When you realize you’re losing more hair than usual, it’s true that the feeling can be very distressing. You might worry that the hair loss will simply continue for months or years until baldness is the inevitable result.
Can some forms of hair loss be reversed? Can your hair be made to grow normally once again? The good news is: Yes, in some cases. Some forms of hair loss are indeed reversible. Once you get a diagnosis and it’s determined that the cause of the hair loss can be removed, you will begin to see growth again once your treatment is complete.
Of course, there are many different causes of hair loss and it’s not always easy to tell one from the other. That is why seeing a hair restoration specialist to properly diagnose your own hair loss issue is recommended. If hair restoration surgery isn’t the appropriate treatment for you, your surgeon can recommend the best course of action to get you a full head of hair once again.
What Types of Hair Loss Are Reversible?
“Alopecia” simply means hair loss. “Areata” means occurring in patches. This condition is a type of autoimmune disorder, which means that the person’s own immune system is attacking the hair follicles from within. This damages the follicles and causes scattered round patches of hair loss, as compared to the diffuse shedding seen when a person suffers from telogen effluvium or male or female pattern baldness. The patches may occur on the scalp, beard, and/or eyebrows.
A “telogen” is a hair follicle in the resting phase. That means the individual hair has reached the end of its normal growth phase and will be shed when new hair begins growing behind it. Usually, this happens gradually and to different follicles at different times.
In telogen effluvium, however, a large number of hair follicles suddenly shift from the growing phase to the resting phase all at once. That means a large amount of hair will be shed all at once. This shift is triggered by a shock to the system of some sort, either physical or emotional.
A physical shock can be caused by something like pregnancy; an extreme crash diet; or certain illnesses. An emotional shock can result from being under extreme stress on the job or from the loss of a family member, for example.
Telogen effluvium is one of the most common types of hair loss. It is also largely reversible, meaning that most people with the condition do see their hair come back. But the initial shedding and loss can be upsetting to many.
Trichotillomania is also called “hair-pulling disorder.” Technically it is not a type of hair loss because it is not caused by aging or illness or any other physical issue. Instead, it is entirely due to a psychological condition called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD.)
This condition causes the person to tug, twist, or pull on the hair of the scalp, the eyebrows, and anywhere else that hair grows on the body. It results in ragged bald patches on the affected areas.
Tinea capitis is commonly known as “ringworm.” It’s important to know that ringworm is not caused by an actual worm. It is a fungus that grows on the scalp in a circular, ring-shaped pattern, and that is where the name comes from. Ringworm is not uncommon and occurs most often in children
The fungus affects the hairs on the scalp, causing them to break and fall off. Small, round bald patches typically form when a person is dealing with tinea capitis. The condition tends to spread if left untreated and the hair loss will continue.
What Types of Hair Loss Are Not Reversible?
There are some forms of hair loss that cannot be reversed. If the skin’s hair follicles, which generate the individual hairs, have been too damaged by age, illness, or trauma, they will no longer be capable of growing hair. However, even in these cases, baldness is not inevitable and treatments are available. See below for treatment options.
TRICHOTILLOMANIA (hair-pulling disorder)
As mentioned above, hair growth usually resumes once the person has found other ways to cope with anxiety. However, depending on how long the person has been pulling out their hair, the follicles may be permanently damaged. If the damage is severe, hair growth cannot return.
After treating the underlying anxiety which usually accompanies this condition, a patient can see a hair restoration surgeon to learn the extent of the damage to the scalp and determine the best way to treat the hair loss. See below for treatment options.
TINEA CAPITIS (ringworm)
In severe cases where the fungus was left untreated, the hair loss can be permanent because of the damage to the follicles.
MALE PATTERN BALDNESS
This is the familiar pattern seen in men of thinning hair on the top of the head, which gradually leaves just a ring of hair around the back and sides of the head. It is hereditary and cannot be reversed, though surgical treatment is possible. See below for treatment options.
FEMALE PATTERN BALDNESS
Baldness in women appears as a thinning of hair on the top of the head, with the part appearing wider than before. This type of hair loss may or may not have a hereditary component. Most often it is caused by a combination of aging and an imbalance of male hormones.
Treatment Options Available
FOR REVERSIBLE HAIR LOSS:
The condition is considered reversible since some patients see new hair growth without any additional treatment. Others see an improvement in the condition after taking corticosteroids or steroid injections or opting for other treatment.
This can be reversed by figuring out, and then eliminating, whatever is causing the shock and stress to the system. With a physical cause such as pregnancy, the woman can simply give her body time to adjust to the new physical changes before and after the birth. A crash diet can be corrected with a healthy way of eating, and an illness can be appropriately treated.
With an emotional cause, figuring out how to remove the trigger can be more challenging. But once it is gone, the person can expect to see the hair return.
The hair usually grows back once the person is able to stop pulling it. Treatment involves sending the person to therapy, where they can develop different ways of coping with the stress and anxiety that causes them to tug at their hair.
TINEA CAPITIS (ringworm)
Treating the cause of the infection usually solves the problem. Typically a doctor will prescribe oral antifungal medicine. After the fungal infection has been cleared, the hair should grow back.
FOR IRREVERSIBLE HAIR LOSS:
Surgical intervention such as a hair transplant can yield excellent results in cases where the person’s own hair follicles can no longer grow hair naturally.
Finding the best treatment for your hair loss means figuring out what is behind it. Triple board-certified hair restoration specialist Dr. Jeffrey Epstein can diagnose the cause of your hair loss and recommend the treatment option that will provide optimal results.