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Why we lose hair

We all have our hair in different ways – long, short, straight, wavy, different colours. It is probably the first thing you will notice when you see someone. These days, I am seeing increasing (premature) hair loss especially amongst men, and most are affected by it. We become conscientious, lose confidence, or irritated.

Hair is made of a protein called keratin that is produced in hair follicles in the outer layer of the skin. As hair follicles produce new hair cells, old cells are pushed out through the skin at the rate of about six inches per year. In other words, hair really is a string of dead keratin cells. An average adult has about 100,000-150,000 hair, and will lose approximately 100 hair a day.

On average, about 90% of hair on our scalp is growing. There are three life cycles of hair growth:

  1. Anagen – active cycle (2-6 years)
  2. Catagen – transitional cycle (2-3 weeks)
  3. Telogen – resting phase (2-3 months)

When the hair growth cycle is disrupted, this will result in hair loss, or hair follicle being destroyed or replaced by scar tissues. So, what are the most common types of hair loss?

  1. Hereditary (androgenic alopecia), this is unfortunately not curable
  2. Gradual thinning at the top of the head for both men and women, and usually occurs as we age (involutional alopecia)
  3. Patchy hair loss (alopecia areata)
  4. All hair fall out (alopecia universalis)
  5. Hair pulling (trichotillomania)
  6. Scarring alopecias – permanent loss due to inflammatory conditions or skin disorder, leaving scars and destroying hair follicle’s ability to regenerate

The common causes of hair loss are:

  1. Hereditary
  2. Hormone changes – from pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, or thyroid problems
  3. Medication and supplements – cancer, arthritis, depression, heart, gout and high blood pressure medications can cause hair loss
  4. Stress – both physical and emotional – usually temporary
  5. Hairstyles – like pigtails, where the traction affects proper hair growth
  6. Radiotherapy to head
  7. Hot oil treatment, rollers, excessive heat – cause inflammation of follicles

Most hair loss causes can be improved or cured. So, what can be done (the focus is on your scalp, where all the hair follicles are)?

  1. Use a better shampoo / conditioner. Avoid products laden with chemicals which gets directly absorbed through the scalp. Do this even if you are bald.
  2. Be gentle with hair / scalp. Proper care is very important to healthy hair. Use a hair treatment for your scalp (and hair) for long term care. Again, do this even if you are bald.
  3. Use a wide tooth brush (gentler on your scalp)
  4. Avoid high heat when styling
  5. Protect hair and head from direct sunlight / UV rays by wearing a hat when outdoors
  6. Stop smoking
  7. Diet – you know we are big advocates of better diets. Foods rich in iron, vitamin C, beta carotene, folate and biotin (vitamin B) all help with hair growth. These include eggs, berries, spinach, fatty fish, sweet potatoes, avocadoes, nuts, seeds.

When I was going through my chemo treatment, I went out of my way (advised by my hair stylist) to care for my scalp every day. The result? Hair growth WAY before chemo ended. Miracles can happen if you put your mind to it.

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