What Causes Hair Loss and How to Reverse It

If you’ve noticed your hair is falling out, or maybe your hairline is receding, you are not alone.

It seems like losing your hair, like many health issues impacting men, today, is discussed in hushed tones, as if it is something to be ashamed of.

We’re here to tell you, it’s not. Hair loss is one of those things that hits a man’s confidence hard, and we get it. 

It’s said that 66% of men in the United States will experience androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness by the age of 35. And by the age of 50, 85% of men will experience significant thinning hair.[1]

On one hand, you may be thinking, thirty-five, but that’s so young! And you’re right, it is. On the other, is there anything you can do about it? The answer is yes.

Through technology and research, we understand male pattern baldness and hair loss more than ever before.

But before we get into hair loss treatments, let’s dive into why you’re losing your hair in the first place.

Many experts will agree that hair loss comes down to these main factors: genetics, hormones, diet, and stress.

  • Male pattern baldness usually has a very distinct shape— a receding hairline shaped like an M. Over time, that area will go bald, but you’ll still have hair on the sides and back. Male pattern baldness is thought to be caused by genetics or having baldness run in the family, but it can be caused by many different factors.
  • Stress has significant impacts on the body, especially your hair. When we’re stressed, we release Cortisol, a hormone that helps our body deal with that stress. While Cortisol isn’t inherently bad for us, when we’re stressed over extended periods of time we have higher levels of Cortisol, which can wreak havoc on hair growth.

Constantly high cortisol can cause up to a 40 percent drop in hyaluronic acid and proteoglycan synthesis.[2] These two compounds protect your hair follicles and help them grow; when they’re depleted, your hair begins falling out.

  • Hormonal imbalances also cause hair loss. The thyroid gland is a vital part of hormonal health in the body. It helps with metabolism, body temperature, cholesterol levels, and, you guessed it, your hair. Your thyroid hormones bind directly to receptors in the base of your hair follicles, controlling hair growth.[3] The thyroid can also start and stop new hair growth.[4]

When you have a thyroid imbalance, such as an over-producing thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an under-producing thyroid (hypothyroidism) the body can be thrown into a tailspin—and both imbalances can cause your hair to fall out.

 And since your body is a connected system, when you are overstressed and there is an overproduction of cortisol in the body it inhibits thyroid-stimulating hormone (hypothyroidism), and without getting into the complicated science of it all, basically, this leads to not enough energy for your cells to grow hair.

Then on the other hand, we have testosterone and its cousin, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can also drive hair loss. Enzymes in your hair follicles convert testosterone to DHT, and high DHT in your hair follicles causes them to shed by shrinking the follicles until the hair eventually falls out.

  • Your diet can impact whether you have a full head of hair. In fact, if your diet mostly consists of fried chicken and beer (no judgments), you may be depriving your body of vital nutrients that allow you to keep your hair healthy and full.

So what are some treatments for hair loss? We’ve curated the hair loss treatments, below, based on clinical study and/or potential. As always, we encourage going the less invasive route first, but if you need something more aggressive, there are great surgical options as well.

 

1. Reduce Stress

If you want to reduce the stress hormone Cortisol, you have to reduce your stress. Period. One easy way to do this is to practice meditation and mindfulness. I know, but I don’t know how to meditate.

The good news is, there are tons of apps an websites that can help you, even if you’ve never done it before. In fact, Headspace is one great app that has meditations for every situation, for every experience level.

But if meditation is just too new-age for you, you can stick to the tried and true stress reducer by hitting the gym. Exercising regularly increases your feel-good endorphins, reduces body fat, and will also reduce cortisol levels.

 

2. Propecia

The gold standard of all hair loss treatments in the last few decades, Finasteride (commonly known as Propecia) is typically the first line of defense that doctors prescribe to men experiencing hair loss. 

Propecia works by reducing the production of Dihydrotestosterone, or DHT by as much as 60 percent. Remember, DHT will reduce the size of your hair follicles, which will weaken them until they eventually die. This process is called 'miniaturization,' and it can lead to the complete end of hair growth in the DHT-affected hair follicles.

Caution: Propecia does not come without its risks. The most notable side effect is erectile dysfunction, which can last for years following use. Consult with your doctor to determine if it is worth the risk. 

 

3. Rogaine (Minoxidil)

You’ve most likely seen those ads on TV for Rogaine, and its seemingly magical ability to grow back your hair. Rogaine is over the counter hair loss treatment that comes in a liquid or foam.

The active ingredient in Rogaine, minoxidil, is FDA-approved to slow hair loss by stimulating the growth of new hair. It’s also been proven to relax blood vessels, making it easier for blood to flow to your scalp and hair follicles.

Results will take time and vary, but many men experience thicker hair than before they started Rogaine treatment. The downside to Rogaine treatment is that it is a topical application, and can affect the way you style your hair.

 

4. Shampoo

Shampoos like Nizoral have been touted for years as one of the top three treatment options for hair loss, alongside Propecia and Rogaine.

Nizoral contains an antifungal substance called Ketoconazole, which helps with dandruff but has also been found to have anti-androgen properties that block the conversion of Testosterone to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Ketoconazone has been scientifically linked to an improvement in hair growth, making it worth adding to your hair loss prevention routine. A study in 1998 [5] found that Ketoconozone 2% worked as well as minoxidil therapy (Rogaine).

 

5. Oils

Oil treatments for hair loss are a great all-natural alternative to shampoos and creams. Peppermint oil and rosemary oil are two great examples with some promising studies. Other oils that have been suggested to help with hair growth include lavender oil, cedarwood oil, tea tree oil, and many more.

Peppermint oil, in one study on mice found it increased the number of follicles, their depth, and promoted overall hair growth.

 In another study, researchers found that Rosemary oil performed just as well as minoxidil, but without the itchy scalp, which can be a side effect of minoxidil.   

And using these oils as a treatment couldn’t be easier. Most require 2 drops in a ‘carrier oil’ like olive oil or coconut oil, apply to the scalp for 10-minutes and wash out with shampoo. Do this twice a week for optimal results.

 

6. Foods

We’ve talked at length at Anti-Aging Practice about diet and the benefits it holds for anti-aging— diet can help lengthen your Telomeres, and it can help you stay younger, longer by helping increase your Human Growth Hormone. But what we haven’t said about your beer-belly is that it may also contribute to losing your hair.

A poor diet can lead to vitamin deficiencies, which can be directly tied to hair thinning and loss. Some of the best anti-hair loss foods include iron-rich foods, like lean beef, beans, green leafy vegetables, and eggs. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (wild-caught salmon anyone?) have also been shown to help with hair growth.

But just as there are foods you should eat, there are also certain foods you should try to avoid, because they're known to increase inflammation and encourage the production of DHT.

Foods containing trans fatty acids (vegetable oil), sugar, and high glycemic index foods like bread should be consumed at a minimum if you’re worried about you’re luscious locks.

 

7. Supplements

Even with a balanced diet, sometimes supplements can provide that extra little boost for your hair health.

For hair growth, one study found that vitamin D stimulates hair follicles to grow, so when the body is deficient in vitamin D it can inhibit hair from growing. Studies have also shown that a vitamin D deficiency may also be linked to alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that causes patchy hair loss.

Doctors recommend 2,000 IU of Vitamin D3 every day. It is ideal to get natural sunlight every day but if you live in a cold environment and are not able to get natural sunlight daily, take a vitamin.

Another supplement you might want to consider taking is a B-complex such as B7, which helps thicken hair, and B5 which supports adrenal health (low cortisol).

Saw Palmetto is another clinically proven and recognized potent natural anti-DHT inhibitor, and prevents conversion of Testosterone to Dihydrotestosterone.

  

8. Hair Transplant

Hair transplants are the best fix, by far, for losing your hair, but they are also the most expensive and invasive.

There are two main procedures used on the market today— Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT). Both procedures work similarly, taking follicles from the sides and back of the heads, which have shown to be more DHT resistant than the top of the head and then transplanting to the recipient area.

FUE is considered the gold standard procedure, though it does come with a heavier price tag. Different from FUT, which takes a strip of hair from one area and dissects individual or groups of follicles to be implanted, FUE takes individual follicles and places each of them in the impacted area.  

Caution: Do your research! If you’re considering a hair transplant, make sure you thoroughly check out the doctor’s before and after photos, and have them walk you through the procedure, taking note whether they put an emphasis on natural-looking results.

 

9. Dermarolling (Microneedling)

Doesn’t sound too pleasant, but dermarolling or microneedling first gained notoriety in the 90s as a scar treatment but has since been discovered as a method that can stimulate hair growth. While the research is still inconclusive, some have experienced positive results using this technique.

Dermarolling uses a roller with small, sterile micro-needles that cause minor injuries, or ‘micro-injuries’ as it’s rolled across the skin. As the skin heals, the concentration of growth factors and stem cells in the scalp can promote hair production.

Caution: Given this form of treatment has still yet to conclude its efficacy, make sure you consult a professional—using at-home rollers can lead to scarring if not done properly, as well as loss of hair.

 

10. PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma)

In clinical studies, PRP has shown various benefits showing improved hair count, hair thickness and growth phase of the hair cycle [6]. 

A doctor carries out the PRP procedure for hair regrowth by first drawing blood from the arm, after which the blood is put into a centrifuge and spun around to separate the red blood cells from the plasma. The doctor then injects the plasma, which contains the platelets, into areas of the scalp that are thinning.

While anyone suffering from hair loss is a good candidate for PRP treatments, PRP is best suited for patients with early stages of hair loss. PRP treatments will not regrow hair in bald areas where the hair follicles have already gone dormant.

Note: It takes several PRP sessions to notice a significant difference in your hair growth. PRP will also be need to be administered on a frequent basis for long-term benefits. PRP must be administered by a professional, and the costs can add up quickly. 

 

Hair loss is not something to be taken lightly—it can have a profound impact on how a man presents himself to the world, impacting his confidence and relationships.

At Anti-Aging Practice, we always encourage working your way from the inside out—start with your internal health as much as possible and then incorporate external elements.

Once you’ve started eating well, exercising, and reducing stress, then consider external treatment options. And always do your research, and only do what works for you for long-term success.

 

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