David Salinger. Director, International Association of Trichologists.
YOU LOSING YOUR HAIR?
If you are, then maybe you are anemic or
swallowing your mouthwash or have been dieting or knocked your
head or have a fungal infection OR PERHAPS you are on steroids
or marijuana or have bad teeth or take too many aspirins or wear
your ponytail too tightly or you have had a fever or eat too many
nuts or your tonsils are infected or you have syphilis OR POSSIBLY
you are pulling your own hair out or you have had an operation
or you are zinc deficient or someone close has died or you have
just separated from your partner or you are a diabetic UNLESS
PERHAPS you have a bird in the house or you suffer malabsorption
or you have been exposed to X-rays or you have a thyroid imbalance
ASSUMING OF COURSE that your hair loss is not normal.
Loss of hair does worry people and when you realise that any of
the aforementioned factors can be responsible for hair loss, you
can appreciate that it is important and right that you should
The first thing we have to say is that even though you want a
fabulous physique don't take steroids if you want to keep your
hair. Both male hormones such as testosterone or hormones such
as cortisone can trigger or aggravate genetic hair loss, the most
common type of hair loss experienced by men. Genetic hair loss
is characterised by either recession at the temples, thinning
in the crown area or both. Eventually it can lead to baldness
on the top and front of the scalp. It is "genetic" because you
must inherit the genes for baldness from either your dad or mum
to be affected by the baldness yourself. If your dad carries the
genes, he will show the baldness and your chances, then, of inheriting
the baldness genes from him are at least 50%. If your mum carries
the genes, she will not show the baldness because her male hormones
are at too low a level. The bottom line is that just because your
dad is bald doesn't mean you will be, and just because both your
parent have wonderful hair doesn't mean that you won't go bald.
However, it still pays to chose your parents carefully.
On a positive note, if you still have a good head of hair at the
age of 30, you probably always will have. And for those who do
suffer genetic baldness and want to do something about it, it
is worth trying Propecia (a prescription medication that reduces
one of the male hormones) or rubbing in Regaine 5%, available
from the chemist, to see if they help. If either one helps, you
will have to continue the therapy for life or until you are married,
when you'll be loved, hair or no hair. Other alternatives are
hairpieces or hair transplants. "Single hair" transplants can
look excellent. Hair can even be transplanted from your body to
your scalp, but pubic hair tends to look out of place on the scalp.
For those of you who suspect your partner is trying to poison
you, analysis of the hair is the best way to measure such minerals
as arsenic, aluminium, cadmium, lead and mercury. It can even
be determined which month you were poisoned, when you died, and
whether your partner was found guilty. Hair is sent to a laboratory
where it is analysed by atomic absorption spectroscopy or emission
spectroscopy. In the case of Napoleon, who died from arsenic poisoning,
his partner was never caught.
What about drinking and smoking? Do they cause genetic hair loss?
Fortunately not, but they can aggravate such problems as alopecia
areata that normally exhibits as circular patches of baldness.
Marijuana and/or excessive alcohol intake can cause a general
loss of hair through their effects on the liver and blood sugar
levels. Excess alcohol intake also increases your female hormones
that, in turn, should reduce the genetic balding process in those
predisposed. The possible choice is therefore to drink lots and
die young with a full head of hair or to refrain from drinking
and die bald.
what about sex and hair loss? Don't worry, there are no studies
that link the two. However, there was a study that found a relationship
between the anticipation of sex and the rate of hair growth; the
closer the anticipated event, the greater the rate of growth (of
hair). One university in America was given funding for a clinical
study on the relationship between the frequency of sex and hair
loss. When they advertised for volunteers, they were inundated
with responses. Unfortunately, selecting the right men cost so
much that there was no money left to conduct the actual study.
Talking of sex, many medications can cause general hair loss.
Amongst these are some anticoagulants and beta-blockers. And what
about stress? Stress is blamed for everything so can it also cause
hair loss? The sad truth is that it can but it is one amongst
many causes. Stress increases the levels of such hormones as cortisone,
which can trigger or worsen genetic hair loss. Stress can also
trigger a general hair loss or alopecia areata. Trichologists
are increasingly seeing patients who combine long working hours
with poor eating habits. This is a recipe for disaster (including
heart attacks), not only causing hair loss but also leading to
dry brittle hair. The positive side of excessive diffuse hair
loss is that the hair is replaced, even while it is falling, and
that the hair will thicken up once the internal imbalance (whatever
it be) is corrected or corrects itself.
Hair reflects what we eat and nutritional deficiencies commonly
cause hair loss. Iron, zinc, protein and essential fatty acid
deficiencies can all cause a general hair loss. Other minerals,
such as calcium, magnesium, chromium, silicon, sulphur, manganese,
iodine, sodium and potassium, are all essential to normal hair
growth and normal hair structure. It is therefore critical to
eat a balanced diet. The hair is mainly protein but minerals and
vitamins are critical to the structure and growth of hair.
Don't let birds walk all over you (the feathered variety). Fungal
infections leading to ringworm (tinea) are easily caught from
birds, puppies and kittens. Ringworm of the scalp usually shows
as circular patches of hair breakage, with scaling, redness and
itching. It is very contagious but easy to treat with internal
medications. And be careful with your investments. At the time
of the last big share crash, there was a big increase in the number
of patients suffering alopecia areata. This baldness problem is
an autoimmune one, in other words a group of white blood cells
is attacking your hair follicles. Viral or bacterial infections,
stress and many other factors can trigger such problems. Fortunately,
the hair often grows back without any therapy, and there are several
therapies if needed.
Frequency of shampooing will not affect hair loss one way or the
other. Daily shampooing is advised with an "everyday" shampoo
(see your hairdresser), and make sure you shampoo after exercising
or working up a sweat. Chemical treatments do weaken the hair
and can cause hair breakage if administered too frequently or
incorrectly. Cutting or shaving the hair will not make any difference
to the hairs' thickness or rate of growth. Hair lonely looks thicker
because it's blunt at the ends.
What about hanging upside down every day to get the blood to your
hair? While this may give you a different perspective on the world,
it will make no difference to your hair. Our skin is supplied
with more blood than the hair would ever need and I have never
come across a hair loss problem due to poor circulation. The fact
that, in men with genetic baldness, hair that is transplanted
from the back of the scalp to the bald area grows normally for
the rest of your life proves that circulation has nothing to do
with genetic hair loss.
Other areas of hairloss in this section you may be interested in:
Inherited Male "Pattern" baldness
What Men need to know about hair and hair loss
Female genetic thinning
Poor Diet Leads to thinning Hair
Lotions and potions
Treatments for baldness: Prescriptions and pharmaceuticals
Hair replacement: Transplant and single hair micrographs
Non-surgical hair replacement: Wigs and hairpieces
Menopause and hair loss
All other causes of hair loss
Hair loss in Pregnancy
Prescription medication and its links to hair loss
Laser treatment for hair loss
Hair Loss in Children and Adolescents
The Trichologist - your hair loss specialist, find out more