Other causes of hair loss
● Hair loss doesn’t just come down to genetics — there are a number of reasons people may lose their hair.
● Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which a person’s own immune system attacks their body’s hair follicles. It often appears as one or several patches, but in severe cases can affect their whole body.
● Hair loss can be a side effect of some medications, medical treatments and illnesses. It can also happen after major surgery, periods of stress, and after people experience sudden shock, such as bereavement. Hair loss in these instances is usually temporary but it can become chronic.
● Excessive hair styling (through straightening or blow-drying) or treatments (such as dying or bleaching) can cause hair loss.
● Hormonal changes or imbalances (that can occur during pregnancy or with some medications) can also cause hair loss.
It’s nature, not nurture
Despite what people may say about hair washing and hat wearing, patterned hair loss is a result of genetic and hormonal factors.
It’s the androgen hormones in our body (produced in different amounts by men and women) that we think make hair follicles shrink and stop growing in people with a genetic susceptibility.
Whether or not this happens in a particular person, at what age it starts, as well as how extensive it will be is determined by the person’s genes.
It’s thought that several genes determine how susceptible you are to losing your hair, and these can come from your mother’s and father’s side of your family.
“It’s how those genes interplay that determines what’s happening in the offspring,” Professor Sinclair says.
“It’s not an all or nothing phenomena — it’s not like brown eyes or blue eyes. It’s a quantitative trait… so the question is not will you go bald, but how much baldness will you get.”
Is there a cure?
In short: no. Hereditary, age-related hair loss is difficult to reverse.
“When you treat people with hair loss, you can stimulate partial regrowth, but you’re generally unlikely to get complete regrowth,” Professor Sinclair says.
While some people use products such as vitamin supplements or herbal remedies to counter hair loss, there is no strong evidence to show these treatments help.
There are, however, some treatments that may help slow or reduce hair loss, or stimulate partial regrowth.
“Either you try and block the [androgen] hormone action in the scalp, or you try and stimulate the hair,” Associate Professor Freeman says.