The Quack of a Duck or the Skirt of a Cheerleader?
There are numerous theories on what causes hair loss, ranging from the centre to the extreme left. It will come as no surprise where a theory involving skull expansion might loiter.
The leading causal theory is DHT. This theory sits squarely in the centre with big pharma and conventional medicine as cheerleaders. Many others (not just the DHT cheerleaders) place the skull expansion theory way over on the left. Over with the ducks. Quack. Quack.
Notwithstanding a similar name for the e-book on the skull expansion theory created by Paul Taylor (Hair Today Hair Tomorrow), to the website you’re now viewing (Hair Today There Tomorrow), Paul and I don’t know each other. Even if we did, I’ll be considering the theory on its merits. Left, right, or centre.
For those in any doubt as to where I sit on the hair loss theory continuum, I can probably be described as a reluctant centrist.
The treatment that ultimately worked for me ostensibly places me in the ‘FDA-hugging centrist’ camp. However, as I explain in the about me section, I spent a lot of time in my eight years of losing hair looking for natural solutions. At least some of them must have slowed the process. I know very few people who started losing their hair at age twenty-eight and still retain as much hair as I have after an eight year search.
Hair Loss: A Medical or Mechanical Problem
To set the context for a left-of-centre ‘what causes hair loss’ discussion, it’s always helpful to start with an inflammatory quote. This one is from David Hatch. As with the skull expansion theory, David cites ‘mechanical’ causes (scalp tightness) for hair loss:
“One of the first things I realized was that we had handed this problem [MPB] to the wrong people. It should have been given to the physicist, the mechanical engineer, the bio-physicist or the biomechanical engineer. Since it deals with the body, we asked the medical profession to address it. So far they haven’t gotten back to us yet with anything but sketchy results.”
I’ll take a closer look at David’s theory in a future article.
As far as this article is concerned, many of you have probably already heard enough. Please, stick with me for a just little longer. If you’ve done your research you’ll likely agree that while the DHT theory is the most widely accepted, it remains somewhat incomplete.
Your Skeleton Doesn’t Look a Day Over 10 Years Old (BTW, Cute Coccyx)
Before delving into an explanation of the skull expansion theory, we need to take a look at the bone remodelling process. Quite a fascinating subject all on its own – did you know, for example, that the human skeleton is never more than 10 years old?
Bone remodelling is a lifelong biological process comprised of two key sub-processes: bone resorption and bone formation. In bone resorption mature bone tissue is removed from the skeleton. Bone formation is where new bone tissue is formed (also referred to as ossification).
According to Wikipedia, in the first year of life, almost 100% of the human skeleton is replaced. While the bones in a human stop growing and hardening at around 25 years of age (depending on the bone), the remodelling process continues to renew bone at about 10% per year.
Remodelling continues for two primary reasons. One, to reshape or replace bone following either significant (e.g. fractures) or extremely minor micro-injuries (which occur during normal activity). Two, as a response to mechanical loading being placed on the skeleton (e.g. significant weight gain).
An imbalance between these two sub-processes (resorption and formation) can result in metabolic bone diseases, such as osteoporosis. In this case, osteoporosis arises due to excessive bone resorption, and inadequate formation of new bone.
Can Skull Expansion Really Occur in Grown Men and Women?
So, bone remodelling is responsible for the growth and maintenance of your entire skeleton, including your skull – from cradle to grave.
Until recently, it was thought that bone growth (or expansion) in the skull halts completely, at a predetermined point, along with the rest of the skeleton. Thereafter, only existing structural integrity is maintained through the bone remodelling process.
Apparently, not so.
Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons in 2007 to explain sagging facial features indicated that:
“Since most bones in the body stop growing after puberty, experts assumed the human skull stopped growing then too. But using CT scans of 100 men and women, the researchers discovered that the bones in the human skull continue to grow as people age. The forehead moves forward while the cheek bones move backward. As the bones move, the overlying muscle and skin also move, subtly changing the shape of the face.”
The FBI may have come to similar conclusions in a July 2001 paper entitled ‘Predicting Growth in the Aging Craniofacial Skeleton’. It states that:
“[N]evertheless, bone remains a highly dynamic tissue with active remodeling occurring through old age. Beyond the fourth decade, this remodeling process has been shown to occur in a differential pattern within anatomically defined areas to produce gross changes in shape at the macroscopic level.”
Could This Actually Provide a Clue as to What Causes Hair Loss, Then?
The skull expansion theory argues that, for those suffering from androgenetic alopecia, the bone remodelling process results in continued, albeit largely imperceptible, skull expansion (or bone growth). This occurs in those with a genetic predisposition to a certain skull shape(s) and size(s). The result of expansion is that scalp tissue that overlays the skull is progressively stretched, constricting blood vessels and reducing blood supply. Hair follicle miniaturisation and hair loss results.
Can Skull Expansion Explain the Horseshoe?
The bones of the skull that underlie the typical MPB region are the frontal and parietal bones. Both of these start off life as separate bones in the womb and grow in an outwards, linear fashion to gradually fuse and form a full size adult skull.
Other skull bones, such as the occipital bone, which form the lower part of the back of the skull, start off life as a single bone and, under this theory, explains why someone with MPB doesn’t lose hair at the lower back of the head. A similar observation can be made regarding the temporal areas (above and around the ears).
One of the key determinants of how pronounced the loss of hair in the MPB region will be is the shape of a person’s skull. The shape effectively acts as a ’regulator’ of growth potential. Crudely speaking, those with more square-shaped heads will be less prone to skull expansion than those with curved heads (the chrome dome reference may have more to it than previously thought!).
Why? Paul uses a simple ‘engineering’ concept of two opposed forces. (I say engineering as this is Paul’s background.)
Let’s take the parietal bones as the example … and assume continued expansion. In someone with a relatively flat skull on top, the parietal bones are in the same plane. The expansionary forces are therefore directly opposed, effectively cancelling out further expansion.
In a chrome dome, on the other hand, the two sides of the parietal bone are opposed at slight angles. This results in an increased peak on the top of the skull as expansion occurs. The force is applied both ‘horizontally’ and ‘vertically’. This increases the stretching effect of the scalp tissue over the skull as the same surface area is ‘pulled’ upwards (a little like lengthening the pole in the middle of a tent!).
You can demonstrate the above using your hands. Straighten the fingers of your hands, keeping them together, and at right angles to your palms (i.e. bend from the knuckles). Ensuring they’re on the same plane, push them one against the other (only your middle fingers will touch). Now, do the same again, but with each hand slightly angled upwards (i.e. the fingers at about a 100 degree angle to your palms). They’ll naturally push upwards to form a steeper peak.
This phenomenon can’t occur in the occipital region (the back of the head), for example, as there is no force being exerted. There is only one occipital bone (the equivalent of one hand) versus two, albeit ostensibly fused, parietal bones.
It’s a rather simplistic explanation but does serve to illustrate the gist of Paul’s point. You can find more detail, and diagrams, in Paul’s e-book and free paper. I won’t go into an explanation of the diffuse thinning noted in women, or the tufts of hair you often see at the front of balding heads, but these phenomena are also addressed in Paul’s ebook.
What about DHT?
Unlike a number of other theories of what causes hair loss, skull expansion doesn’t ignore the role of DHT. In fact, it emphatically agrees that DHT has a primary role in hair loss. Where medical science (let’s call them traditionalists) and the expansionists disagree is in the way it contributes.
In short, the traditionalists believe DHT acts on individual hair follicles.
The expansionists, by contrast, believe that the primary mode of action of DHT is on bone formation. Without getting into the detail, Paul Taylor argues that DHT is a steroid hormone. This means it has an anabolic effect on bone formation; i.e. promotes bone growth.
I think you can guess the follow on argument he makes from there …
I’m sure you’ll agree that as far as theories of what causes hair loss go this one isn’t exactly mainstream. But, hopefully, also very intriguing. If you take a look at people with full heads of hair (and those losing their hair), and compare them with the diagrams and photos Paul provides, you’ll undoubtedly agree that there is an extremely high correlation. Of course, correlation does not equal causation.
It wouldn’t be true to say I’ve only scratched the surface of the skull expansion theory, but it is fair to say that there is significantly more detail contained in both Paul’s free paper and not-so-free ebook that will address some of the questions I’ve undoubtedly raised above.
Now, before you all vilify me, you’ll note that I haven’t challenged the theory. This article simply considers the possibility of skull expansion as a potential cause of hair loss. I plan to go into further detail in a future article. That will include a critique of the theory, as well as a brief overview of what Paul recommends you can do to counteract the effects of skull expansion (massage and compression). Although not recommended by Paul (or me for that matter), there are even devices available that may make the recommended 40 minutes a day more palatable.
In the meantime, I’d welcome any constructive comments or questions you might have below on hair loss causes and whether I’ve at least managed to raise the possibility in your mind of whether skull expansion may play a part.
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