London: At our birth, each of us receives a wonderful gift of five million hair follicles out of which about one million follicles are located on the scalp. However, scarcely 100-150 thousand bulbs out of those millions deliver us the desired yield, i.e. hair.
Furthermore, even these precious strands sometimes tend to behave quite unpredictably: they break down, fade, get thin, and finally, quietly leave the head, raising a genuine panic in our hearts. The majority of people erroneously consider hair loss, alopecia in medical terms, to be the exclusive problem of the male.
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Indeed, according to various estimates, about half of the male population in the world is saving on hairdressing services! On the other hand, according to world statistics, every fifth woman faces the problem of hair loss. While men generally start losing hair from the forehead, the hairline slowly retreating to the parietal region and the crown, the usual complaints of women refer to the thinning of hair at the top of the head; baldness in the factual sense of the word is quite a rare phenomenon in females.
Excess of broken hair on your pillow or on the comb when brushing should immediately alert you. Firstly, try to assess whether the extent of hair loss exceeds the allowable limits: it is considered normal to shed from 50 to 100 hairs a day, which are safely replaced with new ones.
Such a self-test is quite time consuming since it is desirable to calculate the number of broken hair for several days. But if at the end of the experiment you find that the average number of broken hair exceeds 150, it is time to consider getting medical help.
There are various types of alopecia, characterized by specific symptoms:
The hairline recedes, first at the temples then at the top of the head, resulting in partial or extensive (total) baldness in males
The hair thins or falls out completely
The hair falls out in clumps (patchy baldness)
Hair loss is due to a scalp infection.
There are two main reasons why people suddenly begin to catastrophically lose hair: external factors and genetic predisposition. External factors include improper diet, hormonal imbalance (e.g. in women after childbirth or at menopause), inadequate intake of iron, as well as deficiency of zinc, selenium, and other trace elements, chronic and infectious diseases, disorders of the endocrine system, certain drugs (e.g. chemotherapy drugs, arthritis medication, etc.). Also, frequent dyeing, blow-drying, and straightening as well as the application of toxic hair care products also negatively affect the health of hair.
Sudden severe stress — be it physical, mental, or emotional — can also be a reason for substantial hair damage. Marriage, divorce, change of job, pregnancy, etc. are almost immediately echoed by our hair, however, if in a few months life returns to its routine, hair starts growing again.
On the other hand, specialists link 95 percent of cases of hair loss to genetic predisposition. Genetic information, coded in human DNA, can predict whether one is predisposed to early alopecia. It is proved that in two out of three potential ‘baldies’ candidates inherit the hair loss gene from the grandfather on the mother’s side, whereas in 30 percent it is transmitted directly from the father. An excess of androgens, particularly testosterone (male sex hormone) in our body triggers this problem.
Testosterone is produced not only in males but in the female body as well; however, its concentration in men’s blood is much higher than in women. Fortunately for women, their body produces estrogens — the female hormones — which help neutralize the villainous effect of androgen on hair follicles. Thanks to estrogens, alopecia in women almost never reaches its ‘baldest’ manifestation, the worst ending up with hair thinning and alteration of hair structure, whereas men, possessing no such protection, are left with denuded crowns.
Meantime, here are some simple tips that will help avert early stage of hair fall:
Be gentle with your hair: use conditioner to prevent tangles, brush with a wide-tooth comb, apply minimum chemical hair treatment, blow-dry only when absolutely necessary.
Make it a habit to massage your scalp with good quality oil for 20 minutes before shampooing at least once a week. It will not only strengthen weak and brittle hair but enhance scalp skin blood circulation as well. We might have heard it a zillion times from our grannies but even today it remains true that regular oiling can help reduce dryness and prevent impairment of our hair. Avoid excessive oiling; just a small quantity, worked in evenly from roots to tips, is enough.
Eating a balanced, healthy diet is important for a lot of reasons, and it really benefits your hair. To minimize hair loss, we must include green, leafy vegetables, raw oats, and whole-grain cereals, eggs, dates, and raisins in our daily food regimen. As hair is mainly composed of protein, protein-rich foods like fish, meat, milk, cheese, lentils, etc. should also be part of our menu. And make sure to include in your diet vitamins A, B, and E that help in the growth of healthy hair.
While hormone therapy works well in the treatment of androgenic alopecia by reducing the level of testosterone, there is a wide range of natural herbal medicine for external use, containing therapeutic active ingredients that improve hair structure and help re-growth of hair. When massaged in the hair, they improve blood circulation, simultaneously stimulating inactive hair follicles.
There have been successful experiments in re-growing hair on bald mice through the implantation of stem cells and there is hope that one-day such cells can be implanted into humans to activate hair follicles. But until a permanent fix is available, take even the slightest sign of hair thinning seriously to minimize future hair loss. If however, baldness has taken hold, you are left with no choice but to change your mindset and embrace a bold new look!