Hair Loss – a growing problem
on the head grows about 1 cm a month. In the UK nearly 8
million men and 1.6 million women suffer from hair loss
problems. In the States, men spend over £440 million trying
to stop hair loss and regrow their hair. When did you last
see a bald President or Prime Minister?
The amount of hair on your head has a lot to do with your
natural colouring. Blondes have approximately 140,000 strands;
Brunettes have 110,000 strands; Raven haired have 108,000
strands and Red heads have 90,000 strands.
Everyone loses hair at different rates, but normally you could
expect to shed 50-100 hairs from your scalp each day. Hairs
usually grow for 5 years before they are shed, which is why
very long hair can look thinner on the lower length, because
some hair will be lost before it reaches the required length.
What is normal hair loss?
Worrying about hair loss will only add to the problem, first
you need to decide whether you really do have a condition
and if so, take positive action.
Usually, people are alarmed
when the plughole regularly seems to fill with loose hair
after washing. However, it is normal to shed 50-100 strands
a day and these become tangled with the rest of your hair
and either clog up your hair brush or end up in the basin
or shower when you shampoo. Often you don’t notice much hair
in the plughole until after you have conditioned your hair,
this is because the hair is smoothed and the loose strands
have nothing to tangle with and so wash away.
Shedding hair can also increase seasonally, many people find
hair grows more vigorously in the spring and then in the autumn,
tends to fall out a bit more.
If you’re still concerned about hair loss, you can try a gentle
pull test. Get hold of a small group of hairs, about 15 to
20, gripping them between the thumb and index finger. Then
pull slowly and firmly, if more than six hairs come away this
indicates that you may have a problem.
How does hair grow?
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The hair strands themselves are known as the shaft, each of
these protrudes from a hair follicle which is just below the
surface of the skin. Hairs are attached to the base of the
follicle by the hair root, which is the growth area nourished
by small blood vessels.
Hairs are made up of cells like the rest of the body. The
hair is slowly pushed out of the follicle as new cells form
at its root. This pushing process produces hair growth, while
thecells at the base are close to the blood supply they are
living. The further they are pushed away the less nourishment
they receive and they die, changing into the hard protein
known as keratin. Hair above the skin is dead protein, while
the follicle within the skin is the essential growing part
of the hair process.
Hair does not grow continuously
– it has definite stages.
The growing stage – Hair will usually grow at approximately
1 cm per month, this phase will last for between 2 and 5 years.
At any given time, 85%-90% of hairs are in the growth stage.
The resting stage – A resting stage then follows, when
hair stops growing for a period of 5 months, known as telogen.
At any given time, 10%-15% of all hairs are in the telogen
shedding stage – after the resting phase, the hair is
shed and the follicle will start to grow a new one.
If anything happens to destroy the hair follicle, no new
hair will grow.
Causes of baldness
Anything that disrupts the various stages of hair growth
can cause excessive hair loss. If the follicles remain in
the resting phase and then shed, instead of growing new
hairs, there will be a noticeable thinning of hair on the
Some anticancer drugs can interfere with the formation of
new hair cells at the root during the growth stage. Follicles
destroyed or damaged by skin diseases, burns, or destructive
hair treatments can result in baldness in that area.
Science still looking for a cure
The scientists at Columbia University in New York discovered
a gene that could be the ‘master switch’ for hair growth.
They compared the genes of hairless mice from a mutant breed
with the genes of 11 members from the same family who had
lost all of their hair. The discovery in 1998, is important
in understanding hair follicles and how baldness occurs
– it may lead to effective treatment in the future.
True or False
Is it true that some
hairstyles can cause hair loss?
TRUE – Any
styles that put too much tension on hair, like tight plaits,
ponytails (secured by elastic bands), corn-rows or winding
too tightly onto rollers (especially heated rollers), can
cause some hair loss.
Does wearing a wig or toupee
increase hair loss?
FALSE – Only
the hair root is alive and is nourished by blood in the
scalp. So it receives its oxygen in that way and doesn’t
need to breathe as some people think. Hair regrowth after
anticancer drugs is often vigorous and frequently takes
place while a wig is being worn. Wigs and hair pieces only
cause damage if they are too tight.
Will frequent shampooing make
hair fall out?
FALSE – Washing
with shampoo only removes hair that has already fallen out.
Blow-drying and heated brushes
can worsen hair loss?
TRUE – Extreme
heat can damage the hair proteins, increasing the tendency
for hair to become fragile and likely to break off. Brushing
hair regularly when blow-drying. causes more damage as hair
is more easily stretched when wet. Careless use of any heated
hair tools can burn the scalp, leading to permanent damage
to the hair follicles.
Brushing hair 100 times a day
will stimulate scalp circulation and prevent hair loss?
FALSE – Hair
can be injured and hair loss be made worse by vigorous brushing.
Does hair grows faster and/or
thicker with frequent cutting?
FALSE - Because
hair is thicker at the base than it is at the tip, after
a cut hair can feel deceptively thicker. Cutting your hair
will not affect the normal biologically determined growth
rate or overall texture.
Can colour treatment cause hair
FALSE - Most
hair colouring products contain chemicals that can do serious
harm to the hair itself if not properly used, but the use
of strand tests should highlight any potential problems.
Hair loss only occurs in extreme cases.
Will continued sun exposure
contribute to hair loss?
FALSE - Hair
acts as a shield against the sun. Hair loss appears at the
follicle level and so the sun would have to penetrate at
this depth to do any damage.
Is diet related to hair loss?
TRUE - Poor
diet will cause hair loss to varying degrees. Recently someone
who lived off fruit for just 2 years had clumps of hair
falling out. A balanced diet is the key to healthy hair.
Amino acids have also been shown to promote hair growth.
Stress causes hair loss?
TRUE - Severe
stress or shock caused by surgery or a death in the family,
can shut down hair production, causing temporary hair loss
(alopecia areata). The scalp nearly always recovers though,
and hair grows back.
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