Have you noticed that when you comb your hair, you gradually lose more and more hair? After months or years of looking good and denying it, you may have noticed that the mirror doesn’t lie and that your hair has become noticeably thinner. You’re not the only one who suffers from broken hair, increased hair loss, and severe hair loss. Many women manage to hide it with wigs, synthetic hair, hats, or scarves. Others opt for one of the various medications or surgical procedures approved to treat baldness.
There is a misconception that excessive hair loss and baldness is a male-only phenomenon, but in reality, 40% of American women suffer from female pattern baldness. One in four women in the U.S., or more than 30 million women, are treated or monitored for hair thinning each year.
First, don’t panic! Hair loss and shedding occur during the hair growth cycle, and it is normal to lose a few hairs on your head each day. The average person’s scalp is made up of about 100,000 to 150,000 individual hairs, and in a normal hair growth cycle, about 100 to 150 hairs are shed or lost each day. New hair is then born from these dormant hair follicles, which grow on average about 0.5 cm per month.
The hair follicle and the hair shaft are the two elements that makeup hair. The hair follicle is located under the scalp and produces the hair bundles that grow on our heads. While the hair follicle is alive, the hair shaft is made up of dead cells and has no capacity for regeneration.
For most people, 90% of hair is in the growth phase (anagen phase), which lasts up to six years, and the remaining 10% is in the resting phase (telogen phase), which lasts about three months. After the resting phase, the hair falls out. Brushing, combing, pillows, and shower run-off can be a concern for this hair. Relax, a little hair loss is perfectly acceptable.
Alopecia or hair loss occurs when the normal pattern of hair growth is disrupted. Normally, hair grows, rests, falls out, and grows back. When the growth pattern is disrupted, hair falls out and does not grow back quickly. A family history of hair loss in men increases the risk of hair loss. Genetics can also influence the age at which hair falls out and the onset, type, and extent of alopecia.
It’s not the normal hair loss that’s concerning, but the noticeably thinning hair you see in the mirror. For women, a dense, vigorous head of hair is a sign of vanity and the crowning achievement of their talent. An abundant mane of hair is synonymous with feminine beauty and is an integral part of our image. In our culture, femininity is perceived as thick and silky hair. Historically, the image of a shiny, full head of hair has been associated with feminine beauty, youth, attractiveness, and health. Society mistakenly equates dry, shiny, thinning hair with old age, disease, and poverty.
In women, thinning hair has been shown to cause a drastic decrease in self-esteem. Hair loss does not cause physical pain, but it often leads to serious psychological problems. We worry about the thinness of our hair and become depressed and dismissive of ourselves. Women often become introverted and withdraw from the world. They avoid intimate contact and try in vain to hide the quality and quantity of their hair.
Hair loss is particularly detrimental to people in professions or careers in which appearance plays an important role. Young women are particularly vulnerable to the stigma of baldness. It is only when faced with hair loss that one realizes the importance of hair.
Women’s hair is at its densest by the age of 20. However, after the age of 20, hair becomes progressively thinner, and more hair falls out than normal, about 100-150 hairs per day. With age, hair pigmentation decreases, and hair becomes smaller so that the rich, dense hair of youth becomes thinner and lighter. In older women, significant hair loss can also threaten self-esteem. Hair loss often undermines a woman’s sexuality, femininity, and authority within her family and community.
It is not surprising that men are going bald: By age 35, about 25% of American men suffer some degree of hair loss, and by age 60, about 75% go bald or lose their hair.
For men, hair loss is a sign of peak male hormone activity and is often seen as a symbol of virility. To show their strength and virility, men often shave their heads.
Although many men are discouraged by thinning hair, studies show that the psychological stress of thinning hair does not have as negative an effect on men as it does on women. Hair thinning is difficult to combat because control is lacking – the feeling that there is nothing you can do to stop it from thinning threatens.
Causes of thinning hair in women
As women age, they face a series of changes and problems, such as wrinkles, a wider waistline, cellulite, and thicker ankles. For many, hair loss is another blow to their self-esteem.
Female or male pattern baldness is the most common form of hair loss in women and is genetically determined. This type of female alopecia is caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a chemical that builds up around the hair follicle and over time destroy both the hair shaft and the hair follicle. Pregnancy and menopause can cause fluctuations in estrogen production. When there is a lack of estrogen, which produces enzymes that inhibit testosterone, testosterone is converted to DHT in the scalp. This leads to a shortened hair growth cycle, thinning hair, and excessive hair loss due to hair loss and breakage. In some women, hair loss worsens in the first few months after giving birth.
In addition to genetic predisposition, there are many other reasons why women lose their hair. These include surgery, physical and emotional stress, hormonal imbalances, chemotherapy, and scalp infections. Hair loss in women can be triggered by taking birth control pills or certain prescription medications, using harsh chemicals or aggressive styling, which can cause permanent damage to the fragile hair follicles. Excessive hair loss can also occur with rapid weight loss due to dangerous “fad diets” or eating disorders such as anorexia. The use of street drugs such as cocaine can also cause sudden and severe hair loss.
When to seek medical attention
A violent reaction to the physical condition of hair loss may seem like an exaggerated conceit, but it is not. Alopecia is not usually caused by a disease but is usually genetic, age-related, and hormonal. However, changes in the appearance, texture, or growth pattern of hair can indicate a serious health problem. Along with the skin and nails, hair is one of the first areas where nutritional deficiencies, hormonal disorders, and diseases manifest themselves. It is therefore worth paying attention to it.
Female hair is particularly vulnerable to underlying diseases, so it is important that women with undiagnosed hair loss be examined by a physician. If the hair loss is due to a disease, the doctor can treat the disease, which can result in significant hair growth.
Once the cause of the hair loss is determined, you will be referred to a hair specialist or hair transplant doctor who will advise you of possible treatments, such as hair transplants to stimulate growth or cover thinning hair. Depending on the type of alopecia, hair can grow back normally without treatment.
A healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise, good hydration, and rest can go a long way in preventing hair loss and maximizing the potential of the hair growth cycle.
Medical research is not yet complete, but the following recommendations have proven effective in growing and maintaining healthy hair.
Nutritional deficiencies are often one of the main causes of hair loss, as hair is an indicator of good or bad nutrition. Talk to your doctor about your diet and any medications or supplements you are taking. Dull, dry, brittle hair can be a sign of a lack of essential fatty acids in the diet, while oily hair can be a sign of a lack of B vitamins.
Recent medical studies have shown that many women with thinning hair are deficient in iron and the amino acid lysine. It is difficult to get enough lysine from food alone. Lysine is important for the transport of iron and contributes greatly to hair growth. Lysine is found in eggs and red meat, so vegetarians should be careful of a possible deficiency.
The amino acids L-cysteine and L-methionine are thought to improve hair structure, quality, and growth.
Foods low in calories, protein, and carbohydrates are thought to play an important role in healthy hair growth and the prevention of hair loss. Essential fatty acids, which are important for maintaining healthy hair, are found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, sardines, spinach, soybean oil, and canola oil. Omega-3 and omega-6 oils protect both the heart and the hair, which is why it is a good idea to include salmon in the diet on a regular basis.
Herbal remedies offer hope for thinning hair
Consult a nutritionist or health care professional for more information on the benefits of herbal medicines. The following natural herbal ingredients have properties that promote healthy hair growth.
- Licorice (kanzo)
- Garden Marigold
Always choose organic and natural products to avoid the chemicals and toxins found in many hair care products. Harsh chemicals can strip hair of its natural oils, resulting in brittle hair and poor hair growth. Treatments such as gray hair coloring, straightening, and perms can have a negative effect on the hair shaft, hair follicles, and the delicate sebaceous balance of the scalp.
Handle your hair gently. Don’t use a hairdryer, let it dry naturally. Use a natural hair comb to avoid damage. Do not style hair until it is completely dry. Wet hair is fragile and should be treated with care. Avoid or abandon bad habits such as pulling or curling hair. Keep fingers out of hair, don’t pull on hair, and avoid hairpins and elastics that can pull or break hair. Minimize the use of mousse, gel, and hairspray. These products can dry out and weigh hair down, causing it to lose its natural shine.
When swimming, avoid salt or chlorinated water. If you do go swimming, always wash your hair in cold water with a mild organic shampoo and use a gentle conditioner. Sun lovers should make sure their hair care products contain sunscreen to protect against the harmful effects of UV rays. Don’t forget to wear a hat to avoid sunburn on the scalp.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Losing our hair can be traumatic, but hair is just a part of ourselves. I tell myself not to dwell on my hair loss and be. Satisfied that everything is going well and balanced in all other areas of my life. Look on the bright side, eat well, rest, and be at peace with yourself. Don’t forget that for some people, hair grows back mysteriously.
Sara is a freelance writer, linguist, and communications expert based in Southern Europe. At age 10, she read a book called “1001 Questions about the Human Body” and has since dedicated her life to breaking down the complexities and myths around the human body like hair plasma treatment and the culture surrounding it, especially in relation to mental and physical health. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.