormones. Just as hormones can be the key to maintaining healthy, luscious locks, it would seem that some hormones can have much more devastating effects on hair growth.
The average hair loss rate is about 100 strands a day, but natural hair loss tends to go unnoticed because the cycle of new growth evens it all out. It’s when the hair growth cycle gets interrupted and hair follicles become destroyed or dormant after shedding their last hair that noticeable thinning occurs. While family history (genetics), medical conditions, prescriptions, supplements, stress, and hair care can all play a role in a thinning hairline, most hair loss cases, including those of androgenic alopecia, can be traced back to hormones, specifically dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
A derivative of testosterone, DHT can both help and hinder hair growth. Regardless of gender, about one-tenth of the testosterone produced by the body daily is converted to DHT, which is approximately five-times more potent than testosterone and is responsible for many of the typical male characteristics, including body hair growth. In women, the steroid hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) also increases testosterone and DHT levels (though this isn’t the case for men).
Unfortunately, in many cases, DHT can also impair hair growth via miniaturization. In these instances, an enzyme called type II 5-alpha reductase that is located in hair follicle oil glands converts testosterone to DHT, which can then bind to receptors in your hair follicles, causing them to shrink, weaken, and eventually become inactivated. Over time, healthy hair is unable to survive in the affected hair follicles, leading to long-term increased hair loss and a lack of hair growth.
For the most part, because women have a very small fraction of the amount of testosterone often found in men, women can still experience DHT-triggered hair loss, but it more often appears as thinning rather than a receding hairline that is more typical in males. As well, in women, oestrogen plays a protective role against DHT, encouraging hair to stay in its growth phase, but when oestrogen levels drop during menopause or post-pregnancy, DHT increases and hair loss and thinning result.
Of course, hormone production levels, like hair growth, also follow cycles, which is the main reason men and women experience aging at different rates. For women, hormones shift and change throughout different stages of our lives, including during puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and even with our monthly cycles. For men, testosterone levels tend to decline more gradually, with an average drop of 10% each decade starting in their 30s. Depending on how these hormonal cycles correlate with one’s hair growth cycle, hair loss and thinning may appear to dramatically develop short-term but show signs of slowing down long-term.
However, there is one more significant note to make.
As studies have proven, higher serum levels of DHT aren’t so much to blame as a combination of higher DHT concentrations and genetics. In other words, it’s not the amount of DHT alone that leads to hair loss and baldness, but rather the sensitivity of your hair follicles to DHT, a factor that is determined by genetics. More specifically, the AR gene determines the number of DHT receptors found on hair follicles that interact with the hormone. The more receptors there are, as determined by the AR gene, the more sensitive hair follicles are to DHT. For those who are particularly sensitive then, even lower levels of DHT can result in significant hair loss.
While there are a few ways to adjust hormone production levels, lowering DHT levels alone won’t reverse the effects of DHT-caused hair loss. Those hair follicles that have been rendered inactive are now much less likely to be able to support healthy hair growth moving forward. Instead, treatments via a minimally invasive hair restoration procedure like NeoGraft® will transplant healthy, active hair follicles to those areas affected by hair loss.
NeoGraft® hair restoration treatments utilize an industry-standard, innovative hair restoration method called Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). This method extracts individual hair follicles from a healthy donor site, where hair growth remains thicker—usually the lower-back or sides of the head. Each individual follicle generally contains one to three individual hairs. Follicles are sorted by the number of hairs they contain, then strategically re-implanted in areas showing hair loss and thinning in a way that best represents your natural hairline and hair growth. Results continue to improve in the weeks following the proccedure, with optimal outcomes expected nine to 12 months post-treatment. Finally, because NeoGraft® uses the FUE method, it remains a leader in hair restoration as one of the least invasive solutions for male and female patients experiencing hair loss, with no linear scarring and a faster recovery period for patients.