Hair is considered one of the most defining aspects of human appearance which is why it is called the crowning glory. Hair loss or balding can be very distressing for a person and give them sleepless nights. This hair loss can be of varying degrees. A detailed consultation by a dermatologist can help one diagnose and treat it effectively. The hair follicle is the fastest proliferating tissues in the body.
Understanding the hair cycle will help us to know the independent hair cycle that the hair follicle goes through. There are three phases for the hair cycle.
- ANAGEN: active growing phase
- CATAGEN: brief transitional phase
- TELOGEN: resting phase
About 90-95% of hair are in the growth phase (anagen phase) at a given time. This phase lasts for 3 years. The Catagen phase lasts for 3 weeks and the telogen phase lasts for a few weeks to months.
The normal hair shedding is 50-100 hairs per day. If the hair count of lost hair is more than this which can easily be gauged by keeping a close watch on the hair shed during combing, washing and that shed on the pillow, etc.
Usually, the lost hair is replaced by new hair. When there is no growth observed this is called hair loss.
Causes of hair loss:
- Hereditary hair loss/ patterned hair loss
- Autoimmune conditions causing hair loss- Alopecia areata
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Infections of the scalp- fungal, bacterial
- Dry scalp- psoriasis/ seborrheic dermatitis
- Sudden blood loss/ chemotherapy / long duration of illness- cancer
- Hormonal changes- pregnancy, childbirth, menopause
- Pulling of the hair/ tying hair very tightly
- Stress / depression
- Incorrect use of hair products/salon procedures
The most common cause of hair loss in men and women is the patterned or the androgenetic alopecia. This is characterized by gradual loss of terminal hairs in patterned distributions. In males the regression of frontal hairline, progressive loss of frontal, temporal, mid-scalp and vertex region. This is the typical presentation of a male-patterned hair loss (MPHL)
In females, the frontal hairline is preserved and there is incomplete involvement of these regions hence termed as female patterned hair loss (FPHL). Early recognition of the patterned hair loss and treatment will help in the arrest of the hair thinning and loss.
The other most common cause of hair loss in women is the hormonal changes, excessive blood loss during menstruation, childbirth, stopping oral contraceptives, thyroid illness. In such cases the hair loss happens for months together, thinning of the hair on the scalp is observed. This condition is called chronic telogen effluvium. Proper assessment by a dermatologist will help in the reversal of hair loss.
Hair loss in children is also a common entity. The cause of this is a major nutritional deficiency. A proper and detailed assessment of the nutritional status is very important. Most of the kids are found deficient in vitamin B12, D3. Hence corrective action in the form of a healthy diet and regular exercise will help to cure hair loss and also improve healthy hair growth. Regular de-worming of the kids is also very important, as this will ensure the absorption of the nutrients in the body. De-worming must be done once in 6 months.
Apart from all the medical factors, there are a few factors that also contribute to hair loss. Nowadays the market is flooded with a variety of cosmeceuticals. Does this create a lot of confusion about what products to buy ??
Hence people start experimenting with products and sometimes end up using the wrong products for quite some time, due to which hair loss happens. The use of the appropriate products for one’s hair and the type of scalp is very important. There are many women who go for salon treatments like cysteine and keratin etc. , post which they develop hair fall. This can be due to damage to the hair shaft or the active hair fall which was already present before the treatment got accentuated.
Hard water or chlorinated water also causes hair loss. Hence washing hair with a paraben-free and a sulfate-free shampoo is very important
I would like to summarise by stating hair loss is a common entity. A proper systematic assessment, diagnosis, and treatment by a dermatologist are very important. Do not fall prey to commercial products and over-promising advertisements. Eat healthy, nutritious food and exercise regularly.