Dr Sonali Chaudhary
Hair is one of the fastest growing tissues in the human body and plays a crucial part in enhancing our physical appearance. Hair fall can leave severe imprints on one’s self-esteem, triggering depression and stress and eventually hindering recovery.
Everyone loses some strands of their hair every day which the new ones, built in our body system, replace. The shedding includes 50-100 strands, if it exceeds the limit, it is an indicator of some serious conditions like balding or alopecia.
Hair fall is a barometer of one’s internal health, while it is completely normal to be unaware of your health condition causing you poor hair health and constant hair shedding. There are certain reasons that cause your strands to fall off distinctly. Stress is known as one of the primary precursors of hair fall.
While some studies suggest that hair fall in females and stress are not associated, there are researches and surveys where stress is found to be a proven cause of hair fall. Hence, there is a dire need for more research and studies to uncover the subjective topic of stress and its impact on one’s hair health. However, there are other internal factors like nutrient deficiency, genetic material, hormonal imbalance and effects of medication that determine the fate of hair growth.
Some common form of hair loss includes:
- Anagen effluvium: Diffused temporary hair loss due to certain stressful circumstances in human life that cause uncontrolled hair loss like a post-surgery period, post-pregnancy period and medications like chemotherapy can lead you to lose a major amount of hair. The good part is that the hair fall in such stressful life events is temporary.
- Telogen effluvium: It is caused by an increased number of hair strands reaching the Telogen phase and falling out eventually.
- Androgenetic Alopecia or Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL): This is the most common type where our hair starts getting thin over your crown and on the sides.
It is a prevalent myth among people worldwide that hair fall affects men. It is estimated through surveys that more than 50% of women are affected by it and FPHL seems to be the cause for one-third of the susceptible women all around the globe.
Our diet also plays a significant role in maintaining hair health or we can say that our hair health directly reflects your diet and lifestyle. The growing phase of the hair cycle can be prematurely halted by unhealthy or reduced intake of the required nutrients. People with anaemia or iron deficiency may suffer less oxygen reaching their scalp starving the follicles and thus gradual and subsequent hair loss. Iron deficiency is induced by the lack of Vitamin C and excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
Low biotin is associated with hair loss and loss of hair colour while low protein and excessive Vitamin A put the follicles in their resting phase leading to lesser hair growth. The existing hair loses its shine and falls off.
Limiting calorie intake to reduce weight also causes hair fall or wispy and dull-looking hair. Hair fall post Covid is also quite common. Hair fall after any bacterial, viral or protozoan infection is not sporadic. Loss of hair post Covid is similar and is common due to accommodation of events that happen during infection and its treatment, including steroids, antibiotics and emotional impacts on the patient’s mental health.
Another half of the pie is that hair loss among men and women worldwide can be one’s pedigree. It means that you have inherited genes that are making your hair follicles shrink and eventually stop hair strands from it. It can begin as early as your teens or post-puberty, but in most cases, it starts later in life post-30s. You can inherit these genes from your mother’s side or your father’s side or from a combination of both. The beginning can be spotted with a patchy scalp, knots on your hair, thinner hair and widening hairline.
The hair on our scalp is a part of our body that can be readily and consciously modified to rectify one’s outer appearance and losing them can make anyone shrink their confidence. There are numerous external and environmental factors that can lead to the shedding of hair like pollution, scorching sunlight, heat and humidity but a major fraction of the process is caused by internal factors.
Hair fall has a lot to tell about one’s hormonal balance and conditions like PCOD, thyroid imbalance or a sudden rise in Cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone. Scalp infections like eczema, psoriasis, sexually transmitted diseases and even dandruff can contribute to making your hair fall off. Dandruff is again one of the consequences of the deficiency of the required nutrients. It is significantly related to lower vitamin D3 levels.
Losing hair speedily or going completely bald turn out to be a nightmare. Apart from the genetic factors, there are several preventive measures that can save your scalp from losing all the strands. First of all, try to be gentle and soft on your hair. Always use a detangler or a wide-tooth comb and avoid combing wet hair. Use gentle products on your hair and scalp to protect it from the harsh outer environment and Ultraviolet rays. Steer clear of harsh treatments like hot rollers, straighteners and curlers.
Ensure proper intake of a healthy balanced meal with all the required nutrients to strengthen the health of your hair. Avoid smoking and overconsumption of caffeine and alcohol as some studies suggest a strong association between smokers and baldness.
If you are going through medications that affect your hair growth like chemotherapy, try to ask your doctor for a cooling cap. Though it cannot nullify the effect completely, it can help prevent hair fall to some extent.
You can reverse the hair loss through aggressive treatments, principally caused due to underlying medical conditions. Procedures like hair transplants aim to restore growth in areas of your scalp with limited or no growth. However, there is no guarantee for future loss. For lasting results, one needs to take follow-up transplants.
(The author is an integrative and cosmetic dermatologist & founder of Holistic Skin Care, South Delhi)