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Hair Loss – a growing problem

Hair 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?
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.

Growth stages
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 phase.

The 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 head.

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 loss?
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.


Hair Loss Prevention

There are many easy, yet small changes you can make to your lifestyle, that will help prevent hair loss or stop it recurring.


  Thinning & Receding Hair
Concerned about your disappearing hairline?

  Black Hair
Problems with hair loss associated with extensions and root damaging styling

  Bald Patch Forming?
Why do people lose their hair over their crown?

  Hair Loss & Medical Conditions
Though temporary, in many cases, help may be needed for regrowth

Hairloss Myths

You’re bound to have questions about hair loss — our Myths section covers many of the problems we get asked about.

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