Hair loss is a surprisingly taboo topic to talk and has become a sensitive subject for those who are dealing with it. It causes a great deal of mental anguish, stress and worry and can have a severe impact on self-esteem.
Approximately 21 million women and 35 million are suffering from hair loss globally. The statistics are high, and these hair loss rates are estimated to increase with age.
Along with hair loss, people are also seen complaining of multiple other hair problems such as varying degree of hair fall, hair thinning, poor growth, loss of hair volume, lack of shine, change in texture, lack of bounce and many more.
Genetic and hormonal disturbances are often blamed for the problem of hair loss, but apart from hormones, multiple nutritional, environmental and lifestyle factors are associated with varying degree of hair loss and numerous hair problems. Pollution, nutrition, stress, lifestyle, medications, smoking, ageing, over-styling, cosmetic procedures along with heredity are the common factors that adversely affect hair growth and are related to hair loss, thinning and weak growth. These factors directly affect hair follicles and make them vulnerable and sensitive to the action of androgens.
So, Let’s discuss these factors in detail…
1. Hormonal factors
Both female and male hormones contribute significantly to hair health and growth. The hormone androgen is responsible for hair growth in men and to a small extent in women. Levels of androgen decreases as we age and leads to slow growth, hair thinning, and less lustrous hair. In contrast to androgens, male hormone testosterone and female hormone estrogen also affect hair health.
Genetic factors are not only responsible for hair colour but also for hair density, texture, and growth. Male and female pattern baldness is a result of hereditary hair loss. In males with a genetic susceptibility to baldness, testosterone hormone is converted to a more potent form called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which binds to cells in hair follicles and damages them. The damage caused to hair follicles results in male pattern baldness. In females, the hormone estrogen slows down hair growth and results in a thinner shaft of the hair. The levels of estrogen also decrease after menopause leading to hair loss in women with genetic susceptibility.
Stress is also considered as one of the most unusual causes of hair loss. Severe psychological stress leads to a condition of temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium. Research indicates that stress can affect the natural process of hair growth by inducing more hair to enter the resting and shedding phase of the hair cycle.
Certain drugs include loss of hair as their potential side effect. Medicines for gout, arthritis, blood pressure, anticoagulants, antidepressants, oral contraceptive and vitamin A supplements may potentially lead to hair loss.
5. Medical disorders such as thyroid
Thyroid hormones affect the metabolism of cells present in hair follicles. Higher as well as smaller amounts of thyroid hormone can cause brittle hair and hair loss. Some other autoimmune disorders, including celiac disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease may cause hair damage by altering cell metabolism. These conditions lead to temporary hair loss. Hair growth will return to normal, once the underlying disease is treated.
Hair is made of a natural protein called keratin. A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients contributes to keeping hair healthy. Proteins are the building blocks of hair. Protein-rich food can, therefore, help to keep hair strong and healthy. People who don’t get enough protein will slow the rate of their hair growth.
Along with proteins, vitamins also trigger the hair cycle. Specific vitamins can prolong the anagen phase and postpone the telogen phase. Similarly, vitamins such as vitamin A can halt hair growth. Therefore, it is essential to evaluate the content of vitamins in the body before taking any multivitamin supplements
Pollution is on the rise all over the world. Exposure to environmental pollutants such as dust, smoke, nickel, lead and arsenic, sulfur dioxide nitrogen dioxide, ammonia, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and volatile organic compounds causes settling of these pollutants on the scalp. These pollutants then migrate to the dermis and cause oxidative stress. Increased oxidative stress contributes to scalp irritation, redness, itching, excessive sebum secretion, dandruff, pain in the hair roots and hair loss.
Smoking has been linked to hair loss and baldness. It restricts the blood vessels and affects blood flow throughout the body. Slowing the blood flow in hair follicles retards hair growth. Toxins in the smoke can also damage hair follicles and results in follicular inflammation due to the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
9. Hair ageing
Ageing of hair includes weakening of hair shaft, ageing of hair follicle and scalp. It is caused by external factors such as pollutants, smoking, nutritional deficiencies and oxidative stressors from the environment (UV radiations) and internal factors such as familial premature greying, androgenetic alopecia and medical conditions.
10. Cosmetic procedures
Hair loss is not always caused by loss of entire strand of hire, but in some conditions, it results from damage that causes breaking of hair strands. Certain hair appliances and cosmetic procedures can lead to hair damage and breakage. Blow dryers, flat irons, curling devices and hair straighteners apply heat to the hair making them brittle. Excessive hair cleansing can also promote hair loss as it may strip of natural oils from the hair.
11. Harmful hair products
Certain hair products contain harsh chemicals that weaken and damage hair, leading to temporary hair loss. Shampoos containing polyethene glycol and alcohol should be avoided as it makes hair brittle. Hair dyes containing paraphenylenediamine can cause scalp irritation and allergic reactions, which may ultimately lead to hair thinning. So, always opt for a natural, organic and herbal-based product that promote and maximize healthy hair growth.
12. Scalp conditions
Several fungal diseases can contribute to slower hair growth. These scalp conditions include dandruff, ringworm infection, alopecia areata, folliculitis, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. These conditions lead to inflammation of hair follicles and itchiness in scalp. Itchiness is associated with flakiness, scaly patches and hair loss. Hair loss also occurs when the scalp condition affects the structure and strength of follicles. The hair usually regrows, once the condition is treated.
Tips to keep your hair healthy
Based on the factors mentioned above that affects hair growth, follow the following tips in mind to prevent hair loss and keep your hair healthy:
- Get a nutritious diet supplemented with nutrients that stimulates keratin production for hair strength and growth
- Control and balance your physical and emotional health by adopting a healthy lifestyle
- Provide proper care and protection to your hair by adopting healthy habits and natural products free from harsh chemicals
- Massage your scalp with a blend of oils such as tea tree oil, olive oil, coconut oil, peppermint oil …which increase blood circulation and stimulates hair follicles
Hair growth is not always a matter of shampoo, serums and conditioners, but it is a matter of balanced diet, genetic and peace of mind. Most of the factors mentioned above can be easily maintained by minor lifestyle changes; however, genetic factors remains irreversible. Maintaining the right nutritional balance of vitamins, antioxidants and micronutrients along with correction of hair loss mechanism can be a successful hair loss management strategy.
So, adopt a supportive hair care routine and make your hair look healthy and damage-free.