Types of Hair Loss - Hair Loss & Hair Transplant Surgery Guide

Normal Hair Growth

The hair growth cycle is the process that ensures hair grows normally. On average, there are approximately 100,000 hairs on the head, each living for six to seven years. Therefore, at any one time, each of these 100,000 hairs is in a different stage of its life whether it be old and falling out or a new replacement hair.

There are three key phases in a hair's life, which can be generalized into growth, rest and death. The time that each phase can be observed is rather variable and is highly dependent on the individual's hair and lifestyle. Each separate hair is composed of a protein known as keratin and it grows from a hair follicle. Each of these thousands of hair follicles can produce a number of different hairs during its life.

Normal hair lifecycle

The initial phase of the lifecycle is commonly called the growth phase. This growth period is characterized by the hair growth around 1cm each month for anywhere between two and six years. This phase is the most predominant on someone's head at any one moment in time with an average of 90% of hairs being in growth phase.

Following the growth phase is the rest phase, which is commonly made up of the remainder 10% of the hairs on your head. This phase is significantly shorter than the growth phase as it lasts just two to three months. Throughout the resting stage of the hair's lifecycle, the hair ceases growth as it prepares for the final stage of its life.

The ultimate phase of an individual hair's lifecycle is the death phase. This stage is simply defined by the hair falling out of its follicle. This absence of the hair from the follicle allows for a new hair to start growing and the lifecycle can restart. This death stage can explain the loss of 50 to 100 hairs everyday and with normal growth; these hairs will immediately be replaced.

Types of hair loss

There are a number of different types of hair loss and each can be characterized individually. The various types of loss can be due to completely different factors and depending on the type of hair loss being suffered, it may or may not be possible to rectify the situation to regain a normal hair growth cycle once again. Below you will be able to see a short summary defining each type of common hair loss.

Alopecia Areata

This particular type of hair loss is due to an autoimmune disorder. This is because the immune system does not recognize the hair and fights it just like it would fight an infection, leading to the hair being lost. Alopecia Areata can be an issue for anyone, male or female, and is most commonly observed in childhood. This type of hair loss can further be categorized into three groups – Areata, Totalis and Universalis – which are used to describe the extent of hair loss in order of seriousness, respectively. While there is no cure currently available for Alopecia Areata, there are treatments available to try and control the disease and the treatment used is dependent on whether the hair loss is above or below 50%.

Androgenetic Alopecia

This particular disease causing hair loss is more commonly know as male or female pattern baldness. Androgenetic Alopecia occurs in the vast majority of cases of hair loss and is more prevalent in men than women although both can experience it. However, in women, this disease is more characterized by hair being lost relatively evenly all over the scalp whereas in men, the hair loss is more obvious around the hairline where it then progresses to affect the top of the head. It is most commonly thought that the cause of this Alopecia is the overexpression of the chemical dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and many treatments aim at inhibiting this chemical, such as Procerin.

Anagen Effluvium

This type of hair loss and be seen as a result of exposure to certain chemicals and radiation. It can often be seen as a result of the cancer treatment, chemotherapy as well as introduction to toxins such as arsenic. The hair tends to be lost about three weeks after initial exposure to the chemical or radiation. Anagen Effluvium is a temporary type of hair loss that often only occurs whilst the individual is experiencing the exposure to the offending chemical or radiation. Once treatment has ceased, hair begins to begin a normal growth cycle although the hair may have a different texture and colour.

Self-Induced hair loss

This particular category of hair loss can be due to conscious or subconscious self-removal of the hair. It can be segregated further into two categories, Traction Alopecia and Trichotillomania. Traction Alopecia is often due to constant pulling on the hair an excess amount. It is often a result of styling the hair rigorously and is a relatively gradual process. If done over a long period of time, the hair loss can be permanent as the hair follicle becomes damaged. Alternatively, Trichotillomania is a much more conscious process of self-induced hair loss. It is characterised by the individual pulling out hairs and is two times more prevalent in women than men. This disorder tends to be concentrated on a specific area, such as the eyebrows. The treatment for this type of hair loss generally comes in the form of psychiatric help and counselling.

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen Effluvium is a type of hair loss that results from the sudden onset of stress. The loss of hair is apparent throughout the scalp and can be characterised as general hair thinning on the head. If stress is suddenly experienced it can lead to the hair follicles to cease growing before they normally would and therefore the hair is prematurely placed into the resting state. As this phase of the hair lifecycle lasts a few months, often by the time the hair is actually lost, the stressful event is over. Telogen Effluvium is a temporary type of hair loss, in general, but if the stress is on going it can lead to more serious issues.

Telogen Effluvium has been noted to affect more females and has been linked to experiences such as childbirth. Other events that can sometimes result in Telogen Effluvium are abortion; changing/starting/stopping a contraceptive pill; emotional stress; therapy and diet tablets.