Gorgeous hair has always been regarded as the key to any woman’s beauty. Quality beauty products and stylish clothes are relatively easy to get. Healthy hair, however, is the result of routine care and treatment.
Women have been complaining increasingly about hair problems, such as brittle, lifeless, dull and falling hair, particularly, in the spring and autumn. Can we say that these annoying hair conditions always signal a serious health problem?
In this article, we are going to look at the following issues:
- Signs of hair loss (also known as alopecia)
- Kinds of alopecia
- Common causes of hair loss
- Advice on hair recovery
Signs of Hair Loss, Aka Alopecia
Falling hair is not a disorder. Each and every hair has its own lifespan. When it’s up, a hair dies. It is natural to lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day.
What is it that should make you aware that the problem has gone beyond normal, and that you risk to lose your thick chevelure? The answer is simple: do a test.
Look at a fallen hair closely. If there is a light follicle at the end, there is no need to worry. Your hairs are dying a natural death while your hair is regenerating itself. Try not to shampoo your hair for two or three days. At the end of this period, put your hands on your head and pull your hair at the temples. There bound to remain a few hairs between your fingers. Put them on a piece of paper. Do the same on the other areas of your scalp. If you have pulled out less than 15 hairs, you do not have reasons to worry. However, if there are more than 15 hairs, the amount of lost hair exceeds the norm.
Kinds of Alopecia
- partial, or focal, baldness, i.e. loss of hair on a particular area of the scalp;
- change of hair structure around the affected area. This hair becomes noticeably thinner, lifeless and brittle.
Focal alopecia has several degrees of severity.
- Local baldness with typically rounded or oval receding hairline.
- Partial or complete baldness, with all the affected areas merging.
- Complete loss of hair all over the scalp.
Diffuse, or symptomatic alopecia
- homogeneous hair loss all over the scalp;
- receding and thinning hair.
This condition may be caused by a number of factors, among them: hormonal imbalance, vitamin deficiency, protein deficiency and others. These factors trigger increased hair follicle sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone. Dihydrotestosterone is a hormone that prevents normal absorption of nutrients by hair follicles and blocks blood circulation. It leads to thinning and falling hair.
- thinning and falling hair on the crown and receding hairline.
This type of alopecia has traditionally been considered a male pattern of baldness. However, more and more women nowadays suffer from androgenetic hair loss due to the prevalence of male hormones in their endocrine profile.
Common Causes of Hair Loss
Statistics shows that one in three women has suffered from hair loss at some point in her lifetime. Unfortunately, hair loss among women usually signals serious health disorders. Our hair is the first indicator of our health. It reacts to a disease long before other symptoms emerge.
Let us consider the main causes of hair loss.
A woman’s body is a complicated and unique system. Any failure in its performance may deteriorate the condition of the skin and hair. Hair loss signals an increase in the level of testosterone, which is a male hormone. As a result of this increase, hair follicles become affected by androgens.
You may wonder, why male hormones find themselves in a girl’s body. As a matter of fact, human reproductive system is able to produce both female and male sex hormones, which perform specific functions. In a woman’s body it is the ovaries that are responsible for producing male sex hormones.
Female sex hormone also known as estrogen is a natural source of the beauty and youthfulness of your skin and hair. “Wicked” androgens, on the other hand, are the main culprits that are to blame for alopecia. This is why members of the stronger sex are more often prone to premature baldness. However, it should be noted that a decrease in the level of estrogen also leads to flat hair.
Causes of Hormonal Hair Loss Among Women
- Postnatal period. Hormonal waves are a normal occurrence in the body of a young mother. A dramatic rise in the level of female sex hormones during pregnancy affects hair in a positive way. It becomes strong, thick and glossy. After childbirth, however, the level of estrogen drops sharply. Your body struggles to normalize the hormones, which may cause a severe “hairfall”. There are a lot of young mothers who face this unwelcome phenomenon. There is no need to panic, because your hormonal profile will return to normal in the course of the first year and your hair will stop falling.
- Ovarian or adrenal dysfunction. These organs are responsible for the production of sex hormones. This is why any disorder in the well-functioning system is bound to have an adverse effect on the condition of hair.
- Menopause. At the age of 40 the activity of ovaries begins to slow down. As a result, the level of estrogens drops and our body immediately responds to age-related changes.
- Thyroid disorders. Thyroid is one of the major hormone suppliers. Any thyroid gland pathology is fraught with changes in the hormonal profile and results in hair loss.
- Intake of birth control pills and other hormonal drugs. Hair loss may occur after a course of hormonal medication or after going off hormonal birth control (withdrawal syndrome). The reason for this condition is a kind of habituation that your body develops to receiving estrogens from the outside. These external estrogens help you to keep your beauty alive. Lack of this stimulant triggers a sharp drop in the level of hormones, which causes hair loss.
How to Treat Hormone Related Hair Loss
The question is, how the raging hormones can be tranquilized? Are there ways to stop the rapidly developing hair fall? Is it possible to restore the thick hair that you used to have?
It is if you do not neglect the disorder and see a specialist as soon as you notice the problem. There are quite a few ladies who prefer to practice self-medication until hair loss gets out of control and reaches catastrophic proportions. If this is the case, hormonal therapy may prove to be ineffective.
When you see the first symptoms of alopecia, make an appointment with a general practitioner who will assign relevant examination and refer you to a dedicated specialist. Remember that hair loss is the least dangerous symptom of hormonal imbalance.
Hair loss is frequently caused by an unhealthy diet. If there are no major medical disorders in your body, your hair loss may be caused by the lack of essential vitamins and minerals. For this reason, you should review your diet and consider a number of health boosting practices.
Your hair needs certain vitamins and minerals. Vitamin E and complex B vitamins are some of the most important nutrients your hair cannot do without.
Milk, eggs, broccoli, beans, brown rice, poultry and brewer’s yeast are some of the foods that are rich in vitamin B complex.
- Vitamin B1 performs a protective role and safeguards your body from stress.
- If vitamin B2 is insufficient, your hair ends become dry, while hair roots are oily.
- Vitamin B3 takes part in the pigmentation of your hair.
- Vitamin B 6 is essential for removing dandruff.
- Vitamin B9 boosts hair growth.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency results in the emergence of dandruff. It also causes hair to become brittle and blocks blood circulation in the scalp. So, lack of this vitamin can also lead to hair loss.
Vitamin E is in charge of oxygen transportation, consequently, it is also responsible for the nutrition of your hair. Vitamin E is high in lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, spinach and sunflower oil. If your diet is deficient in vitamin E, hair begins to fall.
If your hair is falling, you should include the following foods into your diet:
- fish, meat, nuts, wholemeal bread (vitamin PP);
- Brazilian nut, tuna (selenium);
- wheat bran, oysters, fish (zinc);
- melted cheese, wheat bran, nuts, sesame, almonds (phosphorus);
- cashew, white beans, soya, bran (magnesium);
- nettle, sesame, fish, almonds, cheese (calcium).
Some serious hair problems, including hair loss, may be caused by the intake of some medicines. Fortunately, in most cases, hair loss as a side effect of some kind of medication is a temporary thing. However, in some cases medication may result in severe hair problems and cause really unpleasant experiences.
Hair loss is quite frequently triggered by the use of anti-tumor medication. Complete loss of hair commonly occurs as a result of chemical therapy. Hair can also change its colour and structure suddenly due to the intake of cancer medicines. For example, curly hair can become straight and vice versa.
Intake of blood-thinning medicines may also cause hair loss. Blood thinners reduce blood coagulability and prevent the formation of blood clots. These medicines are normally prescribed for the treatment of heart attack, brain hemorrhage, prevention of thrombosis, coronary artery and cerebral atherosclerosis. Such medicines are also used after some operations, including heart surgery.
Hair problems are likely to occur as a result of a regular intake of some antiulcer agents.
In some cases, hair loss becomes severe in the course of hepatitis C treatment.
Some antibiotics and medicines for rheumatoid arthritis may cause hair loss as a side effect. Hair growth problems may emerge due to a long-term intake of some antifungal drugs.
As a rule, one cannot expect a significant improvement of the condition of hair until treatment is stopped or completed. It may take as long as half a year to restore your chevelure.
If the condition of your hair does not improve and it keeps falling, or if hair structure or the condition of the scalp skin has changed, you had better not experiment with self-medication and turn to a trichologist. It may turn out that your hair problem has been due to other reasons, rather than medicines. In order to find out the real cause, you may need to have your hair examined by means of a trichogram or biochemical analysis.
Quite a few hair problems are stress related. Chronic stress, depression, being obsessed with problems, emotional trauma — all these mental conditions often result in receding and falling hair.
One can experience permanent stress because they have to deal with problems at work, worry about their children, or have other kinds of negative emotions. The condition of hair changes gradually and undergoes several stages:
Anxiety causes hormonal imbalance in your body.
Changes in the endocrine system hinder the supply of nutrients and oxygen to hair follicles. The amount of hair at this stage remains the same, but the growth of new ones is stopped.
Permanent lack of oxygen kills hair follicles. As a result, hairs become thinner and thinner and eventually die. At the final stage, baldness sets in.
A peculiar feature of stress related hair loss is the fact that hair does not start to fall immediately. A severe negative experience simply causes your hair to stop growing. A few months will pass before they begin to fall. The consequences of stress may take up to half a year to manifest themselves in hair loss.
Stress is a disease that has to be treated before it becomes chronic. You should see a therapist and have treatment for depression.
After removing the cause of your anxiety, make an appointment with a trichologist and endocrinologist to check up your hair condition and to determine your hormonal profile.
The health of your hair largely depends on the ecology in the area where you live. Polluted air, high level of radiation, bad quality of water in addition to a poor diet — all these factors have a very negative impact not only on the condition of your hair, but also on your overall health.
Hair loss because of adverse ecological situation is definitely a serious argument in favor of moving to an ecologically friendlier environment. However, such factors as good quality food, lack of stress factors and good health make it easier to withstand the impact of harmful environment.
Insufficient Blood Supply to the Scalp
Hair loss may be due to insufficient vascular supply of the scalp, or poor hair care as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle. This is why one should only wear a light head covering if any at all. It is also recommended to avoid tight collars and neckties that hinder blood flow to the neck and head.
We recommend washing hair with warm water, because it removes dirt more effectively. Besides, warm water causes blood vessels in the scalp to dilate and boosts blood circulation. Better blood flow promotes hair health and stimulates its growth. Oily hair takes longer to wash because it has to be shampooed twice, and it has to be washed more often. Frequent washing makes dry hair even dryer, brittle, dull and causes splitting of hair ends.
It is important to use a wooden comb. If your hair is thick, use a comb with wide spaces between the teeth. The teeth must be smooth and even. Comb your hair with long strokes from the roots to hair ends. Another method of boosting blood circulation is to brush your hair. Brushing removes dust and particles of dirt, aerates hair and stimulates blood flow to the roots by pricking the scalp. It also removes dead cells and hairs and gives your hair silky gloss. Use a hard brush working from the hairline to the nape. Then divide your hair into segments and brush each segment in different directions. You can also massage the roots with your fingertips. Such massage will boost blood circulation and the activity of oil glands. Massage your scalp before you wash your hair.
Improper Hair Care
This is by far the most common cause of hair loss.
What does it mean to give your hair improper care?
- Use of alkaline soap, SLS based shampoo, parabens etc.
- Rough combing with a metal comb. Use a comb of high quality, made of wood or natural bristles.
- Long exposure to the sun or dry wind. Protect your hair with a head covering.
- Daily hot dry-blowing, flat ironing or thermal styling. Only use cool or warm dry-blowing if you have to, and not more than once a week.
- Washing your hair with cold or earthy water. Only use warm and soft water.
- Daily use of volumizing shampoo. Do not wash your hair more often than once every three or four days. As for voluminizing shampoo, just rule it out for good.
- Simultaneous chemical perming and dyeing.
All the practices that we have listed, make hair change its structure. The body of a hair becomes brittle, splits up and breaks. As a result, hair begins to fall.
If you start to let your hair dry naturally, use a wooden comb and become careful when choosing haircare products, it will not be long before your hair stops falling.
Infectious diseases are often accompanied by hair loss. When it comes to an acute infection, hair loss is due to fever, especially when the temperature goes above 39oC. Another reason for falling hair is acute intoxication. With chronic diseases, however, the factors that cause hair loss are germs attacking hair follicles, chronic intoxication, impaired blood circulation and metabolic disorder. In some diseases, such as syphilis and some kinds of fungal infection, hair loss has typical features and may signal the disease.
Genetic background ranks first among the causes of hair loss. Scientists have discovered a genetic link to baldness. People who inherit a hair loss gene develop a condition known as hypotrichosis. This disorder manifests itself in receding hair or a complete hair loss both among men and women.
The symptom of hytrichosis is receding hair along the hairline. The condition deteriorates gradually and may spread all over the scalp.
If your hair loss has a genetic link, it is practically impossible to treat or prevent it. The only thing you can do is to give your hair the best care you can. Make use of a conditioner, use a high quality comb or hairbrush, avoid dry-blowing, thermal styling and chemical perming.
Avoid pulling your hair and do not wear pony tails or tight plaits.
If you feel embarrassed by your hair, wear a wig or other kinds of artificial hair.
See a doctor if you think that your hair loss is linked to a serious health disorder.
Advice on Hair Recovery
- Make sure you have a healthy daily routine. It is essential that you sleep enough and walk for at least half an hour a day.
- Give up unhealthy habits. Smoking and alcohol have an adverse effect on your health and appearance.
- Do not expose your head to either overcooling or overheating.
- Take proper care of your hair. You had better avoid using a metal comb for good, not just while you are dealing with hair loss. Same goes for the dry-blower and thermal styling accessories. The less you damage your hair, the better.
- No more sophisticated styling, chemical perming or dyeing. All these kinds of treatment will exacerbate the problem.
- Massage your scalp with fingertips and a brush to stimulate circulation and nutrition of hair follicles.
- Avoid stressful situations. When you experience a psychological discomfort permanently, you overtax your body. It may result in a nervous breakdown or nervous exhaustion, which is definitely the last thing you want for the beauty of your hair.
- A healthy diet is essential. Inadequate nutrition brings about malfunction of the endocrine system and of digestion. As a result, you may develop focal alopecia or severe hair loss.
Hair has an amazing adaptive ability. If the cause of its falling is eliminated, it is quite possible to recover its original thickness.
You can either work out a balanced diet including all the essential components, or take special vitamins for hair health.
As you can see, there are a number of factors that may cause hair loss. Try to sort out the problem using the right food, sport and cosmetics. If you fail to solve the problem yourself, seek specialist help.