If you are someone who is suffering from androgenic alopecia (AGA; pattern hair loss) then you might know that trying to overcome it can feel like a never ending battle.
AGA is a very complex disorder that, even with decades of research, scientists do not fully understand yet. This is why we have treatments that work at varying degrees for different people. Some people may only need one treatment in order to regrow their hair entirely, while others may try several combinations and achieve little-to-no results.
The degree of success you will have in overcoming hair loss depends entirely on your genetics and how you respond to treatments. But, whether treatments work or not, you may eventually get to a point where your hair can officially be pronounced “dead” to which non-surgical treatments are not going to work for you at all anymore.
Many people have a hard time identifying exactly when they have reached that point and end up wasting time, money, and effort on hair that is never going to grow again.
I know that all may sound bleak, but the purpose behind me writing this article is to give you the information that you need so you can correctly determine where you are in your own hair loss journey and whether or not you should continue trying treatments or if it may be time to consider more extreme options (like a hair transplant).
Key info: the hair cycle
To correctly identify if you are at the breaking point for hair loss, it is very important that you understand how hair loss works, and in order to understand that you need to know about the hair cycle.
The hair cycle is simple: it is four stages that the hair goes through during growth:
-Anagen: the growth phase that lasts 3-5 years
-Catagen: the transition phase that lasts 2-3 weeks
-Telogen: the resting phase (hair is dormant) that lasts around 3 months
-Exogen: the shedding phase where the old hair shaft is released to be replaced by a new one (lasts 2-5 months)
Albeit all of the phases of the hair cycle are important, for AGA we only need to focus on the anagen phase for now.
How hair loss affects the cycle
As most of you that have cared to read this far should know by now, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the main culprit behind male/female pattern hair loss.
DHT binds to DHT receptors located in the hair follicles, and in those that are genetically susceptible, it kickstarts the oh-so heinous process of miniaturization.
Miniaturization is what causes AGA, point blank period, and there couldn’t be a more accurate word for the process.
What takes place during miniaturization is that, yes, your hair slowly gets smaller and smaller until eventually it doesn't grow anymore. This is where science has some catching up to do because while we know DHT causes miniaturization, we don't know how. But, what we do know is that miniaturization causes the anagen phase to shorten after each cycle.
As you can imagine, when the growth phase of the hair cycle is getting progressively shorter, so will the hair follicle (as well and thinner and with less pigmentation). After several cycles of progressive shortening, the hair follicle will no longer penetrate the scalp and this is when you can pronounce it “dead” as it will no longer respond to any treatments.
All of this is key for…
Knowing when to cut your (hair) losses
Accepting defeat is never easy, but neither is realizing you wasted a whole lot of time and money on things that didn't help your hair loss at all. So how do you know when to cut your losses on trying to overcome hair loss with conventional treatments?
Well, like we talked about above, once the hair follicle is “dead” is when you can be absolutely certain that it is not going to be regrown.
On the flipside, you need to keep a keen eye for vellus hair.
Vellus hair is hair that has been affected by AGA but is not completely “dead” yet. Telltale signs to look for are small, thin, colorless hairs that have taken the place of your otherwise healthy hair.
In fact, vellus hair is the key to overcoming your hair loss. Wherever you still have vellus hair growth, you have a chance at regrowing your hair. This is because vellus hairs are still alive, and using the right treatments (again, everyone is different) can nurture them back to life over time. This is what hair regrowth is, it is not sprouting new hair where there previously wasn't any, instead it is the process of revitalizing those delicate vellus hairs.
To wrap things up there are two main takeaways that I want you to bear in mind:
If there is no hair, none at all, where you used to have hair, those hair follicles are dead. There is no bringing them back to life. It is time to cut your losses and either embrace the shaved look or consider surgical options.
On the flip side, if there are vellus hairs present you still have a chance. Any and every vellus hair can be brought back to life with the right treatments, you just have to find which ones work for you. It will take due diligence but, at least in my opinion, regrowing your hair can be well worth the effort.
Losing your hair can be a long and confusing process. Hopefully after reading this article you now know a little bit more about how hair loss works so that you can effectively assess your own hair loss situation and make the right decision as to whether or not you should keep fighting the nobleman's fight.