Hair thinning is a very common problem that affects millions of men and women across the world. Fortunately, there are a number of solutions now available for people to combat thinning hair, whether it occurs as a result of ageing or a medical condition. This guide explores the subject of hair thinning, looking into why it becomes thinner and the possible solutions available.

Why Does the Hair Thin?

There are many reasons why the hair can begin to thin in both men and women. It is important to remember that hair is constantly falling out on a daily basis. Hair has a natural life cycle and it falls out all the time. In fact, it is quite normal for over a hundred hairs a day to fall out.

However, hair can often become noticeably thinner either as people get older, or sometimes as a result of medical conditions. If a person’s hair becomes thinner as they get older this is often due to genetic factors and the family history of that person. Most people tend to experience some thinning of the hair as they get older, but it is more noticeable in some people than in others.

Hair can sometimes become thinner due to hormonal reasons as well. For example, puberty, pregnancy and the menopause are all occasions when people may experience more thinning of the hair than at other times in their lives.

Failing to eat a nutritional diet could also play a factor in thinning of the hair, and increased stress has also been linked with thinning hair and hair loss.

In addition to these, there are a range of health conditions that can lead to thinning of the hair, including conditions such as thyroid disease and iron deficiency anaemia. People suffering from cancer may also experience dramatic hair loss during chemotherapy treatment, but in this case the hair often grows back after a few months.

If a person’s hair gradually thins then this is usually nothing to worry about, although they may want to consider various treatments to improve the appearance of their hair. However, anyone who experiences sudden hair loss is usually advised to get it checked out by a doctor as it could indicate something more serious.

Specific Causes of Thinning Hair

Sometimes hair loss is localised, meaning it only affects a small area of the head. However, at other times the thinning hair is more pronounced and affects a larger area.

Small, patchy hair loss can be caused by a range of conditions, including:

- Tinea capitis: This is a fungal infection that is very common in children and is relatively easy to treat.

- Alopecia areata: This usually becomes apparent when a small bald patch appears on the scalp, usually about the size of a coin. The hair often grows back within a few months, although sometimes it grows back white. Sometimes the whole scalp can go bald, and this is called alopecia totalis.

- Trichotillomania: This is where people develop the habit of pulling out their own hair. The treatment for this is nearly always behavioural because the problem is psychological and not medical.

Sometimes the hair thins over a larger area, and this is characterised as generalised hair loss. The most common cause of this is androgenetic alopecia, which is also known as male-pattern baldness (female-pattern baldness can also occur, although it is less common).

The most common cause of androgenetic alopecia is genetics. Men and women who have a history in their family of thinning hair are often more likely to experience thinning themselves. Thinning in men tends to start earlier and it is usually more noticeable than it is in women. Some men experience significant thinning at a very young age, while others may only experience thinning when they are in their thirties or forties.

Most men tend to experience the thinning of their hair as they get older. Some of these men go on to become bald, whereas others may still have complete coverage when they are in their senior years.

Treatments for Thinning Hair

Although effective cures for baldness are either very expensive or ineffective, treatments for thinning hair are fortunately easier to come by. There are a number of treatments available for thinning hair that can minimise its effects, and there are also treatments available that can slow thinning of the hair.

Some of the medications available that can slow thinning hair include Propecia, Avodart, and Minoxidil, but there are many others available.

Other common treatments are those that reduce the effect of thinning hair by covering it up. These are often simple to use and can be highly effective.

One of the most effective types of treatment is the use of hair fibres. These consist of coloured powders that are sprinkled onto the hair to cover the thinning. The fibres attach to the individual hairs and give it a full and thick appearance. No prescription is usually required, and they are often inexpensive and safe to use. They can typically be used alongside other medicines.

For more drastic hair loss, a hairpiece may be worn. This consists of human or artificial hair that is woven into the remaining hair. These can be very effective, but they are generally a lot more expensive than other treatments.

Surgical hair transplants are the most expensive option. This is where hair is surgically removed from one area and replaced in another. The quality of a transplant varies greatly, but they can be a very effective way to control hair loss.

Prevention of Thinning Hair

Along with the treatments for thinning hair, there are also ways to help to prevent it from occurring, or to at least slow it down. However, not all of these are proven and often there is a lack of scientific evidence as to the efficacy of the preventative measures.

It is generally considered that a good vitamin intake is effective in slowing down thinning hair. A multivitamin that contains folate, vitamin B, iron and calcium is considered effective, as is eating a healthy, nutritious diet. Good hygiene and regular shampooing are also considered good practices to help to prevent the rapid thinning of hair.