What is the normal cycle of hair growth and loss?
The normal cycle of hair growth lasts for 2 to 6 years. Each hair grows approximately 1 centimetre per month during the growth phase. About 90 percent of the hair on our scalp is growing at any one time and about 10 percent of the hair on our scalp, at any one time, is in a resting phase. Around the 5th year the hairs fall out and are replaced in a span of 6 months.
It is normal to shed some hair each day as part of this cycle. The average scalp contains about 1,00,000 hairs. On an average a person loses about 100 hair per day. However, some people may experience excessive (more than normal) hair loss. Hair loss of this type can affect men, women and children.
What are the causes of excessive hair loss?
Balding is a natural phenomenon. Men and women undergo thinning of hair and loss of hair as they age. This is mainly related to ageing, hereditary factors and testosterone. About 25% of the men start balding by the time they are 30 years old.
Many people suffer from hair loss due to various factors like:
- Prolonged illness
- Medications, Post Chemotherapy, excess Vitamin A
- After undergoing a major surgery
- Nutritional deficiency, Crash diets that lack sufficient protein, Iron and Vitamins
- Hormonal imbalance – post-delivery or thyroid gland problems (either overactive or under active)
- Chemical and Physical stress to the hair shaft from Hair Colouring, Perming, Permanent straightening or lengthening.
- Severe emotional Stress
- Infection of the scalp – Fungal infections
Can improper care of my hair cause hair loss?
- Yes. If you use tight hair rollers, the pull on your hair can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. If the pulling is stopped before scarring of the scalp develops, your hair will grow back normally. However, scarring can cause permanent hair loss.
- Hot oil hair treatments or chemicals used in permanents (also called “perms”) may cause inflammation of the hair follicle, which can result in scarring and hair loss.
Common hair loss patterns
There are 2 common patterns:
Patchy hair loss: This type of hair loss can affect men, women and children. This is usually seen as well defined areas of hair loss. There are many conditions which cause this kind of hair loss, and usually you need to see a dermatologist to examine and diagnose the problem.
Diffuse hair loss: Diffuse loss of hair over the scalp is usually a cause of concern if the scalp can be seen through.
Male pattern baldness: This involves a receding hairline with thinning around the crown with eventual bald spots. This has been attributed to genetics and testosterone influence
Female pattern baldness: This involves thinning on the scalp with an intact hairline. It is attributes to genetics, testosterone imbalance and age.
When to seek Medical Help?
- You are losing hair in an unusual pattern
- You are losing hair rapidly or at an early age (for example, in your teens or twenties)
- You have any pain or itching with the hair loss
- The skin on your scalp under the involved area is red, scaly, or otherwise abnormal
- You have acne, facial hair, or an abnormal menstrual cycle
- You are a woman and have male pattern baldness
- You have bald spots on your beard or eyebrows
- You have been gaining weight or have muscle weakness, intolerance to cold temperatures, or fatigue
What are the treatment options?
There are various treatment options available. Dr Rachel Chew will advice you on which treatment best fit you.
What diet should be followed to get good and strong hair?
Just like your skin and body, your hair also needs a balanced diet to stay healthy. By including sources for essential fatty acids in your diet, you can give your hair back its strength and lustre. Foods such as tuna, sardines and such oily fish, and nuts, olives and avocados are rich in essential fatty acids. Sprinkling flaxseed and pumpkin seeds over your salad is also another great way to get these Essential fatty acids in your diet.
To keep your hair well hydrated, be sure to drink 6-8 glasses of water every day. Also try to include foods which contain silica such as rice, oats, lettuce, parsnips, asparagus, onion, strawberry, cabbage, cucumber, celery, cauliflower and green leafy vegetables. Silica is vital to the strength of hair, and can stop hair breakage. A lack of vitamin B in the diet can lead to oily greasy hair. To fight greasy hair, be sure to eat lots of whole grains, nuts, seeds, dairy products, eggs, wheat germ, legumes and green leafy vegetables. Although the link between premature greying and diet hasn’t been established, evidence does suggest that the amino acids tyrosine – which acts as a precursor to colour producing pigments in the hair and skin – can help! Thinning hair or hair loss may be a sign of iron deficiency. Be sure to eat plenty of iron rich foods, such as red meat, eggs, legumes, whole grain cereals, dried fruits and green leafy vegetables. Since hair is composed mostly of protein, your hair will most likely respond well to the addition of high protein foods such as meats, eggs, cheese, seeds and nuts. These foods can help reinforce the hair follicles and prevents the hair from falling out.