Getting to Know Your Hair

March 30, 2015 2:55 am

The hair that covers the body and scalp is a fascinating and vital part of human anatomy.  It plays a major role in temperature regulation and contributes significantly to our sense of touch.  But even though it represents one of our most obviously identifiable physical features and literally covers the vast majority of our body surface, most don’t really know everything that our hair can do.  At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we devote all of our time and energy to the study of hair so that we can better understand and treat the conditions leading to hair lossgetting to know your hairHere are some intriguing facts from the world of hair research.

  • Hair is composed mostly of keratin, the same protein that makes up animals’ horns, hooves, claws, feathers, and beaks.
  • Aside from bone marrow, hair is the fastest growing tissue in the body; a single head produces an average total of ten miles of hair each year.
  • Hair growth occurs at a slightly faster rate in warm weather, because heat stimulates the circulation that encourages hair to grow.
  • Hair can grow anywhere on the human body with the exception of the palms of hands, soles of feet, eyelids, lips, and mucous membranes.
  • Each strand of hair can support up to 100 grams in weight, which means that an average human head, with between 100,000 and 150,000 strands, could support the weight of two elephants.
  • Healthy hair can be stretched up to an additional 30% of its length when it is wet. Hair lacking protein will fail to spring back to its original state.
  • The human body has approximately 5 million hair follicles; on average, blondes have the highest number of hair strands with 146,000 and redheads the lowest with 86,000.
  • In 1950, only about 7% of American women dyed their hair. Today, approximately 75% do so. In ancient Rome, women dyed their hair blonde with pigeon dung, and in renaissance Venice women used horse urine for the same purpose.
  • Goosebumps from cold or fear are the result of hair follicles contracting, causing the surrounding skin to bunch up and the hair to stand on end.
  • Approximately eighty percent of Americans wash their hair twice a day, a potentially damaging hair care practice which could contribute to over-drying and hair breakage.

If you have questions about your own hair loss, or are interested in any of the hair restoration treatments we offer at The Griffin Center, please contact Dr. Griffin or Dr. Curtis to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

The Hormones Responsible for Hair Loss

March 25, 2015 10:08 am

There are literally dozens of different types of hormones traveling through the human circulatory system at any given time, all playing vital roles in maintaining the activity of the various organs and processes of the body.  Of particular interest to our researchers here at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research are those hormones that have significant effects on the hair’s growth cycle.  Here are five of the hormones that most commonly contribute to hair thinning and loss.

  1. Testosterone:

Understanding-and-Avoiding-Winter-Hair-Loss-700x1049Androgenetic alopecia, or genetic pattern baldness, the most common form of hair loss in both men and women, is believed to be caused by an inherited oversensitivity to dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, a byproduct of the breakdown of testosterone in the body.  When testosterone levels rise, the body’s levels of DHT rise as well, increasing the rate of hair loss in people with this natural sensitivity.  In women, the extent that DHT plays a role in female pattern hair loss is controversial, as studies on the use of DHT blockers in this population have produced mixed results.  We are certain, however, that DHT absolutely contributes to hair loss in women with elevated androgens.

  1. Thyroxin:

The thyroid secretes thyroxin, a hormone responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism and maintaining the energy it needs in order to function.  Underactive hormone production, a condition known as hypothyroidism, can cause many abnormalities, including fatigue, weight gain, and hair loss.  Patients with hypothyroidism often complain of dry, lackluster hair that breaks easily.  Interestingly, too much thyroid hormone, or hyperthyroidism, can cause the hair on the head to become thinner as well.

  1. Estrogen:

While balanced estrogen levels can help keep a woman feeling energized, help keep moods stable, and contribute to a healthy sex drive, either too much or too little can lead to thinning hair.  Estrogen levels may fluctuate as a result of weight gain, perimenopause, as well as certain medications, and hair follicles do have estrogen receptors that are sensitive to fluctuations in this hormone.   In addition, estrogen levels frequently peak and then dip during and after pregnancy, causing sudden hair shedding, or telogen effluvium for many women.

  1. Insulin:

A hormone produced in the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels, insulin affects a number of different body processes, including fat storage, heart health, and hair growth. One study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Risk found that women with some markers of insulin resistance have a greater risk for androgenic alopecia (AGA), or female pattern baldness.

  1. Cortisol:

When under stress, the body produces cortisol, which converts proteins into energy, releases glycogen and counteracts inflammation.  This super-charged “fight or flight” state is ideal for dealing with short term threats, but when sustained for long periods can gradually tear the body down, destroying healthy muscle and bone and slowing down normal cell regeneration.  Over time, this can lead to many unpleasant symptoms ranging from acne to hair loss.

If you have questions about your individual hair loss or any of the hair restoration treatments we offer, please contact The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

How Does Hair Grow?

March 17, 2015 10:37 am

Here at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research we understand that properly diagnosing and treating any of the myriad causes of hair loss requires a fundamental understanding of every aspect of hair growth.  In our last blog, we talked about the anatomy of the hair follicles, the tunnel-like segments of the epidermis that are the source of all of your body’s hair.  This week, we’ll delve more deeply into the hair growth cycle itself and explain just how your hair comes into being.

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About 5 million tiny hair follicles cover your body, lying just underneath the outermost layer of your skin, with about 100,000 on your scalp alone.  At the base of each follicle is the papilla, which contains the tiny blood vessels that nourish the growing cells in the hair bulb.  These cells divide every 23 to 72 hours, significantly faster than any other cells in the body, to form long chains of a fibrous protein called keratin.  These fibers form the shaft of the hair, which slowly pushes up through the skin as it grows, passing the sebaceous (or oil) gland along the way.  This sebaceous gland is vital because it produces sebum, which conditions the hair, keeping it shiny and soft.

By the time the hair has grown long enough to poke through the skin, the emerging shaft itself has died, but the bulb deep inside the follicle continues to grow and nourish new hair.  This growth, however, does not occur all at once.  Instead, at any given time, a random number of hairs will be in one of three distinct stages of hair growth called the anagen, catagen, and telogen phases.  During the anagen phase, the cells in the root of the hair are dividing rapidly and new hair is growing at a rate of about 1 cm every 28 days.  Scalp hair stays in this active phase of growth for two to six years, while the hair on the arms, legs, eyelashes, and eyebrows have a very short active growth phase of about 30 to 45 days, explaining why they are so much shorter than scalp hair.  After the anagen phase comes the transitional catagen phase, a relatively short (two to three week) period when growth stops and the outer root sheath shrinks and attaches to the root of the hair, forming a “club hair” which is easily shed.  At this point, the hair enters a roughly 100-day telogen phase, where the hair is completely at rest.  During this time the follicle begins producing a new anagen hair shaft, which pushes out the fully formed club hair still resting on the surface.  Anywhere from 50 to 100 telogen hairs are naturally shed each day.  However, in a process referred to as telogen effluvium, an abnormal amount of hairs enter the telogen phase prematurely and are shed simultaneously.  This is caused by external or internal stressors on the body and hair, such as hormone changes, thyroid problems, and even extreme mental stress.

If you have additional questions about your own hair loss, or are interested in any of the hair restoration treatments we offer at The Griffin Center, please contact Dr. Griffin or Dr. Curtis to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

A Close Look at the Anatomy of Hair

March 11, 2015 3:48 am

Here at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we work to understand every aspect of hair, from its growth cycle to its basic care, so that we can educate our patients on all of the options for combatting hair thinning and loss.  Whether your specific hair restoration treatment involves a customized blend of prescription medicines, minimally-invasive approaches like platelet rich plasma or red light therapy, or full hair transplantation surgery, the first step must always be a thorough diagnosis of the underlying issues.  But in order to properly understand how hair grows, it is necessary to first understand its basic anatomy.  In this handy illustration, we explain the fundamental parts of the hair follicle, in order to give you a better understanding of what hair loss really means.

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If you have questions about your individual hair loss or any of the hair restoration treatments we offer, please contact The Griffin Center to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Are Dandruff and Hair Loss Related?

March 6, 2015 11:42 am

Many men and women suffering from hair loss also experience dandruff, those dry, white flakes of skin you brush off your collar or shoulders.  However, although it is relatively common for the two conditions to occur in the same patient, they each have completely different causes and are usually not related.  At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research we are devoted to investigating and educating our patients about all forms of scalp and hair conditions.

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While hair loss can be the result of many different possible causes, dandruff isn’t really about the hair at all.  It is actually all about the skin on your scalp.  Dandruff occurs when skin cells shed from the scalp in a larger number than usual.  Flakey white patches can be seen on the scalp.  Exactly why this happens is not entirely clear.  A very common fungus called malassezia is believed to contribute to dandruff.  While this fungus lives on the scalp of most healthy adults without causing any problems, some theorize that the immune system of someone with dandruff may overreact to this fungus, resulting in something akin to an allergic reaction.  Dandruff can also often be triggered or exacerbated by environmental conditions, such as cold, dry weather, or even by emotional or physical stress.

Although dandruff is neither serious nor contagious, and will generally not lead to other health problems, it can be an issue for those suffering from genetic pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia.  Most people just beginning to experience hair loss notice it first after washing their hair.  Even though a healthy scalp naturally sheds anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs every day, that hair loss tends to be most noticeable after the vigorous rubbing that occurs in the shower.  Many often think that if they wash their hair less, their hair loss can be slowed down or avoided.  This could not be further from the truth, and in fact can be particularly problematic for those prone to dandruff.  Dermatologists recommend that those suffering from dandruff should be washing their hair every day or at least every other day.

Moreover, some hair loss treatments, such as minoxidil, may cause dandruff-like flaking as a side effect. The alcohol in minoxidil can dry out the scalp, and after a few months of treatment, dandruff may set in.  This issue, however, can usually be solved by having the patient simply switch to another medication or start using a dandruff shampoo.  At The Griffin Center, Dr. Edmond Griffin or Dr. Ashley Curtis frequently prescribe topical hair restoration treatments made up of a combination of medications custom blended to address the individual patient’s specific needs.  These custom blended prescription treatments can be formulated to treat hair loss while keeping dandruff under control.

If you have questions about caring for your hair or any of the treatments we offer, please contact The Griffin Center to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Can Laser Light Treat Pattern Hair Loss?

February 19, 2015 9:49 am

While most of our patients at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research come to us seeking full hair restoration surgery to restore lost thickness and fullness to thinning areas of the scalp, we also realize that a surgical option is not necessarily the best option for everyone.  Many patients, particularly those just beginning to lose their hair, can often benefit more from prescription hair loss medications such as Finasteride (Propecia®) or over the counter treatments like Minoxidil (Rogaine®), which can be particularly effective in slowing hair loss or, in some cases, even re-growing some hair.  However, some cases of alopecia may present special challenges that require even more innovative solutions.  For example, some women may not be optimal candidates for hair restoration surgery, as the more diffuse pattern of women’s hair loss may leave them with insufficient density to provide adequate donor follicles.  In these cases, scientifically advanced hair restoration treatments like Red Light Therapy may be part of the solution.

hair-replacement-atlanta-gaNearly fifty years ago, while conducting experiments on rats to determine the potential carcinogenic effects of laser exposure, doctors found that hair regrew significantly faster on the shaved rats that had been exposed to laser light than on those that had not been exposed.  Eventually, it was determined that a highly specific wavelength of red light (approximately 655 nanometers) could help those recovering from traumatic injury by reducing inflammation and accelerating tissue regeneration.  This same wavelength of light, applied directly to the scalp, was found to increase the energy production around the unhealthy follicle cells, stimulating them from dormancy into an active growth phase while increasing the production of fuller, thicker, and healthier hair.  Finally, a 2014 study published in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine concluded that this non-invasive low level laser therapy (LLLT) improved hair counts by an average of 37% higher than the control group in women with genetic pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia, a rate similar to that observed in males using the same parameters.

Red Light Therapy does require an extensive course of treatment in order to be most effective.  The initial course of exposure usually takes 4-6 months to show results, and additional “maintenance” sessions 1-2 times a week are strongly recommended for maximum results.  In most cases, Red Light Therapy is used indefinitely as an adjunct to topical and oral medications.  At the Griffin Center, low level laser therapy can be administered with a hood type device (similar to the commercial hair dryers you might find at a hair salon), with the portable, in-home iGrow® hair growth system, or with the LaserCap®, a discreet, portable device that can be worn underneath an ordinary baseball cap.

If you have questions about Red Light Therapy or any of the other hair restoration treatments we offer, please contact The Griffin Center to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Understanding the Causes of Childrens Hair Loss

February 9, 2015 2:47 am

Although hair loss in children is a relatively uncommon phenomenon, it does account for an estimated 3% of all pediatric office visits in the United States.  A great deal of this hair loss, or alopecia, stems not from medical conditions, but from simple habits that can usually be easily remedied.  For example, tightly binding hair styles, like elaborate braids or pigtails, can place stress on developing hair shafts and follicles.  Over time, this stress can result in a condition called traction alopecia, where the hair comes out by the roots, leaving behind areas of obvious thinning, usually along the front and sides of the scalp.  Traction alopecia is most often seen after the hair has been twisted into tight braids for months at a time.  While it can affect women and men of all ages, children are particularly susceptible.

childrens hair loss (large)Similar patchy hair loss can also be the result of a psychological condition known as Trichotillomania.  Children suffering from this condition habitually pull, pluck, twist, or rub their hair, causing uneven patchy hair loss characterized by broken hairs of varying length, with patches most prevalent on the side of the child’s dominant hand.  Trichotillomania is believed to be triggered by an emotional stressor or excessive anxiety.  While scolding or punishment generally does little to curtail the compulsion, counseling to help the child deal with the source of their stress or anxiety may help stop it.

The most common cause of children’s hair loss, however, is a persistent condition known as tinea capitis.  Although it is also known as ringworm of the scalp, this superficial fungal infection of the skin can also affect the eyebrows and eyelashes.  Tinea capitis usually causes severe itching along with hair loss in round or oval patches.  Broken-off hairs are generally visible as dark colored dots just above the surface of the scalp and, in some cases, gray flakes or scales can be seen on the skin itself.

The fungi that cause tinea capitis grow well in warm, moist areas and are more likely to occur in patients that have minor skin or scalp injuries, do not bathe or wash their hair often, or who have wet skin for prolonged periods of time.  Tinea capitis can spread easily, usually through direct contact with an infected area on someone else’s body, by sharing combs, hats, or clothing that have been used by someone with the condition, or even by pets, particularly cats.  While it can occur at any age, it most often affects small children and remains one of the most common causes of hair loss in children worldwide.

Tinea capitis is most commonly treated with anti-fungal medications.  Early identification and treatment can prevent permanent hair loss that can result from scarring on the scalp.  While it may be difficult to get rid of tinea capitis, and the problem may come back even after it has been treated, in many cases it gets better on its own after puberty.

If you have questions about caring for your children’s hair or any of the treatments we offer, please contact The Griffin Center to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ .

Understanding and Avoiding Winter Hair Loss

February 5, 2015 4:50 am

During the winter months, many of our patients come to us concerned that they are losing hair more rapidly than usual.   Fortunately this is very rarely the case. While it is common for hair from a healthy scalp to shed somewhere between 50 to 125 hairs a day as a part of hair’s natural growth process, the idea that this shedding somehow increases during the winter is completely false. In fact, one six-year study from the University Hospital of Zurich shows that people actually lose the least amount of hair when the weather is cold. Research suggests this might be a leftover evolutionary adaptation, with the body shifting to increased hair growth as a natural response to dropping temperatures. Melatonin production, which increases in darker winter months, actually helps regulate hair cycles, spurring longer, and warmer winter coats in all mammals, including humans. However, even though hair growth may be stimulated during the winter, other environmental factors often contribute to excessive drying and breakage, which can make it seem as though you are suffering from rapid hair loss. Some of those environmental factors include:

Understanding-and-Avoiding-Winter-Hair-Loss-700x1049Long Hot Showers: A long, hot shower might feel great on a cold day, but long exposure to hot water can strip moisture and essential oils from hair and skin, leaving the scalp and hair dry and brittle. Stick to warm or lukewarm water for 10 minutes or less to keep your hair healthy. Commercially available deep-conditioning treatments, often fortified with vitamin E, are designed to replace your hair’s natural oils, while products with higher alcohol contents can often contribute to excessive drying.

Sun Exposure: Even though the damage caused by ultraviolet light can be just as significant on a snowy ski slope as it is on the beach, people seldom take the same precautions to protect their hair in the winter that they normally would take in the summer. The effects of the sun combined with a blustery wind that can snarl hair or snow and rain that can make hair brittle and dry can cause significant damage to your hair. Simply keeping your hair covered from the wind, rain and snow with a hat or scarf can make a world of difference.

Heating: Dry, heated air from a furnace or central heating unit can cause as much damage to your hair as spending an entire afternoon under a hair dryer. Excessive drying caused by damaging hair care products can also make hair brittle and easily broken. Any friction, like pulling on and off a too-tight hat, can snap or uproot brittle hair altogether. Using a simple humidifier and dimethicone containing serums on the hair shafts while you have the heat on can spare your hair a great deal of damage.

If you have questions about caring for your hair or any of the treatments we offer, please contact The Griffin Center to schedule a consultation. Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

The (Un)Common Causes of Hair Loss

February 4, 2015 9:03 pm

At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we have always believed that every case of hair loss is unique, and that proper treatment requires a case-specific diagnosis.  While it is true that the vast majority, more than 90%, of men and women suffering from hair loss are experiencing a genetically linked form of pattern hair loss known as androgenetic alopecia, or pattern baldness, our dermatologists also see many people with other forms of alopecia.

Three of the most common of these lesser known forms of alopecia include:  telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, and scarring alopecia. The-UnCommon-Causes-of-Hair-LossWhile relatively uncommon, telogen effluvium (or TE), is probably the second most common form of hair loss dermatologists see.  It happens when there is a change in the number of hair follicles in the growth phase versus the resting phase. Internal or external factors on the body lead to stress on the hair follicles causing an abnormal number of them to shift prematurely into the resting or telogen phase. The result is shedding, or TE hair loss.  This condition can be triggered by a number of different physical stressors, ranging from the natural hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy or menopause to a system-wide shock caused by crash dieting or physical trauma.  A related, but distinctly different condition called anagen effluvium is most frequently seen in people taking cytotoxic drugs for cancer or those who have accidentally ingested toxic products.

Alopecia areata (AA) ranks as the third most common form of hair loss that dermatologists see, after androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium.  Alopecia areata appears to be an autoimmune disease that functions similarly to rheumatoid arthritis, but with the individual’s own immune system attacking hair follicles instead of bone joints.  If the resulting hair loss spreads to cover the entire scalp, the condition is called alopecia totalis, and if it spreads over the entire body, affecting scalp, eyebrows, lashes, beard, pubic hair, and everything else, then it is called alopecia universalis.  The lifetime risk for AA is nearly 2%, meaning that two in every 100 people will get AA at some point in their lives.

Scarring alopecia, also known as cicatricial alopecia, refers to a collection of hair loss disorders that occur in up to 3% of hair loss patients, affecting otherwise healthy men and women of all ages, worldwide.  While there are many different forms of scarring alopecia, the common theme is a potentially permanent and irreversible destruction of hair follicles and their replacement with scar tissue.  Most forms of scarring alopecia first occur as small patches of hair loss that may expand with time. In some cases the hair loss is gradual, without noticeable symptoms, and may go unnoticed for a long time, while in others, the hair loss can be rapidly progressive and is associated with severe itching, burning, and pain.

If you have questions about these conditions or any of the treatments we offer at The Griffin Center, please contact Dr. Griffin or Dr. Curtis to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Understanding Telogen Effluvium

January 15, 2015 9:36 pm

While genetically linked pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is by far the most common cause of hair loss in both men and women, it is certainly not the only one.  Many patients who suffer from sudden and apparently inexplicable hair loss are actually experiencing a less common condition known as telogen effluvium.  In order to understand how telogen effluvium functions, it is necessary to understand hair’s natural growth process and how that process can be disrupted.

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Hair follicles on the scalp do not continuously produce hair.  Instead, they progress through a regular growth cycle consisting of three stages: anagen (growth phase), catagen (transition phase), and telogen (resting phase).  During the anagen phase, which can last up to two years, new hair is formed and gradually grows from the follicle.  At any given time, anywhere from 80% to 90% of the hair follicles in a healthy scalp are in this stage.  Eventually, the hair moves to the transitional catagen phase and growth stops.  From there, the hair finally progresses into the telogen stage, when the hair loosens in the follicle and subsequently falls out over the course of 3 to 5 months.  Because approximately 15% of the hair follicles are in the telogen stage at any given time, a healthy scalp sheds anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs each day.  However this loss is typically replaced by newly growing hair and so generally goes unnoticed.

Telogen effluvium occurs when external factors disrupt this natural cycle.  During extremely stressful situations, the body can trigger a disproportionately large number of hairs to move into the telogen phase all at once.  About 3 months later, this hair begins to fall out as it would normally during this point in the telogen phase, but in significantly larger amounts than usual, causing diffuse thinning over the entire scalp.  To someone experiencing this sudden hair loss, it can seem as though hair is falling out in clumps for no particular reason whatsoever, but it is, in fact, just a result of a physiological stress that may have occurred months earlier.  Anything that can cause some form of shock to the body can potentially cause telogen effluvium, from physical trauma, such as being in a car crash or undergoing major surgery, to crash dieting that starves the body of necessary proteins.  Even significant emotional stress, like the death of a loved one or a divorce, can prompt changes in eating and sleep patterns that the body can interpret as dangerous stress, resulting in the same symptoms.  A similar condition can occur when a woman has a newborn child.  In this case, temporary hair loss may reach its peak at six months, but will typically regrow over the next year.

Fortunately, the hair loss from telogen effluvium is usually temporary.  The hair follicles are not permanently or irreversibly damaged; there are just more hair follicles in a resting state than there should normally be.  If the particular external cause that triggered the condition is short lived, the hair follicles should return to their growing state and start producing new hair fibers within six months.  In cases where a specific causal factor cannot be identified, Extra-Strength Rogaine® (5% minoxidil) or one of our custom formulated topical prescription compounds can be prescribed to minimize further hair loss and help stimulate new hair growth until the underlying trigger can be addressed.  Unfortunately, there are cases when, despite all treatment, it still takes a long time for the scalp to completely recover all the hair that was lost.  Red LED Laser Treatment with the LaserCap”¢ may be an additional way to help stimulate new hair growth.

If you have questions about the causes of hair loss and treatments offered by The Griffin Center, please visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ .  If you are interested in discussing hair loss or hair restoration options, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.