Oswald Lightsey Mikel

Hair loss, or alopecia, might seem like a more prominent problem in men, but women are nearly as likely to lose hair or have thinning hair.

The average adult head has about 100,000 to 150,000 hairs and loses up to 100 of them a day. Finding a few stray hairs on your hairbrush is not necessarily cause for alarm.

Here are some answers to questions about hair loss:

Q: What causes hair loss?

A: At any one time, about 90 of the hair on a person’s scalp is growing. Each follicle has its own life cycle that can be influenced by age, disease, and a wide variety of other factors such as medications, illness, surgeries and medical treatments, chemicals (like hair dyes and treatments), heredity, or even pregnancy or menopause.

Q: How do I know if there is a concern?

A: If you are distressed or experiencing unusual rapid hair loss, make an appointment with your dermatologist for a consultation and proper treatment.

Sudden and rapid loss of hair may be a sign of a medical condition.

Q: Is hair loss hereditary?

A: It very well can be. Actually, hereditary hair loss with age is the most common cause of baldness.

Q: What signs should I look for?

A: If you find unusual amounts of hair on your pillow upon awakening – or if there are unusual amounts of hair in your brush or comb, it might be a sign of hair thinning.

Also, look for visual clues. For men, hair tends to recede from the forehead or the crown of the head, while women tend to notice thinning on the top third to one half of the scalp.

Women might notice that their part is gradually becoming wider, or they might see more of their scalp than normal when their hair is pulled back.

Q: Is there any way to prevent hair loss?

A: Genetic hair loss is not preventable, however there are a few precautions you might take:

  • Avoid tight hairstyles, such as braids, buns or ponytails.
  • Avoid compulsively twisting, rubbing or pulling your hair.
  • Treat your hair gently when washing and brushing.
  • Avoid harsh treatments such as hot rollers, curling or straightening irons, hot oil treatments and chemical treatments.
  • Avoid medications and supplements that could cause hair loss.
  • Protect your hair from sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light.
  • Stop smoking.

Q: How do I know what treatments are best for me?

A: Effective treatments for some types of hair loss are available. You might be able to reverse hair loss, or at least slow further thinning.

Hair loss can be treated with topical or oral medications, or hair transplants, depending on the cause and type associated with the loss.

Your dermatologist will give you an exam, ask about family history, and possibly perform some tests.

Dr. Oswald Lightsey Mikell, certified by the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, is the owner of Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry.