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All of us lose 35 - 40 hairs everyday, the result of the three natural phases of hair growth. The first phase of hair growth is called the Anagen or Growth Phase in which a new hair is produced. Ninety percent of scalp hair is in this phase at any one time. For each hair this phase typically lasts from 3-5 years but some can last as long as ten. The second phase is called the Catagen or Transition phase which is a brief transition period between the growth and resting phases of the hair follicle. It signals the end of the growth phase of the specific hair and about 1 percent of scalp hair is in this phase, which lasts about two weeks, at any one time. The third phase is called the Telogen or Resting phase. It is the final phase in the hair cycle and lasts until the fully grown hair is shed. This hair is either shed in this phase or pushed out during the beginning of the next Anagen or Growth phase. About 10 percent of scalp hair is in this phase at any given time.

Hair loss can have a significant emotional impact on people. Abnormal hair loss is call alopecia. The most common forms are androgenic alopecia, alopecia aerata and postpartum alopecia. Alopecia also occurs as a side effect of radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer. With women the expression "Hair is ego" is of great significance. Hair is our crowning glory and an expression of our inner radiance. Hair loss is particularly devasting emotionally in women. Women feel less attractive, painfully self-conscious, become obsessed with the hair loss, lose self-esteem and concealing the loss of hair can be difficult. Women are also not the kindest of creatures to other women, so gossip and teasing can also be added to the mix.

Androgenic alopecia is usually known as male pattern baldness and creates a typically horsehoe shaped fringe of hair on a man, but in women it is indicated by thinness of the hair at the crown. This affects approximately 40 million men and 20 million women in the United States. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the hair follicles are mistakenly attacked by the bodies' immune system resulting in the sudden falling out of hair in round patches or the formation of bald spots. It can occur on the scalp and other parts of the body and is quite unpredictable. This disease affects approximately 5 million people in the United States alone. Postpartum alopecia is temporary hair loss experienced at the end of a pregnancy. In some women, pregnancy can disrupt the normal growth cycle of the hair. There may be very little normal hair loss during pregnancy but sudden and excessive shedding can occur three to nine months after giving birth. This can be quite traumatic to a new mother but everything usually returns to normal within a year after the baby is born.

There are a couple of myths associated with hair growth that should be dispelled. Massage will not increase hair growth and shaving, clipping and cutting the hair will not make it grow back thicker or faster. There are only two treatments which have been proven to increase hair growth and they are Minoxidial and Finasteride. Both are approved by the FDA.

Minoxidil is available for both men and women and is a topical treatment sold over the counter without a prescription. It comes in two different strengths: 2 percent and 5 percent. It is not known to have any negative side effects. Finasteride is an oral prescription medication only for men. It is more effective and convenient than Minoxidil but has possible side effects such as weight gain and loss of sexual function. Women cannot use this medication and pregnant women or women of child bearing age are warned away from it because of the strong potential for birth defects.

Hair transplants or plugs are the surgical option for treatment of hair loss. They are the most common permanent hair replacement technique. Small sections of hair, including the follicle, papilla and bulb, are moved from an area where there is a lot of hair and trasplanted into the bald area. Commonly moved from the back of the head, these bulbs grow normally in the new location. A licensed surgeon must perform this procedure and several will be required. Costs can range from. $8,000-$20,000.

If hair loss is associated with radiation or chemotherapy, you should check out Look Good...Feel Better . The site is oriented for women and is a free, national public service program. If the hair loss is a result of Alopecia Areata then a visit to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation's website would provide support and good information.

A good hairstylist can offer you other options to deal with hair loss. Many salons specialize in nonsurgical replacement hair systems, such as wigs, hair weaving and hair extensions. Hair weaving and extensions enhance the natural hair and can be a relatively inexpensive solution to a new look and a big boost in self-esteem. They are also very easy to maintain. If money is an issue, visit a hair stylist school. The students need people to practice on and the cost is much less than a regular salon. Don't hide your radiance under a bushel or a hat, there are options available.


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This page was updated 2007-5-22.