What information would you say is essential for women to understand about alopecia?

I think it’s important for people to note that alopecia is a general overarching term for hair loss and encompasses many conditions. Women specifically are complex humans in many ways and that includes in relation to hair. Ninety percent of my patients are female, and their hair loss cases are often far more convoluted than their male counterparts. In other words, there are often several factors that play a role in female hair loss. Women should try to look beyond the physical area of thinning, taking a holistic view of their health and lifestyle to pinpoint triggers behind the hair loss.

Secondly, paying close attention to and understanding your hair and health can really help women identify changes in their hair. There are some instances where women may wear their hair in protective styles regularly and although this is generally fine, problems are more easily identified when you handle your hair regularly. With more consistent handling of the hair you learn to better understand how it behaves i.e. when it requires moisture, a trim or a shampoo. Without seeing or handling your hair regularly, you can sometimes miss slight changes that could be addressed early on.

Lastly, don’t wait! If you suspect something isn’t quite right visit your GP or a specialist for a second opinion. There are so many instances of hair loss that go unchecked until the very final stages of the condition. It is far easier to mitigate against the spread of hair loss than to regrow hair.

What are the actions we can do to help prevent/reverse alopecia where possible?

While there certainly isn’t a magic potion or one fix for all, there are some types of hair loss that can be prevented with better handling. Traction alopecia for example, can be avoided by being kinder to your scalp when detangling and styling. Temporary hair loss associated with stress and nutrition can be mitigated against by having a good understanding of your body and its changes. Knowledge of self is sometimes key to identifying changes and combating alopecia. 

However, in certain instances, such as in hair loss associated with health, you are likely to require more in-depth conversations, tests, and treatments beyond what you can do from home. Treatments for alopecia will vary based on individual circumstances but factors that specialists will take into consideration include the cause, length of time, extent of hair loss, progression, allergies and any other underlying conditions or medications among other things.

There are many products on the market that promise to aid those with hair loss. Are there any you would recommend?

There are very few products that are proven to support new growth and buyers should be wary of hair growth oils and the like however, it makes sense to look at the ingredients of a product to help determine whether it may stimulate hair growth. There are studies that have implicated the use of ingredients like caffeine to help stimulate growth. Generally speaking, when choosing products look for ingredients that stimulate the follicles by increasing blood circulation which draws oxygen and nutrients to the scalp. More importantly, always conduct your own due diligence and ask for studies and trials that support any enthusiastic claims. Regaine is the only commercially available product FDA proven to grow hair and this is only under certain circumstances. 

Interview with Smart Hair Clinic Consultant Trichologist  Nicola Smart