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Ep 73: Demystifying Hair Loss Treatments- What Works and What Doesn’t
This week’s podcast episode is a masterclass sponsored by L’Oreal Paris, the beauty giant behind the latest Full Resist Anti-Hair Fall range. Backed by evidence-based ingredients researched by hair scientists, this range of hair care specifically targets ongoing cell processes involved in hair loss. I discuss Aminexil®, the star patented ingredient by L’Oreal Paris that has been proven to help prevent thickening of collagen around the hair follicles- a phenomenon known as hair miniaturization, that occurs in genetic-type hair loss.
We start with the commonest causes of hair fall seen in a dermatologist practice. Including male and female pattern hair loss, stress-related hair fall such as telogen effluvium, as well as rarer causes due to auto-immune disease such as alopecia areata. Underlying medical conditions such as nutritional deficiencies as well as thyroid disease can also contribute to hair fall.
Tune in to this week’s episode to learn all about the science of beautiful hair. Join me as we discover how to harness the latest scientific discoveries to achieve a healthy scalp and luscious hair.
Defining hair loss
We can define hair fall as an increase in shedding beyond what is normal. This normal can vary from individual to individual. Generally, dermatologists recommend that if you are losing more than 100 strands of hair a day, we consider this as normal. However, for certain ethnic types such as Asians, we have slightly less dense hair than other ethnicities. Hence, you may not even have to lose up to 100 strands in order to experience thinning hair.
Signs of hair loss
What are the signs to look out for if you suspect that you have hair loss? You can observe increase in hair fall in the drain when showering, on the pillowcase, or on the floor while you’re working. All these can be signs of an increase in hair shedding. The most telltale sign to look out for is actually thinning of your ponytail. Both men and women may also notice that they have thinning of hair at the vertex, the top of the head
For men, you may notice receding hairlines. If you notice specific spots of baldness on your scalp, this could be a sign of a type of hair loss problem- alopecia areata. This requires prompt medical attention. This is as it is an autoimmune disease that can spread rapidly, leading to worsening hair fall in a short period of time. However, most types of hair fall do not fall into this category. This will be the focus of our talk today.
Common causes of hair fall
We are zooming in on the commonest causes of hair fall. These include stress related hair fall, also known as telogen effluvium, as well as genetic hair loss, known as androgenetic alopecia. We’re going to start with telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is a medical term for a type of hair loss that can progress very rapidly. We usually associate this with a traumatic event. For example, you may experience hair fall after pregnancy, known as postpartum hair loss. You may also experience worsening hair fall after you’ve recovered from an illness. There has been talk on COVID-19 related hair fall as well. While it is likely a part of its attribute towards telogen effluvium, as COVID-19 is a fairly new disease, it is also important to consider that there may be other mechanisms involved as well.
Male and female pattern hair loss
For androgenetic alopecia, or male and female pattern hair loss, we observe it primarily in individuals who are slightly older. While it is possible to have it as early as your late teens or early 20s, the majority of patients who experience genetic hair loss start observing the first signs of hair loss in their late 30s onwards. The telltale signs include a specific pattern of distributio: thinning at the top of the head. For men, recession of the headline, as well as a family history of genetic hair loss. As it is predominantly driven by the male hormone testosterone, you may find that it is more prominent in males.
However, it is important to realize that individuals without a family history can also have genetic hair loss. Essentially, what happens in androgenetic alopecia is that your scalp receptors are particularly sensitive to circulating testosterone. Even females have circulating testosterone. There is no suggestion that there is hormonal imbalance for people who suffer from androgenetic alopecia. However, for women who also have other symptoms such as acne, irregular periods, it may be helpful to visit a gynecologist to rule out other gynecological conditions that could contribute to hormone imbalance. For example, polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Hair loss treatments that don’t work
What helps in hair loss? I’m going to start with what doesn’t help. Hair supplements have been widely promoted as a very attractive therapy for individuals who experience hair loss. After all, we are likely to believe that what we orally ingest is going to be more potent than what what we apply. However, the science tells us that oral supplementation especially for hair loss, is most of the time a marketing gimmick. I have attached a link to certain studies in the podcast transcript. These consists of systematic reviews published in peer-reviewed journals of the value of such supplements in the treatment of hair loss.
The truth is, in most parts of the developed world, we do not suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Hence, nutritional deficiency-related hair loss is incredibly rare. However, if you have anemia, which can be caused by loss of blood, for example, during heavy menstruation, it will be reflected on the initial blood tests your dermatologist will order for you when you first get evaluated for hair loss. Thyroid disorders like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can all contribute to hair loss. These will all show up on your blood tests.
Do hair supplements work as hair loss treatments?
Hair supplements touting specific micronutrients may help to an extent. That is, only if you are deficient in that nutrient, it will correct a deficiency. However, if you are living in a developed country with access to a regular diet, it is highly unlikely that you are nutritionally deficient.
Hair loss treatments that work
What works in hair loss is actually fairly limited. This is why dermatologists generally recommend a variety of treatment options that work together to enhance the effects of therapy. In genetic hair loss, for example, there is essentially an imbalance between the amount of hair that’s falling out, as well as the hair that is growing. However, the most critical thing here is that the new hair that grows out is what we call miniaturized hair. What happens in half miniaturization is essentially thickening of collagen around the hair follicle. This is exactly what Aminexil®, a patented ingredient by the L’Oreal group helps to target.
This star product of the Full Resist Anti Hair Fall range stimulates the scalp to encourage the growth of thicker and stronger hair that is resistant to breakage. This ampoule contains 1.5% of research-backed anti hair loss ingredient Aminexil®.
The value of targeted therapy for hair regrowth treatment is enhanced in genetic hair loss. This is simply because there’s not very much you can do once it has started. Hair transplantation is fairly invasive. Even after the hair transplant, one may still observe ongoing genetic hair loss that requires maintenance treatment as well. On top of that, we are familiar with minoxidil. This was initially an antihypertensive medication. It was found to have a side effect of inducing hair growth, also known as hypertrichosis. The downside of minoxidil is that it can cause scalp irritation and dandruff.
Especially in tropical Singapore, it is common for individuals to suffer from both genetic hair loss as well as dandruff. The reason is that the excess oil that accumulates in individuals with genetic hair loss is very conducive for the growth of a type of yeast – Malassezia Furfur. Malassezia Furfur causes separate dermatitis colloquially known as dandruff. It is important to have a board-certified dermatologist evaluate you for an accurate diagnosis.
There are several mimics of genetic hair loss that are actually not genetic hair loss and would require medical interventions. An example is a rare form of hair loss- frontal fibrosing alopecia. To illustrate, this is when you notice your hairline getting more and more receded. This is unlike genetic hair loss because it leads to a scar. Scarring alopecia is a term dermatologists use to describe a type of hair loss where the hair follicles have essentially scarred over and have died.
Aside from nourishing the hair roots and long tresses, scalp care is also crucial to maintaining healthy roots and hair. Hence, L’Oréal Paris Full Resist Anti Hair Fall treatment also includes a winning combination of Caffeine, which enhances hair vitality, anti-dandruff ingredient OCT that reduces scalp itching, and well-known antioxidant Vitamin E to reduce oxidative stress.
Haircare as hair loss treatments
The good news is that using haircare is a generally good strategy for most individuals who suffer from stress-related hair fall, weakened hair strands because of poor care of the hair shaft, as well as genetic hair loss. The L’Oreal Paris range contains evidence-based ingredients researched by their scientists. These specifically target ongoing processes that lead to poor quality as well as worsening genetic hair loss
The L’Oréal Paris Full Resist Anti Hair Fall range emphasises a three-step hair care routine that includes a Full Resist Ampoule, a Scalp Purifying Shampoo, and a Hair Detangling Conditioner. With the range’s 3x Anti Hair Fall Technology, L’Oréal Paris unleashes its winning patented ingredient Aminexil®, an ingredient that helps prevent the hardening of the collagen structure of the hair follicle.
This podcast episode is sponsored by L’Oréal Paris Singapore as a joint collaboration to create scientific educational content relevant to skincare and dermatology. Images produced as part of editorial collaboration consistent with site policy.