This sensitivity affects the hair growth cycle. Hair spends less time in the growing phase and shrinks, becoming finer and finer (this is known as miniaturisation) until the hair follicle stops growing and stops producing hair altogether. There are three phases of the hair growth cycle.
The first phase
known as the Anagen phase. This is the ‘active’ or ‘growing’ phase. It lasts between one and seven years. The average growth cycle of hair is four years. At any given time, 80%-90% of our hair is in the anagen phase.
The second phase
Called the Catagen phase. This is referred to as the ‘transition’ phase. Hair detaches from the blood supply and shrinks to about 1/6 of its size. This phase usually lasts between one and three weeks and, at any given time, 2%-3% of our hair is in this phase.
The final phase
Is the Telogen phase. It is the ‘resting’ phase and can last for three months or longer. At any given time, 10%-15% of our hair is in this phase. In a normal telogen phase, up to 100 hairs can be shed in a day.
Other people who have few to no androgen receptors have a much longer life cycle for their hair’s anagen phase. This is how they could live past 100 and die with a full head of hair.
It’s important to know how male pattern baldness works because treatment is linked to whether or not you’re taking medication as part of the solution. The Thérapie Hair Restoration Clinic does not just embark on hair transplant surgery. Resident surgeon, Dr Andre Nel recommends patients first take Finasteride – preferably to be used on a long-term basis. Sometimes he recommends combining it with Minoxidil. These, and other, medications are inexpensive, especially if one amortises it over a lifetime.
In Dr Nel’s opinion, the best way to go about treating male pattern baldness is to make use of the said medications and have a hair transplant. He explains that if you don’t arrest the process of miniaturisation, four or five years after a hair transplant the existing hairs may have miniaturised and you will start seeing your scalp again.
Dr Nel also stresses that one wants to keep as many hairs on one’s scalp that are of a good calibre as possible. The only way to do that is by taking Finasteride and using Minoxidil. One may also combine it with other medical treatment modalities such as low-level laser light therapy or platelet-rich plasma injections.
Low-level laser light therapy stimulates the release of adenosine triphosphate (ATP); it converts light energy to chemical energy and stimulates the epidermal stem cells into the anagen (growth) phase. Platelet-rich plasma works by using a portion of the patient’s own blood and swinging it down in a centrifuge. This results in a concentration of platelets that are injected into the scalp. The platelets cause more blood vessels to grow in that area, giving more oxygen, causing the hair to have a better calibre again.
Dr Nel says the practice is all about maximising the calibre and preventing the process of miniaturisation. Only as a final step will Dr Nel conduct hair transplant surgery, and only to areas where there is already complete baldness, or the Arector Pilli muscle is already detached.
These are the fundamental principles of how the Thérapie Hair Restoration Clinic approaches hair transplant surgery. This way people won’t need to have multiple hair transplants over time. They may just need one transplant, and possibly another one to tweak it down the line. Dr Nel stressed that this approach is a process and needs to be managed over a lifetime.
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