Dr Nitin Shori By Medical Director Published:

If you’re noticing more hair on your pillow in the morning or you’re increasingly catching sight of thinning patches on your head, you’re not alone.

Hair loss – otherwise known as alopecia – may seem frightening, but it’s actually more common than you might think. Two-thirds of all men will be affected by male-pattern baldness at some point in their life. If you put that into more sobering terms that means that 7.4 million men in the UK are losing their hair at any one time. And it’s not an inherently male problem – it’s thought that up to six million women are also affected by hair loss.

What is alopecia?

This is the general medical term given to hair loss. It can be experienced in a variety of forms and there are a multitude of causes of alopecia, dependent on the type.

Male-pattern baldness is the most common type – which can sometimes affect women too (female-pattern baldness) – but others include alopecia areata (patches of baldness), scarring alopecia (where the hair follicle is completely destroyed) and telogen effluvium (thinning of the hair).

Experiencing alopecia needn’t be something to be ashamed of – and more importantly there are steps you can take to soften the emotional blow that often comes with hair loss. There’s also plenty of information out there as to how to treat alopecia, and you do have options.

Propecia (finasteride) is a daily tablet that can be prescribed by a doctor to prevent testosterone being converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone which causes hair follicles to shrink. It can take some time for this treatment to take effect, usually between three to six months of continuous use, so those taking it do need to persevere – but the results should be worth it. During clinical trials carried out on thousands of men, it was found that after two years of using finasteride two-thirds (66%) experienced increased hair growth. Almost a third (30%) of men showed a slight improvement, while 31% showed moderate improvement and 5% found they experienced a great increase in hair growth. On top of this, 83% of men tested in the trial showed no further hair loss.

Alternatively, there are a variety of Regaine products available over the counter for both men and women, which can help strengthen existing hair and stimulate secondary growth.

However, if you are still feeling in need of some extra support in coping with your hair loss there are numerous steps you can take to boost your confidence:

Accept help from friends and family

Be open about your hair loss with those closest to you and confide in them how it makes you feel. Explain how they can be there for you and what type of support you may need.

Attend a support group

When you’re trying to deal with hair loss, having a great support network around you can work wonders. Your family and friends may always be there for you, but meeting and socialising with other people who also live with alopecia can show you that you’re not alone. It will help to hear from other men and women who know exactly what you’re going through and organisations such as Alopecia UK host regular opportunities up and down the country for you to meet others in a similar situation to yourself.

Talk to your hairdresser

Disguise a thinning or bald spot with a new cut, shape or colour. Your hairdresser should be able to offer advice on the best course of action and you could leave the salon with thicker-looking hair.

Try a wig and other cover-ups

If you’re really struggling to accept your altered appearance, wigs and hair extensions are an option many people feel comfortable turning to. You can use a clipping of your natural hair to match up with a wig you’re having made so that while wearing the wig, you can feel as ‘you’ as possible.

Talk to a professional

This is an avenue to explore if you find you’re losing sleep over your hair loss, or if your appearance is worrying you so much it’s affecting your appetite. You could be experiencing depression and aside from this affecting your general wellbeing, the stress and worry may even make your hair loss worse. The P2U online doctor service is on hand to provide you with confidential advice if you’re unsure where to turn next.

Managing hair loss isn’t an easy task – this is a condition that produces a range of emotions, affects confidence and can leave you feeling distressed and helpless. But in most cases it’s completely natural and there are things you can do to ease its impact and carry on enjoying life.