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Lately I’ve watched a lot of big hair movies. Not on purpose, really. It’s just that great hair is part and parcel of a good fantasy movie. 🙂 One does not simply watch Lord of the Rings or Games of Thrones and not lust after all those rich, abundant tresses. Not to mention Disney princess movies. Sigh! Go on. Admit it.
In the real world there’s just too many factors that thin down, wear out, frizz up, and defeat any dreams of long flowing hair in the wind. So what is defeating us mortals from getting there? While the usual answer to “Why am I losing hair?” is ”It’s in your genes!” there are other reasons too. I’m going to outline some of the biggest hair loss and hair growth factors here and also a couple tips for what you can do to rectify the ones you feel matchup for you. So here goes…
Physical or emotional stress:
When your body goes through severe stress like a long term or sudden illness, car accident, surgery, or intense emotional distress like divorce, the death of a loved one, or stress and anxiety at work, your body can experience temporary hair loss known as telogen effluvium. Your hair naturally goes through a life cycle starting with a growth phase, then a rest phase, and then the shedding phase. When you go through a physically or emotionally stressful event, it can shock the body and cause changes like an increased hair shedding phase, which may last between three to six months.
To help protect your body from stress, take time out to heal. As your body recovers, so will your hair cycle and growth. Aside from taking special time out to heal when your body has been through extra stress and strain, it is important to call it half time at least once a day and take some time to be calm, meditate, and take some ‘me time’ for your body and mind. When your mind is healthy, your body will follow suite.
Over styling and using too many hair products:
Regardless of the great marketing done for most hair treatments and styling products, overuse and a lack of proper hair care can cause your hair to thin and fall out. Certain tight hairstyles like corn rows, tight buns, and tight braids can also cause a lot of tension right at the base of the hair shaft and cause the hair to fall out. And, that’s not to mention the chemical relaxers that straighten and de-frizz, the hot oil treatments, and the heat for curling, straightening, and crimping. Too much of any of these will affect the hair root, and as a result the hair may not always grow back.
To prevent this from happening, try to keep your hair in its natural state as much as possible. Whenever you have the day to yourself and can happily roam around however you please (It’s PJs all the way for me on these days!), then let your hair down without any tight hairstyles or hair products. As much as possible, avoid using heated hair tools. These are the real killers that slowly heat your hair to such intense heights, that the actual hair root just dies away. If you must bring a curling iron or straightener in touch with your hair, try not to do it more than once a week, if you can help it.
Antidepressants, blood thinners, and other medications:
Active ingredients in certain medications like blood-pressure beta-blockers and blood thinners can also be culprits for hair loss. Other drugs like methotrexate for treating rheumatic skin conditions, lithium for treating bipolar disorders, ibuprofen, and certain antidepressants have the same effect.
If you suspect that your regular medicines are affecting your hair, you should consult your doctor and get his/her advice on the matter. If it is affecting your hair, your doctor may suggest an alternative medicine for you that does not have the same side effects, or he/she may suggest lowering the dose.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS):
Polycystic ovary syndrome is another of the most common reasons for hair loss since the last couple years. It is caused by an imbalance in male and female sex hormones, and an excess of androgens can cause side effects like ovarian cysts, weight gain, increased risk of diabetes, irregular menstrual periods, infertility, and, yes, hair thinning and hair loss. The flip side of the coin is that because PCOS is caused by male hormones being overrepresented, a woman may experience more hair growth on their face and body.
Treatment for PCOS will usually include changes to your diet, regular exercise, and treatment for infertility and diabetes, in some cases you may be advised to take birth control pills until the hormones in your body balance themselves out. Treating PCOS will usually help control the hormone imbalance and reverse some of the side effects.
Pregnancy and changes in your hormone levels can also affect hair growth factors. Switching birth-control pills or going off them can cause telogen effluvium, which is even more likely if you have a history of hair loss in your family. Menopause also changes hormones in the body and can have similar effects for your hair.
If taking birth-control pills or switching to new ones is proving to do more harm than good, consult your doctor about other birth control methods. Stopping all oral contraceptives can sometimes help to halt hair loss temporarily.
Sudden or dramatic weight loss:
When you drastically drop pounds in a short time frame, your body considers this as a form of physical trauma, the side effects of which include thinning hair. Even though the weight loss is good for your overall health, your body will go through some initial changes as it adjusts to your new weight. In some cases, sudden weight loss can also cause a lack of vitamins and minerals in the body, especially when weight loss is caused by eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.
If you’ve drastically lost weight in a short time span, you could try adding multivitamins, especially those containing vitamin A and Iron, or hair growth supplements to your diet. This will help fill in any nutritional gaps and give your body the extra ammunition it needs to adjust to the changes. In most cases, hair loss associated with sudden weight loss will take about six months to sort itself out. If you are giving your body a little help with extra nutritional input, a balanced diet, proper hair care, and enough sleep, you can quicken the healing process.
A lack of protein:
A lack of protein in your diet will automatically result in a halt in hair production. Hair thrives on protein. It’s as simple as that. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, hair loss can happen for as long as two or three months after a drop in your protein intake.
Some of the best sources of natural proteins are fish, meat and eggs; but if you are vegetarian, you can get protein from other food sources like green peas, soya, low fat cheese, yogurt, quinoa, nuts and nut butter, and beans.
Vitamin and Iron deficiency:
A deficiency of vitamin B and Iron is another common cause of hair loss in the 21st Century. Studies show that almost 1 in 20 women aged between 20 and 50 suffer from anemia caused by iron deficiency. Aside from hair loss, anemia also causes fatigue, dizziness, pale skin, and cold hands and feet.
You can reverse the deficiency by taking vitamin B, iron, hair growth supplements, and other natural hair treatments. You can also make changes to your diet and add in more iron-rich foods and vitamin B-rich foods like fish, meat, starchy, green vegetables, and non-citrus fruits. As always, eating a balanced meal, being a good girl (…or boy!) and eating all your greens, goes a long way in improving your hair and your overall health!
While there are probably as many more reasons for hair loss as there are hair care products, these are the ones that I feel are the most common with people who’ve written in asking for advice on hair loss and hair health. Remember, that the best place to start for good health is living a balanced lifestyle, eating clean and healthy, exercising daily, smoking and drinking as little as possible, and smiling as often as you can.
I hope this helps out…at least a bit! Have a happy day!
This post was guest-authored by Paloma Sridhar, resident blogger and writer at Chemist Direct. For more of her articles on healthcare, beauty, and nutrition, you can follow her regular blogs on Chemist Direct.