Whether it’s a slow realization or a sudden awareness, discovering that you’re losing your hair is a difficult event. Every hair on the pillow or on the floor of the shower comes back to haunt you, and you’re at a loss for what to do. Fortunately, there’s steps you can take to slow – or sometimes even stop – your hair loss.
What Causes Bald Spots?
Men don’t have the monopoly on bald spots; women can have them, too! Everyone is at risk for developing a bald spot at some time in their lives, for a variety of reasons. However, some people are at a higher risk than others.
The most common cause of bald spots in both men and women is the hormone dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. Both men and women produce DHT, but some people have higher levels of DHT than others. Male pattern baldness (MPB), also called androgenic alopecia, results from a combination of DHT and variation in the androgen receptor (AR) genes. Androgen receptors allow hormones like DHT to bind to them, and men with AR genes tend towards male pattern baldness. (01)
High levels of DHT can damage or shrink hair follicles, preventing hair from growing normally. The hair follicles most sensitive to DHT are located at the hairline and at the crown, which is why these areas are often the first to experience hair loss. And although DHT can also cause hair loss in women,
But it’s not just DHT that can cause bald spots. Other factors that trigger hair loss are: (02)
- Severe emotional stress
- Physical stress or illness
- Hormonal Shifts
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Hairstyling products
- Repeated physical trauma (tight hats or headbands)
The First Signs of Balding
If bald spots or male pattern baldness runs in your family, you’ve probably been on the lookout for hair loss for awhile now. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if it’s really a bald spot or just a bad hair day. Here are a few signs that you may be experiencing bald spots or male pattern baldness:
A Receding Hairline
Hair loss typically starts at the hairline. A receding hairline may occur so slowly that you might not notice it until you have something to compare it against. For example, you might spot your receding hairline when you start looking at old photos and see that your hairline looks different today. Your hair loss may occur incrementally, making it tougher to see.
Reduction in hair thickness
Do you notice less hair on top? Does your hair feel different when you run your fingers through it? If your hair feels finer and more airy, then it might be due to male pattern baldness or hair loss.
Loss of hair at the crown
A growing crown area is one of the first signs of hair loss, especially male pattern baldness. Most people don’t look at the back of their head, so seeing differences in your crown can be challenging. Check your crown every so often using two mirrors to check for bald spots.
How Can I Manage Hair Loss?
Experiencing balding or male pattern baldness is tough, but you do have options. The following are steps you can take to slow down hair loss.
Surgical treatments are typically reserved for advanced cases of balding or male pattern baldness. A hair transplant, for example, is an outpatient surgery that utilizes donor hair follicles. These donor follicles are implanted into sparse or bald areas, allowing new hair to grow. These implants, called follicular unit transplantation (FUT) or follicular unit extraction (FUE), leave little to no scarring. The donor follicles typically come from your own head, but the process still requires recovery time and post-surgical care. (03)
Because surgical options are invasive, there are contraindications that may keep some people from obtaining FUT or FUE treatments, like blood disorders or the tendency toward heavy scarring (keloids). Furthermore, surgery may result in adverse side-effects like swelling, folliculitis, numbness, and infection. (04)
A scalp reduction is exactly as the name implies. To perform scalp reduction, areas of the scalp without hair are surgically removed, and the areas with hair are stretched to fill over the bald portions. If you’re wondering how much of the scalp can be removed, you might be surprised to find that scalp reduction can remove up to half of the scalp.
The skin that’s meant to be stretched is prepared and loosened, prior to stretching gently. Scalp reduction may be combined with other treatments such as FUT or FUE treatments. Some people find the recovery period from scalp reduction surgery highly uncomfortable, due to a scalp tightness that lasts for a few months as skin adjusts. Hairline lowering surgery, for example, is a kind of scalp reduction surgery. To lower the hairline, the receding portion is removed and the portion with hair is pulled forward. (05)
A procedure called platelet-rich plasma (PRP) uses an individual’s blood and separates out the plasma using a centrifuge. This platelet-rich plasma (hence the name) is then injected into bald patches and areas of thinning hair. The plasma stimulates growth and repairs damaged blood vessels, helping hair to regrow. Although effective, the PRP process is very involved, costly, and is the newest hair loss treatment option, therefore more research is still necessary to evaluate the ideal therapeutic levels. (06)
Scalp micro-pigmentation creates the look of thicker hair through the application of pigmentation that appears like hair follicles. The process includes stippling a tattoo in small dots to mimic hair follicles. Men who have thinning hair or shave their head short are the ideal candidates for scalp micro-pigmentation. However, micro-pigmentation does not grow new hair, nor is it recommended for people with large bald spots or who have major hair loss and wish to regrow hair. (07)
Least Intrusive Procedures
Once you see the signs of male pattern baldness or bald spots, it might warrant considering the least intrusive method for managing hair loss. Medicinal treatments like minoxidil and finasteride are two FDA approved medications for hair loss. When used together, minoxidil and finasteride can slow – or even stop – hair loss and regrow hair. Better yet, when minoxidil and finasteride are customized for each individual, common side-effects can be avoided.
Dealing with Bald Spots or Male Pattern Baldness: What to Choose?
How you manage your hair loss depends entirely on what’s best for your situation. Bald spots and male pattern baldness can be a distressing event, and making a choice isn’t easy. Talk to people you know who have opted for hair loss treatments and get some perspective. Determine what’s financially feasible and speak to professionals to evaluate with options that will work with your health and lifestyle. At Happy Head, we’re ready to answer any questions you may have about our hair loss products. Let’s talk!