What is it?
Androgenic alopecia, hair loss, or male pattern baldness, is a common condition affecting both men and women. Male sex hormones (or androgens) -- which both men and women produce -- interact with the hair cells causing the follicle to shrink. Over time, the size of the hair which the follicle produces shrinks, and can eventually stop. The process can start as early as puberty, though prevalence increases with age.
What causes it?
The sensitivity of hair-follicles to androgens is mainly based on an individual's genetic makeup. However, the strength and length of exposure to androgens (which increases with ageing) plays a part in the process, as well as the location of the hair.
How to treat it.
Treatments for tackling hair loss either inhibit the disease process through reducing androgens or by stimulating healthier disease resistant hair follicles. Three common ways to help tackle the problem are:
Reduce androgens: this is the only mechanism that tackles the root of the issue. By reducing the amount and strength of androgen production, the hair follicle miniaturisation process can be prevented or lessened. Finasteride, an oral medicine, is often taken to achieve this. Alternatively, some shampoos can be used as a topical anti-androgen treatment. While topical treatments are typically less effective than medicines taken orally, both can be used in conjunction with each other.
Increase blood supply: increasing the blood supply to the hair follicle improves nutrient delivery, optimising the conditions for hair growth. While this doesn't solve the underlying cause, optimising hair growing conditions does appear to partially counter the effect of androgens. Minoxidil - which can be taken orally or applied topically - can help achieve this by dilating the blood vessels.
Take multi-vitamins: similar to improving blood supply, multi-vitamins ensure that the body has the optimum building blocks to make new healthy hair.