What is androgenic alopecia or genetic hair loss?
Androgenic Alopecia is one of the most common types of hair loss and it affects both men and women. It is commonly known as male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss. Research suggests that 60% of the Indian adult population suffers from this condition to some degree. It is a genetic hair loss condition that is triggered by excess levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). However, other internal health issues, diet, stress, sleep and lifestyle factors also have an effect on it. It has 7 stages which are determined by something known as the Norwood Scale (for men) or Sinclair Scale (for women) of androgenic alopecia.
What is Androgenic Alopecia?
Also, known as Androgenic Alopecia, it has 7 stages. This hair loss condition progresses gradually and is linked to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Dihydrotestosterone is a naturally occurring androgen in your body and is a byproduct of testosterone. DHT by itself is not harmful. However, for people who have a genetic susceptibility to hair loss on account of family history or the AR gene, excess DHT is linked to hair loss. DHT binds to your hair follicles and starts shrinking them (known as miniaturisation) which results in reduced blood flow to them. Reduced blood flow means a reduced supply of oxygen-rich blood and nutrition. The shrinking follicles can no longer produce thick, healthy and pigmented hair and thus your hair starts thinning, your growth rate reduces and eventually starts falling.
In men, it starts as a receding hairline or thinning around the scalp vertex. And eventually leads to increased scalp visibility and partial baldness on the front and top portion of the scalp. Whereas, in women, it presents as thinning around the hair partition. Causing the partition to widen. In some cases where female pattern hair loss is a result of traction alopecia, it can also cause a receding hairline. While there is no complete balding in women, partial balding that results in increased scalp visibility is possible.
Like all hereditary conditions, androgenic alopecia also has an onset period. Early-onset, wherein one experiences hair loss in their 20s and 30s. And late-onset wherein one experiences hair loss in their 40s, 50s or 60s. Studies have shown that in the last ten years, younger generations (the 20s and 30s) are experiencing hair loss due to high stress, poor lifestyle and nutrition habits, and exposure to internal and external pollution.
What Causes Androgenic Alopecia?
Androgenic alopecia occurs due to a combination of genetic factors along with internal health issues, diet, lifestyle and environmental factors. Research has established that this type of hair loss is caused by an androgen hormone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Androgens are also very crucial for the development of male and female sex organs at birth and on the onset of puberty. However, excess levels of DHT combined with genetic susceptibility and other triggers can result in pattern hair loss. It is important to understand that DHT or testosterone doesn't cause hair loss directly.
Your hair has a lifecycle. After growing for a period of about 2 to 6 years, which varies from person to person. It goes into a resting phase only to eventually fall out. The follicle then begins to grow new hair and the cycle begins all over again. The hair in the resting phase is what results in normal hair shedding that you see day-to-day. However, in those who are susceptible to androgenic alopecia, the androgens bind with hair follicles and start shrinking them. This results in the shortening of the growth phase and also increases the period of time it takes for your hair follicles to grow new hair. This will lead to shorter and thinner quality of hair which will eventually if untreated lead to balding. Certain health conditions such as thyroid or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also aggravate pattern hair loss.
According to Ayurveda, hair loss is a result of poor internal health and therefore linked to your digestion, metabolism, absorption, sleep quality, stress, diet and hormonal balance. And therefore, Ayurvedic treatment for androgenic alopecia starts with fixing your internal health.
What are the Symptoms for Androgenic Alopecia?
A healthy person sheds a certain amount of hair every day. In men, about 50-70 strands per day are believed to be normal. Whereas, in women, about 80-100 strands per day is considered normal. However, if you are noticing that your hairline is receding, meaning your forehead is larger than before. Or notice hair thinning which is making your scalp more visible; it means you are experiencing pattern hair loss.
- Symptoms In Men
Men can refer to the Norwood scale to understand what their hair fall stage is. Because treatment and recovery of androgenic alopecia depend upon the stage and your age. Therefore, at Traya we guarantee results only for those between the stage of 1-4.
The first stage starts with an uneven hairline and a slightly larger forehead than before. The second stage involves a slight recession of the hairline near the temples and mild hair thinning which is only visible when hair is wet or oiled. During the third stage, the first symptoms of clinical balding appear. The hairline faces recession at both temples and resembles an M, U, V shape. At this stage, you will also see hair thinning along the vertex (spiral portion) on the top of your scalp. During stage 4 the hairline recedes significantly and there is also evident thinning of hair on the crown area. Therefore, the scalp becomes quite visible. In the 5th stage, there is a small patch that has hair on the receded hairline and very thin hair in the crown area. In stage 6 and 7 there are areas on the crown area where you have bald patches that have dead follicles which can no longer be revived with stimulators such as minoxidil. One only has hair on the side near the ear and the back portion of your scalp.
- Symptoms In Women
Similar signs of hair loss in women are seen. A slow but sure thinning of the hair on the top of the scalp is the most common phenomenon for women suffering from androgenic alopecia. Women generally see their hair partitions widen. This partition starts getting wider with each advancing stage and the scalp also starts getting more visible. Women may also experience that their ponytail becomes thinner and hair growth gets stunted. So you may feel your hair is not growing beyond a certain length. In some women, androgenic alopecia can present as a receding hairline as a result of something known as traction alopecia. This happens when you wear your hair too tight in a ponytail or a bun.
Can Androgenic Alopecia be Cured?
Androgenic alopecia cannot be cured but with preventive treatment and early intervention between stages 1-4, it can be successfully managed. This means your hair fall and hair thinning will stop and you will be able to recover some portion of the volume and density that you have lost. The recovery percentage, however, depends on your age and the stage at which you are. Also, as discussed earlier it is important to understand that because androgenic alopecia is a complex hair loss condition that is not affected by a single factor but has multiple triggers. It is important to choose a holistic treatment that fixes the different root causes and symptoms simultaneously. Androgenic alopecia is managed by modern medicine by stimulating the shrinking and unhealthy hair follicles. Two of the most commonly prescribed and FDA approved treatments used are topical minoxidil, topical or oral finasteride. Some recent inventions such as redensyl, procapil and capixyl are also used however, while their clinical efficacy is proved, they are not yet FDA approved. But these can only protect your follicles from DHT but don't help manage the internal triggers that aggravate androgenic alopecia.
Traya's Treatment Plan for Androgenic Alopecia
Androgenic Alopecia is a hair loss condition and therefore requires proper diagnosis and a doctor-prescribed treatment. You should therefore not rely on hair care products such as shampoos, oil, serums or home remedies to treat it. Not only will this not give you any results but also you may end up missing out on improving your internal health which is affecting your hair health.
Traya offers a holistic treatment for hair loss conditions. It has a unique approach that comes from combining Ayurveda, dermatology and nutrition. Not only that, in our research we found that most people don't see improvement in their hair loss conditions because they fail to complete the recommended duration of the treatment. Hair has a cycle and therefore hair loss treatments take up to 5-6 months to show results. To ensure consistency, Traya has created an army of hair coaches. These doctor trained individuals act as personal trainers who make sure that you stay on track and adhere to the treatment diligently. Traya treatment is prescribed by doctors. There is a team of doctors on the backend that analyse every case and prescribes dosage accordingly.
Let us understand how different components of the Traya treatment work to create India's best hair loss treatment for androgenic alopecia
Dermatology or Modern Medicine - We use clinically proven and FDA approved solutions such as minoxidil 2% for women, minoxidil 5% fortified with finasteride 0.01% and procapil for men and redensyl 3% to treat androgenic alopecia. These stimulators help improve blood flow to your hair follicles and reverse the damage caused by DHT. Not only that, they also help your hair follicles regenerate so that your growth phase gets longer and your hair regenerates faster. This allows you to get thick and healthy hair back. The serum given to you depends on your stage. We also give you Traya hair vitamins which not only have the essential vitamins and minerals but also have natural DHT blockers such as pumpkin seed extract, pygeum, bhringraj and green tea extract. 76% of the people who come to us for androgenic alopecia have dandruff. Which not only aggravates hair loss but also makes it difficult to absorb the regrowth serums. Dandruff is caused due to a fungus known as Malassezia Furfur and therefore we treat it with an anti-fungal ingredient known as ketoconazole 2% shampoo and lotion.
Ayurveda - As we've mentioned before. Androgenic alopecia has multiple internal triggers. Therefore we use Rasayana herb mixes in the form of 100% Ayurvedic supplements such as hair ras, health tatva, and gut shuddhi. To naturally nourish your scalp follicles, and improve your digestion, gut, metabolism, absorption and hormonal balance. We also use Nasya therapy and Traya herbal oil to improve your sleep pattern and relieve stress.
Nutrition - According to Ayurveda, high pitta or acidity in your body can not only aggravate your hair loss but also makes it difficult for your body to respond to medication and treatments. To address this our Ayurvedic doctor, Dr Shailendra Chaubey creates personalized diet plans that ensure that your body is in a healing state so you can get the most out of your treatment. This includes certain food restrictions that are believed to aggravate androgenic alopecia.
It is important to remember that the treatment should be used for a minimum of 5 months to see results. However, treatment durations vary between 5 months to 1 year to see results depending on your stage of androgenic alopecia and age.
How Does a Balanced Diet Help Treat Androgenic Alopecia?
A balanced diet and good lifestyle habits contribute to improved hair health. So for long-term hair health one must always look towards diet. Here are a few foods that can support your road to recovery for androgenic alopecia.
- Pomegranates: Pomegranates are a rich source of iron, and are always recommended for those experiencing low iron levels. They are also packed with antioxidants that improve blood circulation to your hair follicles. This helps stimulate hair growth and makes hair strong and healthy.
- Chickpeas: Kabuli chana or chole are a great source of protein and manganese and therefore a great food for hair growth. Which helps strengthen your hair and promote the growth of thick hair and improve the rate of hair growth. If you are missing micronutrients like zinc and manganese in your diet. Just grab some chickpeas and make it into a tasty healthy snack like patty or salad.
- Curry Leaves: These leaves are not only great for flavouring your food but also great for your hair. Rich in antioxidants this condiment helps protect your hair follicles against damage from ageing. So if you want dark and thick hair naturally. Time to start adding kari patta, which incidentally is also present in the traya scalp oil tadkas to your meals.
- Methi seeds: This grandma’s favourite home remedy for hair, happens to be true. Rich in iron and protein. These compounds assist in hair growth and protect your scalp and hair follicles against inflammation and fungal infections. Methi or fenugreek seeds are also rich in Vitamin A, C, K and folic acid.
- Lentils (daal): Folic acid is important for anyone with low iron levels or anaemia. Lentils are full of folic acid which help improve the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your scalp and hair follicles. This helps improve the appearance, shine and texture of your hair. And also helps boost the growth of thick hair. So go on and add a bowl of dal as your go-to food for hair growth.
- Can androgenetic alopecia be prevented?
Yes, with early intervention between the stages of 1-4 it can be managed. And baldness can be prevented. In fact, starting in the first stage can prevent one from progressing any further in terms of hairline and crown area density. But there is nothing one can do to prevent androgenic alopecia from happening altogether.
- Does androgenetic alopecia lead to baldness in women?
Androgenetic alopecia can affect both men and women. It can cause hair thinning, increase hair loss and increase scalp visibility in both. However, men can go partially or completely bald. Women only experience partial baldness. Unless they are suffering from alopecia totalis.
- What is the best treatment for androgenetic alopecia?
Holistic treatment is the best treatment for androgenic alopecia because it is a complex hair loss condition affected by multiple factors. In the early stages, it can be treated with FDA approved regrowth solutions and ayurvedic medicines. However, from stage 5 onwards the best treatment is a transplant.
- What is the cause of androgenetic alopecia?
Androgenic alopecia is a genetic condition and is triggered by excess levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) converting into the enzyme alpha-reductase. However, it is affected by other internal health factors, diet, lifestyle and exposure to environmental factors and pollution.
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Dr. Sarna is an MD (Skin & VD) and Gold Medalist from Baroda Medical College. She has a decade long experience in treating hair loss and working on hair regrowth. She believes stress management is the key to good health.