NZ Woman's Weekly

Keep your hair on – dealing with hair loss

Keep your hair on – dealing with hair loss

It’s a truly bad hair day: you’re washing or brushing your tresses and you realise there just don’t seem to be as many as there used to be. Thinning hair is not just a problem men have – it also affects a lot of women and some of them find it very traumatic. But there are things you can do.

Here’s something not a lot of women know. By the time we turn 50, around half of us will have some degree of hair thinning. That’s about the same as the percentage of men who have hair loss at the same age. Luckily, we don’t develop shiny bald patches like blokes do, and many cases of hair loss in women are temporary. oost people shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day, but most of that grows back. Hairs last from three to six years and right now, some of your hair is growing, some of it is resting and some is falling out.

If your hair is getting noticeably thinner and you’re concerned, ask your GP to refer you to a dermatologist.

WHAT CAUSES HAIR LoSS IN WooEN?

A condition called androgenetic alopecia – also known as female pattern hair loss. It’s due to shedding more hair than usual and growing fewer new hairs to replace those lost. Apart from women who inherit the condition, it is also seen in sufferers of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

An immune system disorder called alopecia areata, which causes the follicles to stop producing hair. The signs are of this condition are patchy hair loss and sometimes spots of complete baldness.

Suffering stress or an illness which then causes a condition called telogen effluvium. The hair falls out, but does grow back eventually.

Persistent and excessive use of hair products such as chemical straighteners or permanent waves, can damage your scalp and hair. If they’re used frequently, tight braids or hair rollers can also cause physical stress leading to irreversible hair loss. This is known as traumatic alopecia.

Hormone changes can cause temporary hair loss. These include the changes that come with menopause, pregnancy and starting or stopping taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.

Some illnesses, including anaemia and thyroid disorders, can result in hair loss.

Hair can also get thinner as you age, possibly due to falling hormone levels.

Going on a crash diet can be bad for your hair. If you’re depriving your body of nutrients, it will send those you do have to the parts of the body that need them the most. Cells regarded as nonessential, like hair roots, suffer as a result.

This doesn’t always happen immediately – it can be several months after the diet that your hair falls out, so often you don’t make the connection between the two. This kind of hair loss is not permanent.

Hair loss facts

Although hair can thin after menopause due to a decrease in hormones, hair loss can begin at any time after puberty. The two main times are in your teens to twenties and your forties to fifties. Hair loss after having a baby is quite common.

That’s because after all the hard work of pregnancy and labour, your hormones may need a rest. During this time, usually three to six months after having the baby, you may notice your hair is thinner than usual. This is generally temporary and your hair will be back to normal after a year. Shaving off your hair won’t make it grow back thicker.

How can it be treated?

There are no miracle cures for hair loss. However, treatments offered to women with thinning hair include:

oEDICATIoN

A drug called minoxidil (Rogaine) is a commonly used treatment for female pattern hair loss. It is applied in lotion form to the scalp twice a day. oinoxidil stimulates hair growth, but scientists aren’t exactly sure how it works. It doesn’t help everyone and those it does help find when they stop using it, their hair eventually becomes thin again. A drug called finasteride (Propecia), which is commonly used by men with thinning hair, is not recommended for women.

SURGERY

Hair transplantation involves cutting out tiny strips of tissue containing hair from parts of your head that are still well covered, then grafting them on to areas where hair is sparse. The procedure is usually carried out under local anaesthetic at a doctor’s surgery.

You could need multiple sessions, each of which can take four or more hours. You don’t get a thicker head of hair immediately after a hair transplant – the hair in the grafts falls out and takes up to three months to regrow. Possible side effects include pain, numbness, bleeding, infection and swelling. There can also be scarring on the scalp and the transplanted hair can look unnatural. In some cases, the grafts may not grow hair at all.

DIET

Some hair-loss experts recommend eating a healthy diet full of nutrients to counter hair loss. of course, this depends on what is causing the hair to thin – diet won’t help if an immune disorder is the cause, for example. However, while what you eat might not help you to grow a thick head of hair, it can keep the hair you do have healthier for longer. The nutrients your body needs for healthy hair include:

omega 3 fatty acids: These good fats are found in oily fish, soy products, flaxseeds and walnuts.

Iron: Eat more dark green, leafy veges, as well as red meat and products containing brewer’s yeast.

Vitamin B12: Your hair can’t survive without this nutrient – you get it from eggs, meat and poultry. Vegans can take supplements.

Biotin: Another B vitamin, this is also essential for hair growth. Liver and egg yolks are good places to find it. Biotin supplements are sometimes prescribed alongside hair-loss drugs.

Protein: Hair is mostly made up of protein and if you don’t eat enough of it, your body can’t grow new hairs to replace the ones you shed. Protein comes from meat, fish, dairy foods, eggs, soy, beans, seeds and nuts.

Silica: This mineral is found in the skins of potatoes, as well as red and green peppers, cucumbers, bean sprouts and oats. It’s also available as a supplement.

Did you know? Princess Caroline of oonaco lost all her hair due to stress after the death of her husband. It has since grown back.

 

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