Hair Loss Glossary

An understanding of hair loss can useful, so see below for some simple explanations of hair loss terminology.

Understanding Hair Loss Terms & Phrases

Alopecia: Another word for baldness, Alopecia comes in many different forms. Alopecia areata (AA) is a condition in which hair is lost from areas of the body, usually from the scalp. In some cases, the condition can spread to the entire scalp or to the whole body, resulting in complete body hair loss. If balding occurs across the entire head, specialists refer to the condition as alopecia capitis totalis. There are many different causes of Alopecia such as stress, genetics, age, disease or drugs/medications.

Anagen: Hair grows in cycles - anagen, catagen and telogen. Anagen is the growing phase of hair, lasting between two and seven years (depending on genetics). The cells in the root of the hair are dividing rapidly, adding to the hair shaft and so during this phase, hair grows about 1 cm every month.

Bonding: A term used to describe the fixing additional strands of hair to your natural hair. It involves the application of hair glue to a section of wefted hair (human or synthetic) then onto a person's natural hair; special hair adhesives are used in bonding to prevent damage to one's natural hair.

Catagen: The middle stage between the anagen and resting telogen phases of the hair's growth cycle. It is usually a short transition stage signalling the end of the active growth of a hair.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs are powerful in order to attack rapidly growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, these drugs also attack one’s hair roots, frequently causing temporary hair loss (alopecia). As a result, one to three weeks after Chemotherapy starts, patients often experience a tender scalp and clumps/accumulations of loose hair coming out. As a result, some people choose to give their sc alp a deep chill so that they can keep some of their hair, making their fight for survival seem a bit easier. Scalp cooling is a process in which a tight-fitting, insulated cap is attached to a cooling machine as patients undergo chemo. Near-freezing temperatures are supposed to reduce blood flow in the scalp, making it harder for cancer-fighting drugs to reach and destroy the hair follicles, however, the US Food and Drug Administration have yet to approve their use.

Cortex: The cortex is the main structure of the hair shaft. The cortex makes up for 90% of hair’s weight and determines the colour and texture of the hair. The cortex is the middle layer which provides strength, color, texture, and elasticity.

Cyproterone Acetate: This drug is often used to reduce a man’s excessive sex drive but it is also prescribed to women to treat hirsuitism and alopecia by blocking the binding of DHT dihydrotestosterone to its receptors.

DHT (Dihydrotestosterone)- DHT is a male hormone responsible for the development of all of the male secondary sexual characteristics like male hair patterns on the body, hair on the face and oily skin. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is said to cause S 95% of male baldness and hair loss.

Female Pattern Baldness (FPB): Progressive thinning of hair caused by genetics, age, and hormones. It usually develops at a much slower rate than male pattern baldness. It usually starts by hair thinning on the top and crown of the scalp. It starts with a widening of the centre hair part so that only the front hairline remains. Unlike male pattern baldness, the hair loss rarely progresses to total baldness.

Flap Surgery: A type of hair replacement surgery which relocates an entire bald strip from the side of the head to the frontal hairline area.

Follicular Unit Transplantation: An advanced hair restoration technique in which the surgeon harvests the hair (in groups of 1 to 4 hairs) and grafts them to balding sections of the scalp.

Frontal Alopecia: Hair loss at the front of the head.

Gene Therapy: An experimental technique and treatment method that involves the manipulation of an individual's genetic makeup to try and fix the defective gene.

Hair Weaving: A process by which a hairpiece (synthetic or human hair) is attached to existing hair through braiding or another interweaving process. This is done by sewing a weft of hair onto the corn row with a needle and thread.

Hypothyroid: Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is underactive and fails to make enough hormones thus often leading to hair loss, the thinning of the hair or a change of texture (dry and brittle).

Male Pattern Baldness: More than 95% of hair thinning in men is caused by male pattern baldness often referred to as androgenic alopecia. This type of hair loss is often caused by hormones, genes, and age and is progressive in nature. It is characterized by hair receding from the lateral sides of the forehead and/or a thinning crown thus causing a U-shape pattern.

Minoxidil: Minoxidil is a prescription medication taken orally or topically which stops hair loss and promotes hair regrowth. It is often used as a treatment for high blood pressure. It is used for the prevention and hair re-growing both in male and female pattern baldness.

Norwood Scale: A scale for the classification of hair loss. There are seven levels of hair loss in the Norwood scale. Have fun classifying yourself by using the below indicators:

  • Normal head of hair with no visible hair loss
  • The hair is starting to recede in a wedge shaped pattern
  • Same as two, but it is now more prominent as the hairline has receded deeper into the frontal area and the temporal area.
  • The hairline has continued to recede from stage 3 in the frontal region and temporal area and a bald spot has started to appear at the back of the head.
  • Same as four coupled with much thinner hair coverage
  • The bridge of hair over the head is gone but several strands of short fine hair may remain.
  • The hair is now receding all the way back to the base of the head and the sides are just above the ears.
Retin-A: A brand name for a prescription acne medication. Has in some cases shown to be effective against hair loss. However, for some people it can cause extreme scalp irritation thus making hair loss worse. Retin- A reduces the size of sebaceous glands and down-regulates sebum production. Retin- A can improve Rogaine absorption by regulating cell proliferation. This enhances Rogaine absorption into eh scalp and hair follicles.

Senescent Alopecia: Senescent Alopecia is a type of hair loss that natural occurs with age and is thus often referred to as ‘Involuntary Alopecia’. This occurs in varying degrees in both women and men and is characterized by the general thinning of both hair diameter and density.

Telogen: The resting phase of the hair cycle that usually lasts approximately three months. Approximately 14% of all your hairs are in this stage at one period of time.

Telogen Loss: Loss of hair during resting phase of hair or "natural" loss. This is often characterized by the thinning or shedding of hair resulting from the early entry of hair in the telogen phase. This can often be caused by stress, a lack of nutrition, fever, anemia, drugs or major surgery.

Temporal Recession: Hair loss in the temple region. This is the most stubborn area of hair loss to rectify and is most common in men. Many men take Propecia or Minoxidil to try and reduce the severity of temporal recession. Others turn to surgical hair loss treatments.

Traction Alopecia: This refers to hair loss that occurs due to the pulling of hair. Traction alopecia is commonly seen with braids, pony tails, and other hairstyles that create traction on the scalp. Traction alopecia is a large risk when people choose to have hair weaves and is one of the most common causes of hair loss in African American women.

Vellus Hair: Vellus Hair is known as ‘peach fuzz’ due to its fine, non-pigmented appearance. Vellus hair covers the body of children and adults but is not always visible as they lack a central medulla.

Wig: A covering for the head made from horsehair, human hair, wool, feathers, yak hair, buffalo hair, artificial hair/ synthetic materials, often used to conceal baldness