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Hair is one of the most vital aspects of our appearance, affecting the way we look and feel, and requires serious attention every day. A great many things in life affect our hair, so it is not surprising that problems are common.
Hair loss can cause great distress and affects most of us at some stage in our lives. It can be caused by genetic and non genetic factors, such as hormone imbalances, diabetes, thyroid abnormalities, bacterial infections, anaemia, stress, pregnancy, poor nutrition, fever, chemical damage, use of poor quality hair products, certain hairstyles and using hair styling equipment, e.g. blow dryers and curling tongs.
Common types of hair loss are:
Androgenetic Alopecia (Pattern Hair Loss)
Male Pattern BaldnessThis form of hair loss, which affects women as well as men, is very common. It is an inherited condition and is triggered by androgens (male hormones). The scalp gradually becomes more visible, as hairs become finer and don't grow as long as they used to. Treatment can effectively slow down the rate of hair loss if the condition is treated early, however, for some the best solution is hair root transplantation.
Alopecia Areata (Hair Loss in Patches)
This is a hair loss problem, which is often associated with stress. The symptoms are a sudden increase in hairfall, patches of baldness which are smooth to the touch and which may be singular or multiple in numbers with short broken hairs around the patches.
Although this disorder can be very alarming, the patches rarely spread to total hair loss (alopecia totalis) and treatment for this problem can be very effective. Treatments are available which speed up the rate at which the new hairs grow back. But perhaps the most effective form of treatment is the use of ultra-violet light therapy. This is used extensively at The Clinic of Trichology with a very high success rate.
Postpartum Alopecia (Loss of hair after childbirth)
Approximately 40% of all women experience hair loss after giving birth. This is due to a delay in normal shedding during pregnancy. The hair becomes thicker during pregnancy and excessive shedding is noticed as the hair returns to its normal state afterwards.
Stress Related Hair loss
Normally we shed up to 100 hairs a day. Usually these hairs are replaced and the scalp is covered. Unfortunately, stress can sometimes interfere with hair growth and cause excessive shedding. There are ways to stop this type of hair loss. Depending on the length and severity of the stress, sometimes a simple step like taking B vitamins will help, but more in-depth treatment may be needed. Either way, the cause of the stress should be addressed and panic should be avoided, easy as this is to say, panic in itself can cause stress, which can cause more hairfall.
Once the stress is removed the hair usually grows back within a few months.
Hair breakage and how to avoid it
What is hair? Like the skin and nails, hair is chemically a protein material and there are on average 120,000 hair producing follicles on our scalp. The normal hair growth rate is 1 to 1.5 cms (1/2 to 3/4 inches) monthly, and is slightly faster in women.
Hair has three main physical layers; the outer cuticle; the cortex, comprising the bulk of the whole structure; and a middle core, the medulla. The cuticle and cortex are affected by physical and chemical change and can undergo temporary or permanent alteration.
Hair loss due to Breakage
Hair becomes dry and brittle when there is a loss of moisture from the fibres within the hair, which usually leads to the hair splitting and breaking.
The causes of dry hair are many and varied. Too little natural oil from the skin, central heating, heated rollers, poor quality hair products, sunbathing, swimming, perming, straightening, colouring and the over-use of blow dryers. All of these result in the hair becoming dull, dry and likely to break.
It is essential to remember that a change in hair structure will make the hair more vunerable to the daily wear and tear of styling. More than usual care will be needed when shampooing and drying hair which has been subjected to the processes mentioned.
When brushing or combing the hair, do not apply too much tension and avoid brushing or combing the hair when it is wet as this can cause damage. In spite of many claims, there is no remedial benefit to be gained from brushing the hair and scalp regularly. On the contrary, this could adversely affect many scalp conditions and situations of hair loss.
Braiding the hair and hairstyles which involve tight pulling of the hair, can cause traction alopecia. The area most commonly affected is around the hairline. This type of hair loss is temporary if the traction is short term but becomes permanent with prolonged trauma.