Baldness is an unpleasant reality for the millions of men and women who notice that they are living the phrase, “Hair today and gone tomorrow.” While the average person will lose between 50 to 100 hairs per day, and even though some thinning is bound to occur as a normal part of the aging process, the onset of baldness can be anything from irritating to traumatic. The causes for this frequent phenomenon are many and varied.
For men, the most common form of hair loss can be blamed on male pattern baldness (MPB). This is responsible for over 95 percent of hair loss in men, and is largely a factor of genetics. Many men are afflicted with MPB, and balding usually progresses from the peak to the crown of one’s head. Hair on the sides and back, oddly enough, will often remain untouched. Geneticists now believe that a man can best judge his risk of MPB by looking at the baldness history of his maternal grandfather.
For women, Female Pattern Baldness (FPB) is the most common cause of hair loss. As with MPB, it is determined by one’s genetics. The difference between FPB and MPB is that a woman’s hair tends to thin over her entire head, rather than following the male pattern of loss. Loss might be more prevalent on the very top of her head.
The genetics of hair loss involve the production of hormones that prevent the body from replacing hair lost via normal shedding. For both men and women, this is known as androgenetic alopecia. Genetics and hormones are not the sole reasons one might go bald, however. Skin conditions that cause scarring on the scalp, as well as certain autoimmune disorders, can sometimes be the culprit in losing one’s locks.
A person may also suffer hair loss from external factors. Large amounts of stress, a traumatic experience, an overwhelming emotional upset, or disease can lead to balding. On the same token, those who engage in extreme diet plans or have poor nutritional habits can endure the same fate. Having surgery can alter the body’s natural rhythms, resulting in baldness. Luckily, in many of these instances, the hair will begin to grow back when the stress is removed, the disease healed, or the diet returned to a healthy state.
Baldness can be brought on by medications – particularly those used to combat high blood pressure or heart problems. Antidepressants and birth control pills also contribute to the risk. Finally, and especially for women, hairstyles such as cornrows or the use of tight curlers can lead to hair loss. This pulling of the hair, known as traction alopecia, can scar the scalp if done too frequently, and lead to permanent baldness. The chemicals used in permanents and hot oil treatments can have the same effect.