Why are you losing your hair when your parents haven’t lost theirs?

General Hair Loss

Hair loss in families can be genetic. The chances of becoming bald or having thinning hair is higher for those who have a member of the family with this condition, however the family member does not necessarily have to be one of your parents.

Losing your hair is not an illness but can cause distress. In today’s society there is much emphasis on the way a person looks as well as the fashion trends to be followed. Hair styles have become an important factor in these trends and when they cannot be followed it has been seen to cause stress, embarrassment and lack of self-confidence.

Male pattern hair loss, Androgenetic alopecia, as it is known in men can start at any age even in their teens. It starts with a receding hair line and ends either in complete baldness or a horse shoe shape bald shape on the crown with healthy hair round the sides and at the back. For women the hair normally thins and does not follow the same pattern as men.

Hair growth follows a particular pattern and it is when this is upset that hair loss can occur. There are three phases in hair growth, the anagen, catagen and telogen phase. The anagen phase is the growth phase when hair roots develop in the follicles. Hair grows about a centimetre every 28 days and will continue to grow for up to 7 years. Around 80 to 90 per cent of hair is in this phase at any one time. At the end of this phase the hair stops growing and enters the catagen phase, or he transition phase. This will last for around 2 to 4 weeks. The hair stops receiving blood supplies and the follicle starts to shrink. Around 2 to 3 per cent of hair is in this phase at any one time. Finally, the telogen phase or resting phase is when hair is lost and new hair can start to grow. Hair is normally lost at a rate of 50 to 100 hairs a day.

With genetic hair loss, these phases are interrupted and hair that is lost will not grow back. The main culprit is the male hormone testosterone which is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase and hinders hair growth. The hair follicles eventually shrink and can no longer hold hair. This is when thinning and hair loss can be seen.

When genetics are talked about it does not have to be from one generation to the next, it could be from one, two, three or more generations ago. If hair loss in this pattern is noticed and both parents have a good head of hair it is worth looking back through the family history to see if there are signs of hair loss in previous generations. Hair can be lost through a variety of reasons and it is important to understand why. Stress, illness and medication are common causes and the difference with these types of hair loss is the fact that more often than not hair does grow back once the condition is rectified.

There are a number of self-help ways to keep hair in good condition such as a good balanced diet, exercise, head massage and sleep are just a few. Hair loss can be the first sign of an underlying problem and should always be checked.

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