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Alopecia Types & How to Treat Them

Have you noticed more hairs than normal on your pillow, hairbrush or in the shower drain? It’s normal to shed 50 to 100 hairs per day as part of your hair’s natural, multi-phase growth cycle, all without losing any hair over the long term.

However, if you’re shedding more than this on a daily basis, it could be a sign that needs medical attention. 

Hair loss can occur for many reasons. While most hair loss in men is caused by androgenetic alopecia (also referred to as male pattern baldness), several other forms of alopecia may also cause you to experience temporary or permanent hair loss. 

Luckily, most forms of hair loss, or alopecia, are treatable, either by changing your habits, using medications or both. 

Below, we’ve listed the different types of alopecia, as well as the symptoms you may experience from each one. We’ve also explained the science-based treatment options that are available for different types of hair loss. 

Androgenetic Alopecia (Male Pattern Baldness)

Androgenetic alopecia is a common type of hair loss. When it affects men, it’s often referred to as male pattern baldness. Androgenetic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss in men, with an estimated 50 million men affected in the United States alone.

If you’re affected by androgenetic alopecia, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Hair loss, usually in a pattern beginning from your hairline
  • Gradual hair loss that gives your hairline an “M” shape
  • Over time, significant hair loss that results in a U-shaped pattern of hair around the back and sides of your head

Hair loss from androgenetic alopecia is caused by a genetic sensitivity to a hormone referred to as dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. DHT can bind to receptors in your scalp and damage your hair follicles. Over time, this damage prevents your hair follicles from producing new hairs.

Our guide to DHT and male hair loss explains how dihydrotestosterone works and its effects on your hair in more detail. 

Hair loss from androgenetic alopecia is usually permanent. However, treating it early can help you to stop further hair loss, retain the hair you still have and, in some cases, even regrow hair in areas of your scalp with noticeable thinning.

Treatments for male pattern baldness include:

  • Finasteride. This oral medication prevents your body from converting testosterone into DHT. It’s highly effective at preventing hair loss, but needs to be used daily to maintain your hair and prevent further shedding.
  • Minoxidil. This topical medication stimulates your hair follicles and often improves the growth of your existing hair. Like finasteride, minoxidil needs to be used every day for consistent, long-term results.

We offer both of these medications and other hair-friendly treatments as part of our Hair Power Pack, which is available online following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. 

Androgenetic alopecia can also be treated through surgical procedures, such as hair transplant surgery. Surgery for male pattern baldness can produce lasting results, but it’s often expensive and results can vary based on the extent of your hair loss and the quality of the procedure. 

Our complete guide to male pattern baldness goes into greater detail on androgenetic alopecia, its symptoms, treatment options and more.

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is a disease that attacks and damages your hair follicles. It often causes your hair to fall out in small patches. Alopecia areata usually affects your scalp, but it may also lead to patchy hair loss that affects your beard, eyebrows and body hair.

Experts think that alopecia areata is most likely an autoimmune condition, in which your immune system targets, attacks and damages your hair follicles.

If you’re affected by alopecia areata, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Hair loss in round patches. These patches are usually small — about the same size as a quarter. They may have a peach-like color.

  • In some cases, total hair loss that develops within six months of your first symptoms.

Currently, there’s no cure for alopecia areata, nor are there reliable treatments for everyone with this form of hair loss. However, some treatments may help to limit inflammation and assist you in regrowing hair in areas affected by alopecia areata:

  • Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation and change your immune system, are often used to treat alopecia areata. These medications may be injected into affected skin, applied topically or taken by mouth in pill form.

  • Anthralin. This topical, tar-like medication, which is also used to treat psoriasis, is used directly on areas of skin affected by alopecia areata, then washed off the skin after 30 to 60 minutes.

  • Minoxidil. Topical minoxidil may stimulate hair growth on the scalp, eyebrows and other areas affected by alopecia areata. Minoxidil is often used with topical corticosteroids and other medications to treat this form of hair loss.

It’s also important to note that while there’s no real cure for alopecia areata, if your hair loss because of it isn’t widespread, it’ll often grow back on its own in a few months without treatment. However, for more widespread hair loss, it’s still not exactly known just how effective any type of treatment may be.

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a form of hair loss that’s triggered by physical trauma, psychological stress or other types of unexpected shock or change.

If you’re affected by telogen effluvium, you may notice diffuse shedding that causes your hair to look thinner across your entire scalp. On average, people with this form of hair loss lose not more than 50 percent of their hairs.

Telogen effluvium can be caused by surgery, physical injury, psychological stress, extreme diets or weight loss, nutritional deficiencies and some medications.

Hair loss from telogen effluvium occurs when hairs enter the telogen phase of their growth cycle prematurely. Because it takes time for hairs in the telogen phase to fall out, you may not notice any hair loss for two to four months after the event that triggers this type of hair loss.

Telogen effluvium usually improves on its own over the course of several months. It may take up to six months for hair to start growing back.

Although research on its effects is limited, minoxidil may help to regrow hair that’s fallen out due to telogen effluvium. When it’s caused by stress, anxiety or a medication, changing your habits may help to make telogen effluvium less severe and improve your hair growth.

Our guide to stress-related hair loss goes into more detail about telogen effluvium, its symptoms and steps that you can take to avoid this type of alopecia.

Traction Alopecia

Traction alopecia is a form of hair loss that’s caused by continuous pulling on the roots of your hair. It’s most common in people of African descent, especially amongst people who wear their hair in tight braids or other hairstyles that put pressure on the hair root.

Hair loss from traction alopecia is usually reversible when the disease is treated during its early stages. However, long-term traction alopecia can cause scarring and often lead to permanent hair loss.

Treating traction alopecia depends on the stage of the disease. Early-stage traction alopecia is often treatable by reducing pressure on the hair by avoiding certain hairstyles, styling products and treatments.

Chronic traction alopecia is usually more difficult to treat. For some people, hair transplantation can restore hair to areas of the scalp with noticeable thinning. Other research has shown that minoxidil may be effective for restoring hair in people with traction alopecia.

Tinea Capitis

Tinea capitis, or scalp ringworm, is a fungal infection that can affect your scalp. In some cases, the infection can make its way into your hair follicles and hair shafts, resulting in patches of hair loss across your scalp. 

Some hair loss from tinea capitis is temporary. However, when the tinea capitis infection causes inflammation, it can lead to permanent hair loss. In some cases, tinea capitis can spread from the scalp to other hairs on your face, including your eyebrows and eyelashes.

As a fungal infection, tinea capitis is usually treated using oral antifungal medications such as griseofulvin, itraconazole and fluconazole. Sometimes, treatment may also involve antifungal shampoos. Treatment for this type of infection typically lasts for four to eight weeks.

Cicatricial Alopecia (Scarring Alopecia)

Cicatricial alopecia, or scarring alopecia, is a group of hair loss disorders that involve permanent damage to your hair follicles and the development of scar tissue.

Cicatricial alopecia can be primary or secondary. In the case of primary cicatricial alopecia, your hair follicles are damaged by inflammation that develops beneath the surface of your skin. The follicles are then replaced by scar tissue, causing permanent hair loss.

In secondary cicatricial alopecia, an external injury or non-follicular biological process, such as a burn, infection or tumor, damages and destroys some or all of your hair follicles. 

Cicatricial alopecia can cause a range of symptoms, including scaling, redness, changes in your skin’s pigmentation, pustules and a smooth texture to affected areas of your scalp, often without any visible hair follicles.

Compared to other forms of hair loss, cicatricial alopecia is rare. A range of treatments are used to manage inflammation and treat this form of hair loss, including anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics and corticosteroids. 

Hair Shaft Abnormalities

Most forms of hair loss affect your hair follicles — the small, tunnel-shaped structures inside your skin from which hair grows. 

Hair shaft abnormalities are conditions that cause hair loss by damaging the shaft of your hair — the visible part that extends beyond your skin. Rather than the entire hair falling out, this type of alopecia may cause your hairs to break, resulting in brittle hair and visible thinning.

One potential hair shaft abnormality is trichotillomania — a hair-pulling disorder in which you may experience a recurring urge to pull out your hair. This form of alopecia is typically treated using psychotherapy.

Another hair shaft abnormality is loose anagen syndrome — a form of alopecia that occurs primarily in young girls two to six years old — but can also be present in boys, too.. People with loose anagen syndrome may have hairs that aren’t firmly attached to their follicles, allowing them to fall out easily as they grow longer.

Loose anagen syndrome may cause hair loss once your hair reaches a certain length, or due to friction from everyday items such as a pillow or hat. Most of the time, this form of alopecia gets better on its own during adolescence.

Hypotrichosis

Hypotrichosis is a rare condition that causes little or no hair growth on the head, face and other parts of the body. This form of alopecia is often present from birth. It can also occur after birth, with affected people experiencing hair loss early in childhood. 

Hair loss from hypotrichosis can affect the entire body (generalized hypotrichosis) or be limited to just the scalp (scalp-limited hypotrichosis). It’s a hereditary condition that’s linked to certain genes and genetic mutations.

Compared to other types of alopecia, hypotrichosis is uncommon. Currently, no treatments are available for this form of hair loss.

In Conclusion

There are several different types of alopecia, from stress-related hair loss like telogen effluvium to more common forms of alopecia such as androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness).

While most types of alopecia are treatable, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for all forms of hair loss. Because of this, if you’re losing your hair, it’s important to correctly identify the cause of your hair loss before you look at treatment options.

We offer several medications for treating hair loss, including FDA-approved treatments such as minoxidil and finasteride. For more information, or to get started treating your hair loss, talk to a licensed healthcare provider now

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.