Secrets of healthy hair

Healthy hair adds to the overall personality and appearance of men, women and children. The beauty market is flooded with a host of products promising hair that is stronger, healthier, dandruff free, smoother, etc.

The cosmetic world too has numerous surgical and dermatological treatments giving hope to people suffering with severe hair loss that leads to baldness.

It can be a devastating and frustrating experience to lose hair early in life. Hair loss may be interpreted as some form of deficiency. One needs patience and understanding to deal with it and get through. Sometimes sudden excessive hair loss can also be a sign of a serious medical condition that needs immediate attention.

In the daily course of our lives, we lose hair through everyday actions such as washing, combing and brushing. Many people find this a cause for concern as they do not understand the process of hair growth and hence do not know if and when they should worry about their hair fall.

The average human head has around 100,000 hair follicles. About 90 per cent of hair on the scalp grows continually and the other 10 per cent of scalp hair is in a resting phase that lasts for two to three months.

At the end of the resting stage, the hair is shed. This gives rise to new hair growth that gets replaced from the same follicle and the growing cycle starts again. Scalp hair grows about one-half inch a month.

Most people normally shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. Under normal conditions new hair grows to replace each hair that has been shed hence the average number of growing hair remains the same at all times.

Causes of hair loss

There are various causes of scalp hair loss, and they differ in men and women.

*One of the major reasons for hair loss today is stress. This is a frequent cause of temporary hair loss.

*Hair loss can be a result of predetermined genetic factors, family history, and the overall aging process.

*Lack of variety of minerals, proteins as well as water, can often cause considerable hair shedding.

*Also, some medications such as anticoagulants, retinol (vitamin A) and its derivatives, interferons, antihyperlipidaemic drugs, and chemotherapy can give way to hair loss.

*High fever, anaemia, sudden or excessive weight loss can deteriorate scalp conditions causing conditions like lichenplanus, lupus erythematosus, ring worm that in turn leads to hair loss.

*Hormonal changes during pregnancy, childbirth, the onset of menopause, polycystic ovarian disorder or thyroid gland abnormality can cause excessive hair fall.

*Sustained hair loss over a long period gives rise to androgenic alopecia (baldness) in men.

*(Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), which is a type of mental illness occurring in people who have an irresistible urge to pull out their hair leaving behind patchy hair clumps.

Treating your hair

Hair fall may be temporary or permanent. Medical health screening for hair loss may comprise tests like complete blood count (CBC), iron level, Vitamin B, and thyroid function tests (TFT). Several non-surgical and surgical treatment options are available.

*Non-surgical methods include finasteride, minoxidil, saw palmetto extract and vitamin and mineral supplements.

* methods include hair transplantation, tissue expansion, flap surgery and scalp reduction. Recently, platelet rich plasma, stem cell therapy and targeted phototherapy have shown promising results.

What vitamins are good for hair loss?

A good daily multivitamin containing zinc, Vitamin B, folate, iron, and calcium is a very reasonable choice. Newer studies indicate that a diet rich in Vitamin D can also fuel healthy hair growth. Specific vitamin and mineral deficiencies like iron or Vitamin B12 should be checked and monitored with blood tests.

Do’s: Brush properly — use a wide tooth brush to avoid breakage; Protect your hair during the summer; Take care of your overall health; Wash your hair with a mild shampoo regularly; Keep your scalp infection-free

Don’ts: Avoid heat e.g. straightening, perming, blow dryers; Don’t apply chemicals e.g. dyes, colouring etc; Avoid tight hair styles; Do not brush wet hair.

When to see a doctor?

Talk to your doctor if you notice rapid or patchy hair loss or more than usual hair loss when combing or washing your hair and get the right recommendations for your specific hair problem, health status, and diet.

Senior Consultant and Cutaneous Cosmetic Surgeon, Apollo Hospitals.)

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