Hair care: A knotty problem

Plagued by hair troubles? Here's what to do

Human hair is dead keratin. And yet, it twirls, kinks, curls, and has the ability to shine and glow. It surely is the most alive dead tissue ever! Let’s take a look at the common problems that afflict our hair.

The problematic type

Hair problems can be divided into three main categories: Problems generally occur in the scalp, hair root [follicle level] and hair shaft [strand of hair]. And they are not restricted to a particular hair type or gender of the person.

Problems of the scalp

Dandruff is a term given to the normal turnover of the scalp. The top layer of the scalp, similar to the skin, is made up of dead cells and these are shed regularly. A little bit of shedding is always visible. In certain seasons, like early summer and monsoons, dandruff worsens and needs clinical treatment.

Dandruff can be complicated by fungi on the scalp leading to seborreheic dermatitis [inflammation of the scalp], itchy scalp and sticky dandruff. Sometimes, bacterial infections cause folliculitis [painful boils] on the scalp.


Care of the scalp is mainly about regular and appropriate cleansing. All shampoos tend to form a residue on the scalp and it is a good idea to rotate brands to prevent this. If there is visible or symptomatic dandruff regularly, use a shampoo with antifungals like ketoconazole, zinc pyrithionine [ZPTO] or ciclopirox. Boils, fungal infections and allergies require the care and consultation from a dermatologist.

Problems at the hair root

Hair loss is the main reason why most people seek the help of a hair specialist. The most common types of hair loss are:

  • Telogen effluvium [shedding hair fall]Shedding hair is the most common cause of hair fall in women. Various reasons like stress, poor nutrition, chronic illnesses and pregnancy tend to push the hair follicles into the resting phase. After a period, all this hair goes into the shedding phase leading to visible clumps of hair fall.
  • Male pattern hair lossPattern hair loss or balding is a common cause of hair loss in men. It can start as early as in the mid-20s and strictly speaking is a physiological sign of ageing.
  • Female pattern hair lossThis is the hair thinning that women experience on top of their crown, which slowly continues as baldness.


Shedding hair can be cured by supplementation with protein and vitamins like biotin. Keep stress away. This condition usually gets corrected within 6 – 9 months and then, hair resumes its normal cycles.

Male pattern hair loss can be treated effectively [by a dermatologist] with topical lotions and tablets. The more advanced cases benefit from surgical procedures like hair transplants.

Treatments for female pattern hair loss are not as effective as for male pattern hair loss. However, early detection and treatment with topical lotion is effective in most cases.

Problems at hair shaft

These problems are due to external factors that damage the hair. The damage is of three types:

  • Physical damageHot appliances like hair dryers, curlers and heating irons damage the cuticle. This makes the hair porous, dry and more fragile. Hair can also develop bubbles and break easily.
  • Chemical damageRepeated shampooing causes damage to the cuticles. Hair colours that contain ammonia and paraphenylenediamine [PPDA] weaken the hair and make it prone to breakage.
  • Ultraviolet [UV] damageUV rays from the sun fuse the hair cuticles. This depletes the hair of moistur, making it prone to breakage.


Physical damage can be averted by restricting the use of heating appliances on the hair.

To avoid hair from chemical damage, avoid colouring your hair—even if you have to colour, use the ammonia-free variety. Apply conditioner to your hair after every wash. This protects and repairs your hair of all damages—it also makes hair more lustrous and manageable.

UV damage can be evaded by applying sunscreen serums to your hair.

In addition to the above-mentioned tips, eat a diet high in biotin, sulphur, cysteine and protein. These vital nutrients are found abundantly in eggs, walnuts, sprouts, paneer and varied-coloured fruits and vegetables. Just a little bit of care and effort can ensure you have such beautiful hair that is envied and admired by all.

Aparna Santhanam
Dr Aparna Santhanam is a cosmetic dermatologist and hair specialist. She is also a Parachute Therapie Hair expert. She has an avid interest in holistic health and fitness. She loves combining modern medicine with traditional beliefs and remedies.


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