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What is alopecia?

6 min

Alopecia generally refers to hair loss on any part of the body. Considered normal when you lose up to 100 hairs a day, it becomes pathological beyond that.

What is alopecia?

Alopecia, a frequent condition

Hair loss is more frequent in men, though women may also be concerned. It affects approximately 15% of 20-year-old men, 30% of 30-year-old men and one in two 50-year-old men, versus 30% of 50-year-old women.

We lose on average 50 to 100 hairs per day. Hair that falls out can be replaced by new growth:

  • The anagen phase is the hair growth phase, it lasts on average 3 years (the duration may vary with gender and from one individual to the next). This is the longest part of the hair growth cycle.
  • The catagen, or regression phase, lasting 3 weeks on average, during which the hair stops growing.
  • The telogen, or hair loss phase, lasting 3 months on average: the hair falls naturally due to friction, brushing and pressure from a new root forming in the scalp. A new hair growth cycle can then start with a new hair.

This is the normal life cycle of a hair.

Alopecia can be a difficult challenge for many people to overcome, but it's important to remember that science has made significant progress in treating this condition.
Dr. Howard Murad

Different types of alopecia

Transient hair loss or telogen effluvium

This is temporary and reversible. It is very frequent and may be caused by numerous factors: labour, menopause, seasonal changes, extreme fatigue, very strict diet, emotional shock, depressive state, medicines, post-surgery, etc. The hair falls out in clumps. If "hair loss" lasts beyond 3 to 6 months, the following tests should be performed: CBC, ferritinaemia and TSH to look for iron deficiency or dysthyroidism.

Persistent hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia

80% of persistent hair loss falls into this category. It mainly affects men (50% have this condition at 50 years), though 15 to 20% of women are also concerned during their life. Androgenetic alopecia is genetic (family history) and occurs when the concentration of the hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is too high. DHT binds to the androgen receptors on the hair follicles, thus blocking the normal growth cycle, causing it to become thinner and eventually to fall out. In this case, contrary to telogen effluvium, the hair does not fall out in clumps, but rather becomes more sparse.

Johnston's alopecia or pelade

This is an autoimmune disease in which the body reacts against the pilosebaceous glands. It may occur in cases of stress or emotional problems. In most cases, the hair grows back after a few months.


This is a fungal infection of the scalp. It causes circular bald spots along with desquamation (shedding of small fragments of skin) of the scalp. A few areas covered with brittle hair are left.

When should I consult?

You should consult if your hair starts to fall out in clumps, for no apparent reason, or if you wish to test a treatment to hide baldness.

A diagnosis can then be made, sometimes using a trichogram, which consists in plucking a few hairs from 3 specific areas of the scalp to study the roots or hair diameter under the microscope or a micro-fiche reader. This can help identify some causes of hair loss and can also serve to determine the magnitude of hair loss and to monitor treatment efficacy.

Advice in the event of hair loss

  • Wash your hair when it is dirty. Contrary to common belief, this does not aggravate hair loss, as long as you use a suitable shampoo.
  • Do not smoke - Do not drink
  • Avoid excessive exposure to sun and UV radiation
  • Avoid vigorous rubbing, heat (hair dryer or curling iron), along with repeated or chronic pulling
  • Limit dyeing or bleaching to once per month and do not combine with a permanent or straightening
  • Eat a balanced diet (iron, vitamins and thioaminoacids)

Management of alopecia

Telogen effluvium

  • In all cases, regrowth is spontaneous and total.
  • The preferred treatment is supplementation with thioaminoacids, vitamins and minerals: to recreate high-quality hair and to help regrowth (e.g.: Novophane Capsules)

Androgenetic alopecia in men

  • Topical (Minoxidil 2% skin solution, Minoxidil 5% skin solution, Micrografts, Wigs, Hair growth supplements)
  • Per Os (Finasteride 1mg/day, Vitamins, thioaminoacids, minerals (Novophane Capsules))

Androgenetic alopecia in women

  • Topical (Minoxidil 2% skin solution, Micrografts, Wigs, Hair growth supplements)
  • Per Os (Vitamins, minerals and thioaminoacids (Novophane Capsules))

Frequent ask questions

Yes, massaging the scalp stimulates blood micro-circulation. As a result the hair roots are better nourished, the toxins stored in the vessels are eliminated, along with any excess sebum that could suffocate the hair.

Unfortunately, this is untrue. Cutting your hair regularly does, however, help keep them in good health.

Finding a dozen hairs each morning on your pillow is no cause for alarm, it is normal to lose between 50 and 100 hairs per day. Beyond this, however, you should see a dermatologist.

  • Troubles des phanères : alopécie. Annales de dermatologie et de vénéréologie (2012) 139, A204—A208
  • Shapiro, J. (2007). Hair loss in women. New England Journal of Medicine, 357(16), 1620-1630.
  • Ludwig, E. (1977). Classification of the types of androgenetic alopecia (common baldness) occurring in the female sex. British Journal of Dermatology, 97(3), 247-254.
  • Gilhar, A., Paus, R., & Kalish, R. S. (2007). Lymphocytes, neuropeptides, and genes involved in alopecia areata. The Journal of clinical investigation, 117(8), 2019-2027.
  • Centre Sabouraud

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