It’s no wonder that hair inspired a musical; its multi-layered significance is clear. A few highlights here, a bit of feathering there and your appearance can be drastically transformed. You’re even categorised anything from prim to bohemian based on what’s covering your head. So, when something that’s integral to your identity starts to disappear, it’s normal to feel distressed.
As with many conditions, identifying the cause is the start to finding a treatment. But while it’s recognised that stress, hormonal imbalances and even certain grooming practises can lead to hair loss (as reported in previous editions of Health Intelligence), there are a few unexpected explanations, too.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Smoking and beauty can never be synonymous. The screen sirens dragging seductively on cigarettes in iconic Hollywood movies definitely don’t represent the typical long-term smoker; someone with sallow, creased skin and a greying, balding crown is a more accurate depiction. Smoking cigarettes is an acknowledged contributor to premature aging, and a link to balding has been established too
Dandruff: More annoying than a sprinkling of white flakes spoiling a black outfit, a severe form of dandruff, referred to as seborrheic dermatitis, may actually lead to an increasingly sparse crop of hair. This condition, characterised by inflammation and the accumulation of yellow, greasy scales, is associated with hair loss
Trichotillomania If you’re noticing that your hair’s falling out and you’re desperate for this to stop, you may be astonished to learn that some people intentionally tug out their tresses. Trichotillomania is a psychiatric disorder that involves the deliberate pulling out of your own hair. Even though this action causes the sufferer despair, it becomes compulsive as a method of tension relief.
HAIR STANDING ON END
It’s unnerving to see your body change in undesirable ways, especially if you don’t know why it’s happening. But stressing will only increase the shedding. As excessive hair loss is a side effect of a multitude of conditions, such as a protein deficiency, hormone imbalances or general aging, and can be indicative of underlying diseases like diabetes or a dysfunctional thyroid, getting a diagnosis from a specialist is important – and as soon as you know the cause, you’ll know if you can grow back your full head of hair.
IT’S ALL TOO MUCH
Hair experiences three phases in its life: growing, resting, and shedding.When your body perceives an overwhelming physical trauma such as malnutrition, severe infection, stress, surgery and even pregnancy in some women, the growth and resting phases can be skipped, leading to excessive shedding. It’s not an immediate reaction, but occurs around 6-12 weeks after the event.
Hair loss associated with chemotherapy is due to the chemicals targeting the body’s rapidly dividing cells, which include cancer cells and hair follicles in the growing phase. Another cause of hair loss is damage over time due to too-tight hairstyles such as braiding and ponytails, or an excess of brushing.
Too much androgenic male hormones in women can cause an overall thinning of hair (unlike male pattern baldness, which targets specific areas of the scalp) and this excess could be caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome and certain contraceptive pills (some birth control pills include progestin forms that increase androgen effects).4 Other than hormonal imbalances, the most common cause of thinning hair in postmenopausal women is a reduction in the hair shaft diameter, specifically around the forehead and crown.
TOO LITTLE BUT NOT TOO LATE
Levels of estrogen (estrone, estradiol, and estriol) produced before menopause effectively block dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is converted from testosterone with the aid of an enzyme called type II 5-alpha reductase (manufactured in the prostate, adrenal gland and the scalp) and is a known cause of non-traumatic hair loss. However, after menopause, estrogen levels drop dramatically, and so DHT is more available and heads straight for the hair root bulb. This causes a shorter or completely halted hair growth cycle and hair loss.
A solution is to supplement with a 5-alpha reductase blocker (such as betasitosterol, a white waxy phytosterol similar to cholesterol) which reduces DHT levels in the hair follicle.
While female hair loss can be traumatic, and although it could naturally rectify itself after hormonal levels are back in balance, this isn't always the case. So, supplementation can bring your locks back to their shining glory.
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