Hair loss may be restricted to only scalp or may affect the whole body. The main causes of hair loss could be heredity, certain medications or an underlying medical condition. Men, women and children could possible experience hair loss. Hair loss may appear in many different ways, depending on the problem that’s causing it Hair loss could appear suddenly and may happen gradually. It may affect only one part of the body or it may affect the entire body depending on the factor causing it.
Hair loss is temporary or permanent at times. The signs and symptoms of hair loss are gradual thinning on top of head, circular or patchy bald spots, sudden loosening of hair and full-body hair loss. Some conditions and medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer, will result in the loss of hair all over your body.
The hair usually grows back after treatment ends. The causes of hair loss are due to hormonal imbalance, which causes temporary hair loss. Temporary hair loss could be due to pregnancy, childbirth, discontinuation of birth control pills or the onset of menopause. Some medical conditions like thyroid problems, alopecia areata, scalp infections and other skin disorders can cause hair loss. Hair repeatedly grows and falls out in accordance with the hair cycle; in a normal scalp, 85% to 90% of all follicles will be in anagen phase and 10% in telogen phase at any given time.
The total number of scalp hairs maintained is estimated to be about 100,000. However, several factors can disrupt the phases of the normal hair cycle. If these shorten the anagen phase, they can cause the hair to become finer, thus turning what was terminal hair into vellus hair. This is the case in male pattern baldness where large hair follicles become smaller and the change from terminal hair to vellus hair is accelerated.
When the telogen phase becomes longer, the ratio of hair in the telogen stage increases. As a result, a considerable amount of hair falls out without immediate replacement. As this situation continues, the scalp hair becomes thin and noticeable balding results. Female pattern baldness, or so-called diffuse baldness, also shows this pattern.
Balding may also show up as a phenomenon that accompanies aging, whereby terminal hair changes to vellus hair. Possible reasons for this disruption to the hair cycle, which hair growth products commonly target, include:
- Decreased function of hair matrix cells that produce hair, resulting in hair follicle atrophy and very fine hair
- Decline in blood flow that carries nutrients to follicles, resulting in decreased metabolic function of hair matrix cells
- Increased sensitivity of androgenic hormones resulting in male pattern baldness that develops due to blockage of hair growth
- Activation of sebaceous gland functioning that deteriorates the scalp and hair follicle environment
- Dietary imbalance resulting in the lack of nutrients to the hair follicle that adversely affect sebaceous gland functioning
- Other factors such as heredity or extreme mental stress.
Androgenic alopecia (AGA) or baldness directly distresses self-confidence affecting the individual’s quality of life. Hair loss is therefore a significant psychosocial manifestation that worth much expense on treatment. Androgenic alopecia is noticed as a slow transformation of large scalp terminal hair follicles to shorter, thinner, and less deep vellus hair with a much shorter anagen.
AGA is well deﬁned on male and female scalp. In men, the initial frontal recession is followed by balding on the crown or central scalp and vertex. The hair loss in men is discrete in frontal, temporal, mid, and vertex. In women baldness begins on the top of the head and the hair density diffusing starts without the temporal recession.
Basically two hormones called Testosterone and Aromatase are responsible for the hair loss in human being. Testosterone is mostly responsible to hair loss in men; other enzyme relating to hair loss is aromatase located in the other root sheath of hair follicles. This enzyme converts Testosterone precursor into estrogen in women. This therefore explains less severe hair loss in women who have 2-5 times more aromatase than men confirming frontal hairline sparing in women.
How to keep your hair healthy
Iron deficiency (ID) is the world’s most common nutritional deficiency and is a well-known cause of hair loss. What remains unclear is what degree of ID may contribute to hair loss. Vegans and vegetarians are also at higher risk for ID, as their requirements for dietary iron are considered to be 1.8 times higher than for meat consumers. Non-heme iron, found in plants, has a lower bioavailability than heme iron, found in meat and fish.
Zinc deficiency causes dry and brittle hair. Dietary risk factors include vegetarianism, as bioavailability of zinc is lower in vegetables than meat. Additionally, vegetarians typically consume more legumes and whole grains, which contain phytates that bind to zinc and inhibit absorption.
Deficiency of Omeg-3 and Omeg-6 fatty acids. Hair changes include loss of scalp hair and eyebrows as well as lightening of hair. Additionally, arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, may promote hair growth by enhancing follicle proliferation.
There is no proof to show that Vitamin A, D, E and Folic acid deficiency can cause hair loss.
How to keep hair clean and healthy:
The arrangement of the hair cuticles allows self-cleaning properties of the hair fibers, repelling by itself some dirt and greasy residues. However, with time accumulation of grease and dirt occurs and the hair needs to be cleaned. Shampoos’ primary goal is to clean the hair and scalp of these residues. Nowadays, it is expected that shampoos have secondary benefits such as to prevent hair fiber damage, keep the hair aesthetically presentable and preserve its softness, combability and shine. These secondary functions are usually the reason to purchase a particular shampoo. Therefore, the most significant interactions for shampoos are the ones happening near the fiber surface and first few cuticle layers. Nonetheless, if the hair surface is damaged and the cortex exposed, shampoos interact also with the exposed cortex.
A shampoo usually has an average of 80% water content and pH from 5 to 7. They are typically composed of ingredients; that can be grouped into cleansing agents, conditioning agents, special care ingredients, additives, preservatives and aesthetic agent.
Conditioners reduce friction, detangle the hair, minimize frizz and improve comb ability, restore hydrophobicity, enhance shine, smoothness and manageability.
The mechanism by which conditioners work to provide hair manageability relies on decreasing static electricity and reducing friction among hair fibers. Static electricity is reduced through the deposition of positively charged ions/molecules on the hair fiber surface which possesses a natural negative dipole moment; besides negative charges are induced by combing, brushing and are more exposed on damaged hair. Friction is reduced by some components that flatten cuticles along the longitudinal axis of the fiber. Smooth cuticles reflect more light which improves hair shine and color and provides softness to the hair. Conditioners may also seal the gaps that expose the cortex to environmental damage. The substances that compose the conditioner may reach the cuticle surface or the inner part of the cortex, depending mainly on their molecular weight.
- Don’t choose hairstyles that put pressure on hair such as tight ponytails, buns, etc.
- Do not rub wet hair vigorously with a towel or use a blow dryer as these will make the hair weaker and more brittle. Instead, let it air dry naturally.
- If your hair fall is severe, do not opt for hair treatments such as perming, straightening, colouring, etc. These will make it worse.
- Do not eat too much of red meat as this can aggravate your hair loss. Red meat such as pork, beef, etc. is DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) activators. This can lead to male pattern baldness.
- Do not eat too much of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and lentils if your hair loss is due to hypothyroidism
- Panic about your hair loss. See a hair restoration expert for a correct diagnosis and treatment guidance.
- Do nothing. Occasionally thinning hair is caused by factors such as a poor diet or stress and once the cause has been addressed, hair growth can resume as normal. The leading cause of hair loss and baldness is alopecia and it should be discussed with a hair restoration professional.
- Avoid washing your hair for fear of it falling more. Washing your hair more frequently won’t make it fall out more. People who avoid washing their hair get the impression of excess loss due to the buildup of hair that has been shed. Washing your hair every 2-4 days with a gentle shampoo and conditioner and rinsing in between is ideal.
- Excessive styling your hair. Your scalp becomes dry or inflamed if you use too many products on your hair and that won’t do your hair any favours.
- Washing and conditioning your hair regularly will help in keeping your scalp healthy and free from dirt, dandruff and boils
- It is always better to use a wide-toothed comb instead of a hair brush. But make sure you comb your hair regularly as it boosts blood circulation in the scalp.
- Green tea, soya, pumpkin seeds, etc. should be added in your diet. It has been reported that these foods naturally inhibit the production of DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) and therefore help control hair loss.
- Eat more eggs, nuts, black dates, garden cress seeds, black raisins and fenugreek in your diet, if your hair loss is caused due to anemia or iron deficiency.
- Smoking reduces the blood supply in your body which means your hair follicles will not get enough nutrients and therefore lead to hair fall so quit smoking as it can aggravate hair loss.
- Eat two tablespoons of roasted and powdered flax seeds If your hair loss is due to dandruff issues. If you do not like its taste, you can add it to curd which will also help reduce a scaly scalp.
- Dry your hair gently. Vigorous or rough toweling of your hair may cause weak hair to snap and may damage new follicles. Be gentle when drying your hair.
- Keep your hair short. Longer hair tends to accentuate the areas that are growing thinner. Keeping it short will help to blend it in.
- Reduce your stress. Stress is one of the top causes of hair loss. Practicing mindfulness or going to the gym is a great way to moderate stress levels.
- Eat well. A poor diet lacking in essential nutrients, minerals and protein starves your hair of the essentials it needs for strong growth.
- Be careful with hair loss products. There are so many easily accessible “solutions” on the market. Before you go wasting money on the wrong type of treatment, it’s imperative that you have the cause of your loss correctly diagnosed.
Herbs for hair fall: There are many synthetic drugs like Minoxidil, finasteride and dutasteride available for the treatment of hair loss but they are associated with so many side effects that it becomes highly risky to continue the treatment with these agents. There are many herbs available which have been used since time immemorial for the treatment of hair loss. Some of them are as follows:
- Emblica officinalis (Amla): Amla fruit is used for normal hair growth. Pure water extract of Amla stimulate proliferation of dermal papilla cell in a concentration dependent manner, suggesting their role in hair growth promotion. Amla fruit extract is also useful in Iron deficiency leading to hair loss because of oxygen deficiency.
- Bacopa monnieri ( Brahmi) Water extract of the whole plant of Brahmi has been used in the traditional system of medicine for centuries. Brahmi contains some pure active substances that enhance one particular enzyme activity in hair root that may be responsible for hair growth. Application of Brahmi extract Brahmi has shown prominent hair growth promoting activity.
- Trigonella foenum graecum,Methi or Fenugreek contains protein, fat, carbohydrates, galactomannan (44%) and many other active substances. Methi extract showed the minimum time to initiate (5 days) as well as to complete the hair growth (18 days) at denuded surfaces. Formulation with Methi extract showed the best hair lengthening.
- Hibiscus rosa-sinensis: This herb is widely cultivated in the tropics as an ornamental plant with varying colour of flowers. The leaves and flowers of Hibiscus promote hair growth. Water extract of Hibiscus leaf increases hair length and the anagen/telogen ratio of hair follicles. Herbs like Eclipta alba, Jatamansi and Brahmi have excellent hair growth promoting activity. Herbal extracts of these plants act by an enlargement of follicular size and a prolongation of the anagen phase, essential phase of hair growth.
- Eclipta alba also called Bhringaraja is traditionally used to check hair loss and stimulate hair growth. The extracted juice if applied to the scalp helps in blackening the hair. Eclipta alba is very effective in hair growth promotion. Water extract of E. alba promote follicular enlargement and prolongation of anagen phase.
- Nardostachys jatamansi also called Jatamansi has been found to have hair growth promotion activity. Jatamansi has prominent hair growth effect in chemotherapy (anticancer drug) induced hair loss. Jatamansi extract containing two compounds called nardin and jatamansic acid have shown positive response in hair growth activity. They showed moderate reduction in hair growth time.