Friday, September 17, 2010

More than Just a Bad Hair Day: Thinning Hair

Volumizing sprays, thickening shampoos, oxygen delivery directly to the scalp - there are a number of products and services on the market that target people with hair loss. I equate this to the weight loss market. If you aren’t vein about your hair, holding on to every strand you’ve got, you might be after you drive down the highway and see a larger than life billboard with before and after pictures of a man with hair plugs. Do I look like the before picture? Wait, do I need this procedure?

While some men lose hair in patches and others have general thinning, women typically lose overall volume, which may make their hair loss very subtle and easy to overlook initially. Regardless of whether you are a man or woman, if you want to save your strands, it’s time to get to the root of the problem. And, the majority of hair loss is considered genetic and therefore medication (either topically, like Rogaine) or orally such as Merck’s Propecia (for men only) will decrease hair loss and possibly stimulate hair growth. But, you shouldn’t just assume that your hair loss is due to your genetic makeup. There are several causes of hair loss including:

- chemotherapy

- alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease)

- hypothyroidism

- androgenic alopecia (pattern baldness, this occurs in men and women)

- physical or emotional stress

- anorexia
For help with anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders, see EDIN or Something Fishy.

- poor nutrition – diets low in protein or iron (and possibly vitamin D), crash diets, gluten intolerance or celiac disease (possibly), fad diets and eating disorders can all lead to hair loss. If the other causes listed here do not apply to you, get a full iron panel done (not just hemoglobin and hematocrit) because iron deficiency without anemia can cause hair loss. And, get your vitamin D levels checked.

- illness

- hormonal changes (high testosterone levels in women)

- hair treatments – dye, bleach, straighten or perm your hair one too many times and it will become damaged and weak. Over-styling hair can also cause problems.

- scalp infection – ringworm or a fungal infection to your scalp can lead to hair loss. Most experts believe that dandruff is due to overgrowth of the fungi pityrosporum ovale or malassezia globosa. If you treat the dandruff, dandruff-related hair loss should subside. Anti-fungals such as zinc sulfate, salicylic acid and ketoconazole (found in Nizoral Shampoo and this ingredient supposedly kills the fungus) help. In addition, coal tar can reduce the appearance of flakes. And finally, you can try an age-old remedy for stopping the fungus – apple cider vinegar. And one more trick of the trade – never wrap wet hair in a towel or bunch it up on top of your head or put it in a ponytail. Yeast thrives in a damp environment!

Hair loss can impact how you feel about yourself, your morale and confidence. If you notice even the first sign of hair loss, instead of racing for the drug store for volumizing products, turn to the American Hair Loss Association for self-help and to find a dermatologist or endocrinologist. Starting early will lead to better results. And, finding the root of the cause will help you find an effective solution versus taking a shot in the dark.


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