There are around 80 million men and women in the United States alone that suffer from androgenic alopecia (AGA; pattern hair loss), but most of them are uneducated, through no fault of their own, about what is actually occurring underneath their scalp when they begin to see their hair falling out.
Although a quick Google search will reveal that hair loss is primarily caused by DHT and/or low blood flow, many articles fail to divulge on how this actually happens.
When you lose your hair due to androgenic alopecia it is because a process called miniaturization is occurring.
In this article we are going to discuss what miniaturization is, how it causes hair loss, and what you can do to stop it and slow/reverse your hair loss.
What is miniaturization?
In simple terms, hair miniaturization is the process by which the hair follicle shrinks. If left unchecked, miniaturization will shrink the hair follicles to the point of complete baldness.
How does miniaturization work to cause hair loss?
In order to fully understand how miniaturization works you first need to know about the hair cycle.
The hair cycle consists of four main stages: anagen (growth), catagen (transition), telogen (resting), and exogen (shedding). Healthy hairs go through the hair cycle (in that exact order) with the anagen phase lasting 3-5 years, the catagen phase lasting 2-3 weeks, the telogen phase lasting about 3 months, and the exogen phase lasting 2-5 months.
These are the timeframes that a healthy hair follicle will experience, but miniaturization begins to alter the hair cycle, more specifically the anagen phase.
During miniaturization the anagen phase begins to shorten. The reason why hair loss is a long, drawn-out process is because the anagen phase is slightly shortened after each completed cycle. This means that before the hair follicles dies it has to complete several cycles, which can take 5+ years in total depending on the severity of your hair loss.
As the anagen phase shortens, each new cycle will bring a thinner, shorter, weaker hair follicle, until it eventually turns into a full blown vellus hair and then dies completely (by “dies” I mean that no hair loss treatment will be able to regrow it).
What is vellus hair?
Every hair follicle on your head once started as a vellus hair. They are the thin, short, unpigmented hair that many people have on their arms, legs, hairline, and more.
Through natural processes at an early age vellus hair morphs into terminal hair, which can be classified by thicker, darker, and fuller appearance. This process also happens on your body throughout puberty which is why you will begin to see dark hair on your legs and arms.
If you have a full head of hair you have lots of terminal hairs, but when hair loss and the process of miniaturization begins many hairs in the areas that are sensitive to DHT (temples and crown for men, part line for women) will begin to revert back into vellus hair. This is hair loss in a nutshell.
What causes miniaturization?
When you have pattern hair loss, miniaturization is primarily caused by DHT. Those who are affected by AGA have hair follicles that are genetically sensitive to DHT and when it binds to the follicles it causes inflammation and irritation which begin the process of miniaturization.
Miniaturization can also be caused by other factors apart from DHT such as nutritional deficiencies, low blood flow, stress and more, but for the purpose of the article we are only referring to DHT induced miniaturization.
How to stop miniaturization
In order to stop miniaturization you need to get to the root cause, which in the case of people with AGA is DHT. There are several ways that you can block DHT.
The first, and most effective, way is to stop DHT from forming in the first place. The best way to do this is with a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor like finasteride or dutasteride. 5-AR is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of testosterone into DHT. By suppressing it, you can effectively stop that conversion from taking place and effectively reduce the levels of DHT in the body.
Another way to suppress DHT is to target it directly. Ingredients such as green tea and pumpkin seed oil have been shown to block it directly.
Lastly, you should remove excess DHT that can build up in sebum and dead skin cells on the scalp. When DHT builds up it can worsen inflammation and irritation in the hair follicles therefore causing hair loss to continue. There are several scalp peels and various DHT-targeting shampoos that you can use to handle this external DHT build up.
Here is a great article detailing several ways to remove DHT buildup.
Miniaturization is the process that is responsible for male/female pattern hair loss. Unfortunately, many of the articles that you read about hair loss will talk all about DHT, but never go into how the hair loss actually works.
I believe that knowledge is power, and the more you understand your hair loss, the more equipped you will be to overcome it. Hopefully after reading this article you have gained some insight into the processes behind your hair loss and will strive to beat it.