Dr Sarah Brewer answers your most pressing hair thinning questions
By Dr Sarah Brewer
Hair thinning can be a difficult experience to handle, especially when you feel like you’re going through things alone. But, with many men and women suffering from hair loss at some point in their life, such as during the menopause or prematurely at a younger age, it’s more common than you might think.
Whether you’re experiencing hair thinning right now or want to prepare for future symptoms, Dr Sarah Brewer has answered your hair loss questions below.
I’ve noticed that a substantial amount of my hair has started falling out in the shower. Should I be worried?
“Each of your hair follicles goes through a cycle of growth in which the hair shaft lengthens, followed by a resting phase in which the hair follicle shrinks. The hair then remains at a constant length until it loosens and falls out. Because each hair has its own cycle, you normally lose between 80 and 100 scalp hairs per day.
“Losses greater than this can lead to gradual thinning, especially after middle age when the rate of hair growth tends to slow and the hairs you produce are both finer and shorter. Do seek advice from your doctor who can check whether a medical condition such as a hormone imbalance, under-active thyroid or iron-deficiency anaemia is involved.
“Avoid excess stress, which can trigger hair loss, and try using caffeine hair products that can reduce hair loss and thinning for women during and after the menopause.”
My hair has permanently snapped off from either side of my fringe after having my kids so I’ve got gaps that I’m forever trying to cover. Will it ever grow back and what can I do to make sure no more snaps off?
“Thinning side panels are surprisingly common and something I experienced myself after having twins. Gently massaging the area with your fingers can stimulate blood flow to nourish hair follicles and a good multivitamin and mineral supplement designed to support hair growth is important too.
“I started using a caffeine shampoo when I read research which showed that caffeine applied to the scalp can stimulate hair growth. Caffeine shampoos like Plantur 39 travel into hair follicles to improve blood circulation and inhibit the production of a hormone (DHT) which can switch off scalp hair follicles in both men and women. I wasn’t expecting miracles, but within a couple of months I realised my hair side panels had appeared to fill out and seemed to be growing longer.”
My hair has started thinning as I’ve reached my 50s. Is this normal and what can I do to avoid it as I get older?
“During the menopause, millions of women suffer from thinning hair as a result of changing hormone levels. Falling oestrogen levels mean that the small amount of testosterone you make has a relatively greater effect on your hair roots, switching off hair follicles.
“Your hair can become thinner and fall out prematurely, so your scalp becomes visible and your hairline recedes. Whether or not you are affected, and to what extent, is down to the genes you have inherited.”
Parts of my hair are thinner in patches. Why has this happened and what can I do to fix it?
“Patchy hair loss can result from hormone imbalances, or from a condition know as alopecia in which certain hair follicles stop growing. The most common form is alopecia areata in which bald patches develop on the scalp. The exact cause is unknown, but it is thought to result from an over-active immune system attacking certain hair follicles.
“Stress can also play a role as it reduces blood supply to the scalp. Other factors that have been linked with patchy hair loss are lack of vitamin D, iron deficiency and an under-active thyroid gland. Do see your doctor if you have alopecia, but if you have general thinning without bald patches, caffeine containing hair products may help.”