Why is my hair thinning?

Redken breaks down the most frequently asked questions about thinning hair and hair loss

How does hair thin?

Hair grows in three cycles. Anagen is the actively growing phase, and hair spends 5-7 years in this stage. Then, it transitions through what is called catagen phase, which lasts 3 weeks, to the resting or telogen phase, which lasts 3 months.

Think of your hair follicles as little workhorses. You want them to spend as much time in the anagen phase as possible. However with male and female pattern hair loss, the follicles become lazy. They want to spend more and more time resting in telogen and less time growing in anagen. As the time hairs spend in anagen shortens, hair may appear to shed more. This is because the hairs are essentially turning over more rapidly.

There is another important difference in the quality of the new hairs. Instead of being as thick as the previous hairs, they are being replaced by thinner, finer versions of themselves. This is a process called miniaturisation. The combined result is then two-fold—not only are the hairs less thick, but they stay in the actively growing phase for shorter periods of time. As the owner of these hairs, you are getting less and less bang for your buck!

Without any treatment, male and female pattern hair loss can be chronic and progressive. This means that the hairs will continue to thin and that the amount of time they are in the actively growing phase will continue to shorten. Overall hair density, which refers to both the thickness of hairs, as well as the number of hairs per square centimeter, will diminish.  

How does hair thin so quickly?

The rate of thinning is difficult to predict. Some may present with a rapid thinning over 6-12 months, while others may develop thinning slowly over a decade or more. This is also determined largely by genetics. For many people, their hair loss is unmasked by some major physiologic event such as having a baby or going on a crash diet

How often should I wash my hair? Won’t washing more often make it fall out more?

You should wash the hair often enough to prevent the buildup of dandruff or oily residue. People at the early stages of male or female pattern hair loss are often afraid to wash their hair, because each time the manipulation of the hair seems to result in more fallout. What’s important to realise is that once you begin therapy (topical minoxidil) the shedding should improve, regardless of how often you wash your hair. It is actually better to optimise scalp hygiene in order to remove sebum and help improve the penetration of the topical minoxidil.

Can wearing a hat make hair loss worse?

No, there is no evidence that wearing a hat will worsen hair loss. In fact, if you suffer from thinning hair, it is a great idea to wear a hat. This protects your scalp from unwanted ultraviolet light that may cause pre-cancers (actinic keratoses) or skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma) on the scalp. Men and women with thinning hair are already at an increased risk of skin cancer on their pate because they have less coverage to protect their skin from the harmful effects of UV rays.

What is the difference between hair thickening products and products designed for hair growth?

Hair thickening products coat the hair shaft directly, and can result in an instant increase in volume and fullness. These products will help to instantly increase the volume of the hair. Hair growth products are applied to the scalp, where they send a molecular signal directly to the hair follicle. It takes many months of continuous use to affect the hairs as they grow out.

How can I tell if these products are working for me?

The first sign will be a decrease in the amount of hair shedding after the first 3-6 months of use. It may be helpful for you to take baseline and standardized photographs to document your progress.

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