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What is alopecia?

Alopecia, also called baldness is a physiological process that involves a premature hair loss and the inability to grow it back. It is most noticeable on the scalp, although it can be presented in any body part where hair grows. Today, up to a 25 % of dermatology consultations are related to baldness, and this is no longer a problem that affects only men since female alopecia has remarkably increased over the past years. A small percentage of women between 20 and 30 years old, and a 30% of women between 40 and 60 suffer from this problem.

As we get older, both men and women lose hair density. Men develop a typical form of baldness associated to the presence of testosterone (a male hormone); as for women, the baldness form is a rather vaguer. Hair loss tends to be gradual and limited to head hair.

The typical hereditary baldness affects 25% of men under 30, and 50% of men under 60. Around 94 to 96 % of all white, adult men present a badly receding hairline, and almost 50% of them is destined to lose their hair on the forehead and the back of the head if they don’t do anything to stop it. Black and Asian men present a lower degree of baldness.

We must consider that the number of hairs an adult person has is around 100,000 and that each hair has several growth cycles. The 1st stage (anagen) lasts 2-6 years and the hair growths between 1 and 2 cm a month. Then another rest period or telogen that lasts 3 to 4 months (the person looses an imperceptible amount of 80 and 100 hairs a day). Finally, after 6 months of having fallen, new hair starts growing on the same spot where the fallen hair used to be. In case of baldness, this replacement does not occur so naturally.

In general, the amount of hair in a growing stage is higher than the amount of hair in the falling stage (almost 85% of head hair is in a growing stage while only 15% of it is at a falling stage) so it is normal to lose around 100 hairs a day, as we have previously mentioned.

Hair loss

There are several causes that may lead to hair loss. Among these factors we can find emotional factors (tension, stress), infections (especially in case of a high fever), malnutrition (including strict diets, anemia, etc.), endocrine factors (alterations to the thyroid gland), the abuse of hair products, puerperium and many less frequent causes.

The timing between hair loss and the appearance of these factors does not always match. In case of puerperium, high fevers or diets, hair loss tends to start happening three to six months later.