Things you can do now to prevent hair loss later
Here's everything you need to know about hair loss and things you should know to avoid getting bald spots before your time.
Any person who's experienced hair loss knows how devastating it can be, but there are options for those who are suffering. We spoke with Dr Pooja Mishra, a Mumbai-based dermatologist, and Delhi-based hair and scalp specialist, Dr Ajay Sinha, to share their knowledge. Here’s everything you need to know about hair loss and things that can help prevent it.
What causes hair loss?
Dr Sinha says that the most common cause of hair loss and thinning in both sexes is genetic hair loss and common balding. However, women can also suffer hair loss as a result of hormonal fluctuations, such as post-pregnancy shedding, menopause-related hair loss, starting or stopping some forms of contraception, and underlying hormonal imbalances, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In addition, overprocessing the hair with heat and chemical styling or wearing hairstyles that pull on the hair can also cause weathering, hair breakage, and traction hair loss, Dr Sinha says. He emphasises that it is also important to realise that one can often have more than a single cause of hair loss or thinning at any one time.
How much hair classifies as hair loss?
One question many of us want to know is how much hair loss equals actual hair loss? Some might be familiar with the experience of standing in the shower, watching strand after strand come out with your shampoo or conditioner; but this is usually completely normal. Dr Mishra says that throughout our lifetime, our hair is constantly undergoing repeated cycles of growth and shedding. Every individual has a different number of hairs that they shed per day as part of their normal hair follicle cycle. Depending on the number of hair follicles on the scalp, it can be normal for a person to shed up to 100 -150 per day.
What should one change in their hair care routine if they think they are losing hair?
Minimise damage from external factors by reducing the frequency and level of heat and chemical exposure and using products that contain UV filters, Dr Sinha says. It is important to see a doctor or a trichologist to diagnose and address the underlying causes of hair loss. If you’re a woman and have already been diagnosed with female pattern hair loss (common balding in women), consider starting topical five per cent minoxidil either as solution or foam, applied to the affected areas once, at night, Dr Sinha suggests. Topical minoxidil is the only topical product proven and licensed to help with female pattern hair loss and can be purchased over the counter or online.
Is it advised to stop dying hair if someone is experiencing hair loss?
Yes. While dyeing hair does not directly cause hair loss (unless you develop a severe allergic reaction on the scalp), it can significantly damage the protective cuticle layer, making hair dull and frizzy, lacklustre, and prone to breakage.
Any other advice to those experiencing hair loss?
Dr Mishra says hair follicle cells are some of the fastest dividing cells in the body and therefore require the full spectrum of nutritional support provided by a healthy, well-balanced diet, including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, good fats, vitamins, and minerals. He adds, there is no evidence that routinely taking supplements improves hair growth when there is no deficiency present. In the case of some women with low iron stores (ferritin), hair growth improves when the ferritin levels increase with iron supplementation. Dr Mishra says supplementation needs to be tailored on a case-by-case basis and monitored for any effect on hair growth.
Are some people more likely to get hair loss than others?
Yes. There are many myths around common balding, like "you can only inherit from your maternal grandfather" or "it is only passed on to men." A family history of early-onset genetic hair loss is a risk factor for any member of that family. The earlier the age of onset, the stronger the genetic trait, Dr Sinha says.
If you're worried about hair loss, there are a few things you can do to prevent it — even if it's genetic:
1. Rethink your diet: The idiom "you are what you eat" applies to your hair health, too. Hair and scalp problems can arise from either a deficiency or an excess of nutrients in your diet, Dr Mishra says. Your hair cells need a balanced diet of proteins, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to function at their best. Avoid extreme weight loss as well — another common determinant of hair loss.
2. Chill out: Elevated stress levels may cause an increase in shedding, so it's important to take time to relax your mind, Dr Mishra says. And while exercising is a great way to reduce tension, be aware, too much working out can provoke hair loss. Remember: Hitting the gym is just one of the many ways to boost your mood.
3. Don't forget about your scalp: Infrequent washing encourages dandruff, and studies have shown that dandruff can cause or exacerbate hair loss, Dr Sinha explains. If you already have dandruff or a flaky/itchy scalp, use special shampoos to help clear irritation and flakes, he says.
4. Take your vitamins: Get your fill of the necessary scalp and hair vitamins by taking supplements. Add calcium, iron, zinc, gelatin protein, soy protein, and vitamins D, B12, and B6 to your daily diet, Dr Mishra says. It seems like a laundry list, but if you're patient, you'll notice the difference, he adds.
5. See a specialist: If you know hair loss runs in the family, it's worth it to see a specialist, Dr Sinha says. A trichologist deals specifically with the hair and scalp. A simple blood test can determine the cause of your hair loss and suss out the solution.