Ongoing hair loss is normal, to some extent. Most people lose up to 150 hairs per day without any obvious sign of thinning since new hair is continually growing to replace it. However, a variety of conditions and medications can lead to excessive—and sometimes permanent— hair loss that affects men, women and children.
Some hair loss is related to specific, treatable diseases or chronic medical conditions. Thyroid disease and hormonal imbalances can lead to hair loss, and treating the underlying condition often results in hair regrowth.
In other cases, hair loss is permanent. Most commonly, men develop increasingly thin hair due to the inherited trait linked to ‘androgenetic alopecia,’ or male-pattern baldness. Women who carry the same gene may experience noticeably thinning hair, especially on the top and front of the head.
“It’s a vicious cycle. If you have the genetic component or the medication component, and you start to see thinning hair or balding patches on the scalp, you start to get stressed,” says Lilibet Iken, owner of Be Salon and Hair Restoration. “So no matter what you’re doing proactively, stress can feed into it and actually make your hair get thinner faster.” Iken worked as a psychiatric nurse and says her medical background helps her treat clients from both a physical and emotional standpoint.
Thinning hair is best treated when caught early. “The reality is that if they catch it very soon, they’ll be able to keep the hair they have; and the earlier they catch it, obviously the better the results,” says Heather Heintz of New Generation Hair and Skin Center.
Both Iken and Heintz offer low-level laser therapy to restore hair volume, and both emphasize the importance of a thorough evaluation prior to treatment. “We consider any medications, any treatments or illnesses that they’re being treated for, how their overall health is, etc.” Heintz says. “For about 85 percent of people dealing with hair loss, it is genetic, and that’s actually what the laser works best for.”
The scalp is examined under magnification to determine whether hair follicles are still viable. If hair is evident from a follicle—even if it is extremely short and thin—the laser can help to restore the follicle’s production of thicker hair strands. Researchers are studying whether lasers could be used to reactivate dormant follicles.
“We deal with cold lasers that are actually healing lasers,” Iken says. “They came out of the ’60s as a way to heal diabetic tissue. You want to get oxygen to the tissue so it can heal from the inside out, and they noticed that when they came out with the cold lasers a side effect was that they grew hair.”
Clients sit under a laser hood that looks similar to an old-fashioned hair dryer for 30 minutes twice a week. Treatments continue for several months, up to a year, and clients supplement the laser sessions with products that block the androgenetic hormone responsible for additional hair loss, Iken says.
“Our goal—if we can reach people early enough—is that they’ll be able to use the laser therapy to keep their hair,” Heintz says. “If you’re concerned with hair loss, don’t wait. Do something about it.”