Isn’t it paradoxical that inspite of the fact that most of us enter the world as bald as a coot, and sometimes even exit that way, we spend our lifetime trying to maintain our hair through thick and thin. All of us lose between 40 and 120 strands of hair a day, depending on the amount of hair one has and its growth cycle.
Hair growth is not a continuous process. Hair follicles have a growth phase (anagen) and a resting, non-growth phase (telogen). Depending on how we treat our hair there will invariably be a variation in the amount of hair loss too. The lost hair is often so quickly replaced that we almost never notice its departure. But If you start to notice an alarming amount of hair on the bathroom sink or on your brush, if your pillow is covered with scads of loose hair, if your part seems to be getting wider or you're seeing more scalp, you've probably got a problem and its time to take some action before you are fated to join the million men and women suffering from hair thinning or pattern hair loss. Hair loss and thinning can lead to anxiety, depression, and lack of confidence and fear too.
Why on earth did it happen to me?
Hair loss begins when a certain enzyme converts the hormone testosterone into another hormone called DiHydrotestosterone (DHT). Androgenetic Alopecia, or hereditary hair loss is the most common cause of hair loss. Roughly put, the more Androgens or the hormones that affect hair loss you have the faster you will lose hair. Men generally lose their hair in a horse-shoe shaped pattern; i.e. they lose hair at the top of their head. Women on the other hand very rarely ‘go bald’. Here hair thinning takes place with the part getting wider and the hair receding from the frontal area behind the frontal hairline. Telogen effluvium or hair loss due to emotional stress is another major cause for hair loss. What happens here is that hair goes through a synchronized shift from the anagen phase to telogen, the resting phase? This occurs after severe physiologic stress, such as any major surgery, pregnancy, death, divorce, loss of job etc. Usually once the period of stress is over hair growth slowly returns to normal.
Other factors for hair loss include use of birth control pills (relating to the amount of the progestin hormone in the pill), or a reaction to certain medications or even some supplements. Hair loss is also a known reaction to chemotherapy drugs. Thyroid, syphilis and other illnesses will also lead your hair to fall out. Improper care too plays a role in hair loss. Pulling the hair by wearing a very tight pony tail, cosmetic changes like colouring the hair, rebonding too much blow drying , over zealously brushing your hair , can all cause hair to be pulled out prematurely.
Another important factor is diet. Improper diet, iron deficiency, dyes used incorrectly, losing too much weight too soon and menopause can also cause your hair to thin out.
So what can one do to slow down or reverse hair loss?
History tells us of how the Greek physician Hippocrates tried to alleviate his patients' baldness with pigeon droppings. Aristotle tried goat’s urine to remedy his own baldness. Cleopatra prepared pastes for Julius Caesar made of ground horse teeth, deer marrow and charred mice mixed with bear grease. Its unlikely that any of these remedies bore fruit but the effort in that direction continues. One should however not lose hope as today, more than ever, there are many ways to slow down and even treat hair loss to a large degree.
First check if you are missing out on any of the following:
- Adequate intake of vitamins.
- Balanced diet rich in iron and protein.
- Intake of raw vegetables, fresh fruits, salads, green leafy vegetables regularly.
- Washing hair twice weekly with a light shampoo.
- Reduce anxiety, stress and sleeplessness.
- Check for infections of scalp.
If hair fall persists meet a dermatologist or a physician who deals with hair loss and ascertain the reason for the hair fall. No absolute cure for hair loss has been found so far, yet not all varieties of hair loss are untreatable. Drugs known to slow the onset of common baldness, minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia) are available with prescription. These have gained wide popularity but few of its side effects are still coming to light.
Surgical treatments are becoming quite popular as they give a very ‘natural’ look. Hair is transplanted from the back of the scalp from where it grows. This is a very expensive treatment and the can be quite invasive. Experts agree that a diet rich in whole foods and irons help promote hair growth. The food we eat shows in the quality of blood, and, therefore, the hair. For men, it has been suggested that a low fat diet may help decelerate the balding process. For women, hair loss could be a sign of a gastrointestinal problem, which needs to be checked. Lack of protein, or an excess or Vitamin A are a often stated cause of hair loss.
According to Chinese Medicine, hair loss is related to a kidney deficiency. The ancient texts caution that too much sweet or salt could cause hair to fall out. Natural remedies such as Aromatherapy, and natural supplements and herbs such as Saw palmetto oil, Folic acid,Silica biotin, and vitamin B5 are also said to help rejuvenate and maintain thickness of the hair. Ayurveda believes in a holistic approach to alleviate hair loss issues. It is based on the use of plant oils, herbs, as well as meditation, diet, exercise and massage to balance a person's three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) that make up one's "Prakruti" (mind-body type). According to this ancient science, oils such as brahmi and Bhrigaraj oil reduce Pitta dosha in the hair follicles thereby stimulating hair growth. Mixing either of these oils with some coconut oil and leaving it overnight is a popular solution.
Everyone's hair loss is different, and with constant care and attention one can reduce hair loss and have a head full of beautiful tresses.