The image of hair as one’s crowning glory can be traced way back in history and even fairy tales. In ancient Egypt, hair was considered so important that they even used a gel product made from fat during the mummification process to ensure that the hairstyle of their dead stayed put even in death. In fairy tales, who hasn’t heard of Rapunzel’s golden blond hair which is not only 70 feet long but also has healing abilities?
Hair plays an important role in a person’s self-esteem and confidence. Hair thinning and hair loss can greatly affect one’s body image, but is an inevitable part of aging. In some cases, hair may become noticeably thin at an early age, a major concern among men and women alike.
Understanding Hair Growth
Hair is made up of keratin, a protein produced inside the hair follicles. As new hair cells are produced, old cells are pushed out of the skin’s surface. There are three phases involved in hair growth, namely anagen, catagen, and telogen. Simply put, anagen is active phase of hair growth which typically lasts for about 2 to 6 years. Catagen is the transitional phase that lasts for 2 to 3 weeks. Telogen refers to the resting stage of hair growth and can last about 2 to 3 months. Once the process of hair growth reaches the end of the telogen phase, old hair is shed and the growth cycle begins once more. The natural aging process causes normal hair loss and thinning but there are also factors that can cause individuals to lose more hair faster or at an earlier age.
Causes of Hair Loss
Alopecia or hair loss can be caused by several factors which can be classified into hereditary, hormonal, mechanical, and medical. Hereditary hair loss and hair thinning, also known as male-pattern and female-pattern baldness, is a result of genetic inheritance wherein the hormone called dihydro testosterone (DHT) causes hair follicles to shrink. This type of hair loss may start as early as puberty.
Hormonal changes may also lead to hair fall, specifically during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Mechanical factors such as frequent use of hair curlers and straightening iron and certain hairstyles can also lead to hair loss. Health conditions may also cause alopecia such as iron deficiency anemia, fungal infection of the scalp, alopecia areata, and thyroid problems. Chemotherapy and certain drugs for heart conditions, depression, and arthritis can also lead to hair loss as a side effect.
Dealing with Hair Loss
Given the diverse nature of hair loss, its prevention and treatment depends on the possible causes. Practicing correct hair hygiene and proper nutrition are essential for good growth of hair. Shampooing and using conditioner regularly are just the first steps to achieving healthy hair as you need to pay attention to what you eat too. Poor nutrition can lead to dry, brittle hair which can also cause hair to fall out.
In case of underlying medical conditions, it would be necessary to treat the disease in order to avoid hair from falling out such as in the case of thyroid disease and anemia. For hair loss due to hormonal changes, hair will usually grow back once hormone levels go back to normal. There are also hair loss treatment drugs such as Finasteride and Minoxidil which boost hair growth and reduce hair loss.
In case of permanent hair loss where only the top of the head is affected, surgical hair loss treatment such as hair transplants may be beneficial. Hair transplant involves removal of tiny skin plugs containing hair from the side or back of the scalp and implanting these into the bald sections of the head. Another surgical option is scalp reduction, a procedure wherein the bald area on the head is surgically removed and replaced with hair-covered scalp.