Many women perceive hair loss as an embarrassing problem they don’t like to discuss, but in reality, it is a lot more common than you may think. Whether due to hormonal fluctuations, medication, stress or a deficiency, it affects women of all ages, all around the world.
Rasheed Patel, founder of the high-end nutritional supplement company Fusion Laboratories, answers some of the most common questions surrounding female hair loss:
Is my hair loss connected to my dandruff?
Dandruff does not directly cause hair loss, but some interesting connections have been made between the two conditions. Many dermatologists believe that dandruff is caused by a yeast fungus, which thrives in both very dry and very oily conditions.
In some cases dandruff can cause itchiness, and when the scalp is scratched often, the friction can lead to the hair falling out. If the dandruff exists for a prolonged period of time, the scratching can lead to a lot of hair loss. The dandruff itself, however, is a problem related to the scalp, and is not a direct cause of hair loss.
Dandruff can be successfully managed with an anti-dandruff shampoo and certain natural oils such as tea tree oil.
Do my birth control pills affect my hair growth and hair loss at all?
Oral contraceptives can cause hair loss in women who are sensitive to the hormones the pill contains. Hair grows in cycles: the active phase is called Anagen. This is the phase during which the hair grows from its follicle. The transitional phase known as Catagen is the stage when the hair growth stops. It could last for about 10 to 20 days. The last phase is known as Telogen, which is the resting phase. Between 25 and 100 hairs are shed daily in this phase, which can last for up to 100 days.
Sometimes, birth control pills can cause the hair to move from the growing phase to the resting phase at a much faster pace, which can result in more hair falling out. The good news is that this is usually a temporary problem. After a few months, the body will adjust to the pill and normal hair growth should resume.
I’ve lost loads of hair after giving birth, what can I do to get my hair back on track?
During pregnancy, a woman’s oestrogen levels increase, which prolongs the hair’s growth stage. This means that fewer hairs are “resting”, and thus fewer fall out every day. The result is thicker, more luscious hair. After birth, however, oestrogen levels decrease quite dramatically and more hair follicles fall into the resting stage. Women generally experience an increase in daily hair loss, but after around six to twelve months, the hair should be back to its pre-pregnancy condition. In the interim, however, we recommend investing in a high quality supplement like Trichotin Hair Regenesis (R438.00) to minimise hair fall, increase hair growth and restore your confidence (not to be used during pregnancy).
How does menopause affect hair growth?
Menopause affects the body in various different ways, and the thinning of hair during menopause is very common. The older we get, the more hair we lose, but menopause accelerates this even more. The main reason for changes to the body during menopause is a decrease in the hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen is, among various other things, responsible for the healthy growth of our hair. Reduced oestrogen reduces the hair’s growth cycle, which means that the hair sheds before it reaches the length it used to.
Menopause also causes an increase in the male hormone androgen, which can trigger thinning hair. These hormones can cause the hair to grow progressively weaker and thinner.
In addition to fluctuating hormones, menopausal hair loss can also be caused by certain medications, thyroid problems and nutritional deficiencies.
I haven’t been looking after my body very well. Would a healthier lifestyle improve the condition of my hair?
Definitely! Bad lifestyle choices can have a direct effect on the hair. For example, studies have suggested that smoking-induced damage to our DNA can cause damage to hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.
An unhealthy diet also plays a role. Essential nutrients zinc and iron are vital for healthy hair growth, and a lack of them in your diet could leave you with less-than-enviable locks. Lean proteins and healthy fats also ensure shiny and healthy hair.
Ultimately, a healthy body will lead to healthier hair, so getting enough sleep, managing your stress and following a healthy diet will lead to major improvements in the condition of your hair.
I really want to improve my hair growth, but I’m terrified that if I start treatment I’ll sprout new hair on other parts of my body. Is this possible?
This is a highly unlikely scenario, and one that you shouldn’t be worried about. The hair on our bodies thins over time, just like the hair on our scalps, but because they have a different protein make-up and respond differently to environmental and steroid factors, they do not behave in the same way as the hair on the scalp. Our scalp hair growth is largely controlled by our hormones, whereas hair on the legs, arms etc. is affected by hormones, but not controlled by them in the same way. Treatments for hair loss are specifically targeted for the hair on the head, and will not cause unwanted body hair to sprout.