Possessing a dense and luxuriant mane covering the scalp is a cherished dream for all. However, very often, this dream is eclipsed by the nightmare of large-scale hair loss. It brings with it anxiety and depression. In desperation, we seek ways and means to check this menace completely, or at least curb it.
It should be noted that a certain rate of hair fall, that is, loss of a number [80-100] of hair strands per day is normal. However, when it exceeds that limit, it becomes a cause for concern and is considered a problem. Some people lose a lot of hair early in life because it runs in their family [inherited] or because of disease, medications, stress, injury, or damage to the hair.
What causes hair loss?
The most common cause of hair loss is genetics – you inherit the tendency to lose hair from either or both your parents. This is called male-pattern or female-pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia. [Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss.] About 50 per cent of people have this type of hair loss by about 50 years of age.
Other common causes of hair loss include:
- Ringworm of the scalp [tinea capitis], which is common in children.
- Mental stress or physical stress, such as recent surgery, illness or high fever.
- Chemotherapy, the use of medication to destroy cancer cells.
- Pulling your hair back too tightly, wearing tight braids or ponytails, or using curling irons or dyes.
- As you age, you grow less hair. It is also thinner and tends to break more easily.
What are the symptoms?
Hair loss can occur as thinning [you may not notice hairs falling out] or as shedding, with clumps of hair falling out. It can be general – you lose hair all over your scalp – or focal, which means you lose it in one area only. In inherited hair loss, men generally develop bald spots on the forehead area or on the top of the head, while women have an overall thinning of the hair throughout the scalp.
Because hair is an important part of appearance, hair loss can result in loss of self-esteem and feeling unattractive, especially in women and teens.
Hair loss is diagnosed through medical history and physical examination. Your health professional will question you about your hair loss. Do your parents have hair loss? When did your hair loss begin? How much hair are you losing. He or she will also look at the pattern of hair loss, examine the scalp, and may tug gently on a few hairs or pull some out. If the reason for your hair loss is not clear, the person may take a sample of your hair or scalp to examine under a microscope, or do a blood test to identify a disease source.
How should you treat it?
Some people choose to treat hair loss with medications or surgery, such as hair transplantation. Others choose to wear hairpieces [wigs or toupees] or use different methods of hair styling [dyeing or combing]. The approach you use depends on the cause of your hair loss and how you feel about it. Some people feel they need treatment, while others are not as concerned about thinning hair or baldness.
Hair loss that is caused by a controllable factor, such as stress or medication, is treated by eliminating the cause. Whether your hair grows back depends on the cause of your hair loss. If you have inherited hair loss, you would need treatment to re-grow your hair. It will not grow back naturally. However, treatment to re-grow hair does not work for everyone. If your hair loss is caused by medication, stress, or damage, hair often grows back after the cause is removed, although sometimes treatment may be needed.
Home treatment for hair loss includes hair care and hairstyling techniques that may help you cover thinning or bald spots on the scalp. This may be easier for women, because inherited hair loss [androgenetic alopecia], causes a general thinning that is usually not as severe as it is in men. Hair sprays, dyes, and permanents can help make the hair appear fuller.
In women with inherited hair loss, hair care and use of grooming products, hair sprays, hair colour, teasing, permanents, or frequent washing will not increase hair loss. However, if your hair loss is caused by improper hair care, then perms and dyes may contribute to more hair loss.
For both men and women, hair thinning and baldness increase the risk of sunburn and skin cancer on the scalp. When in the sun, wear a hat or use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more to prevent sun damage to the scalp.
Medication for hair loss can slow thinning of hair and increase coverage of the scalp by growing new hair and enlarging existing hair. However, they need to be taken continuously. If the medications are stopped, any hair that has grown back will gradually be lost, and within 6-12 months your scalp will most likely appear the same as before treatment. If you are taking medication for inherited hair loss, do not expect to re-grow a full head of hair. Hair coverage is improved on the top of the head, but not on the forehead area. However, when you stop taking these medications, hair loss begins again.
Make sure you choose the best option for your hair and keep looking your best.
Tips To Prevent Hair Loss
- Get rid of stress as this is most dangerous for your lovely hair.
- Bend your head while you are shampooing and massage your scalp. This will increase blood circulation to the scalp.
- Get sufficient sleep. Like healthy body, healthy hair also needs a good night’s sleep.
- Ensure your diet is rich in Vitamin B6 and zinc.
- Use supplements if you cannot get enough from natural food sources.
- Don’t pull your hair. By pulling your hair you are placing strain on the hair follicle and may cause permanent damage which results in that particular follicle not being able to grow hair again.
- Be careful not to rub you scalp against a towel to dry it. Rubbing your scalp can also damage a hair follicle. If possible, pat away excess moisture and then leave the hair to dry naturally.
- Don’t use wigs, unless advised by a doctor. The scalp needs to breathe for the hair follicles to work to their maximum effect. Using a wig suffocates the follicles.
- Use the right shampoo for your hair. Shampoos are formulated for a reason and giving your hair the most help possible is a good idea. Also, never over-wash your hair, otherwise, you deprive it of all its natural oils.
- Don’t use permanent or colorants. Using any chemical on the hair can lead to damage of the scalp and hair follicles.
- Always wash your hair thoroughly after using shampoo. Shampoo contains soap and chemicals and needs to be washed off thoroughly after use.
- It is important to watch your diet. Eating unbalanced diets results in deficiencies and your hair will not get the nutrition it needs. You should also carefully watch your intake of both vitamin A and E as excessive amounts of both these vitamins have been linked to hair loss.