Roughly 70% of our patient's list regrowth as one of their goals on their patient intake forms.
Now the short answer to this question is, it depends. Obviously, that is not helpful so let’s look at why it depends and how we set proper expectations with our patients. To answer this question, we need to look at two main variables, what is causing the hair loss and how long the hair loss has occurred.
Before we go further, it is important to set expectations about what we mean by reversible. We are never going to have the hair we had 20 years ago, but for many types of hair loss, we are able to see both thickening of existing hairs and regrowth of some of the hairs that were lost, however again it depends on the type of hair loss and when the loss occurred.
Diagnosing the type of hair loss is the most important step of any treatment plan because it helps us identify not just the best treatment options, but allows us to properly set expectations for what we can accomplish treatment. So, let’s look at each type of hair loss and what we can typically expect.
The good news is that with the most common type of hair loss, androgenic alopecia (genetic hair loss), we can typically see some reversal of the hair loss, but how much depends on how long the loss has occurred.
The second most common type of hair loss, telogen effluvium (hair loss due to stressors) is almost always completely reversible. However, we must ensure that the stressor is also stopped. It could be a physical stressor on the body, like a medication, or it could be emotional stress.
Traction alopecia, which is caused by tight hairstyles like tight ponytails, cornrows, or extensions, can be reversed if the hairstyle is stopped and the loss has not occurred for an extensive period of time.
Alopecia areata has an auto-immune component to it and typically presents as patches of bald spots with sharp edges. While we can see significant regrowth with some types of alopecia areata, the problem is that even when that occurs, flare-ups are common, and the loss may occur again.
We are seeing an increase in the incidence of scarring alopecia, which is much harder to treat, and see some regrowth, but not impossible. The issue with scarring alopecia is the hair follicle is actually damaged and once that occurs it most likely will not produce hair again, which is why we need to treat it early and aggressively to have any chance to see regrowth.
One common thread in the ability to see regrowth for any type of hair loss is the amount of time that has passed since the hair loss occurred. While there is no magic timetable, this is why we stress the importance of seeing a hair loss specialist as soon as you think you are experiencing thinning hair or hair loss, especially as it is easier to prevent a further loss than restore what is lost. Most types of hair loss are progressive, which means they will most likely get worse without treatment, so if you think you are experiencing hair loss or thinning, meet with a hair loss specialist to diagnose the cause of your hair loss and start appropriate treatments.