People’s reaction to their own hair loss can range from no big deal to mild embarrassment to full-on panic. Many men expect to lose hair as they age, but it can be more disconcerting for women.
And it’s not as rare as you might think. About two-thirds of women will experience thinning hair or bald spots at some point in their lives, according to a Harvard Medical School study.
A certain amount of hair loss each day is to be expected. It’s part of the regenerative process. But when does it get to be a concern?
Dr. Alyssa Daniel of Novant Health Dermatology – SouthPark answered that, and other questions, on Charlotte’s WCCB NEWS Rising. She’s a hair-loss specialist who operates a hair loss clinic every Tuesday for a half a day. About 90% of those patients are women.
What’s the root cause of hair loss?
“We always want to treat the underlying cause,” she told Healthy Headlines last November. “If a patient comes in for hair loss and tells me she’s stressed, I want to find out the source of her stress. I’ll ask about her diet and how much protein she’s getting. A complete nutrition history may be important to getting at the cause.”
There could be an inflammatory component to hair loss, which might point to an autoimmune condition. Hair loss can also be triggered by certain medications. It could be hormonal; it can happen during pregnancy or postpartum.
Lastly, it could also be related to aging. Hair loss is genetic in women, as well as men.
Aging? So, this is inevitable?
It may not be a noticeable loss, but yes. “Hair doesn’t grow as quickly as we age,” Daniel said. “It may not appear as lustrous as it once did. It’s normal for hair to get a little dryer as we age.”
Could hair loss be related to COVID-19?
The novel coronavirus is causing some people to lose their hair. It can be both a side effect of having a virus and a response to stress. Just living through a pandemic is enough of a stressor for temporary hair loss, Daniel said. The medical condition for temporary stress-induced hair loss is telogen effluvium. It’s a form of alopecia, which is a generic term for any hair loss.
Should I take a supplement, such as biotin?
Biotin is one of the most common hair-growth supplements out there. Daniel said many of her patients have tried or are considering it.
Biotin can be helpful, she said. But it can also disrupt thyroid labs and lead to inaccurate interpretations of lab results – and incorrect diagnoses and treatment.
“Some supplements can do a lot of good for people,” Daniel said. “But there’s so much out there. It can be hard to navigate. I tell patients: a supplement is a medication, to a certain extent.”
Daniel’s advice? “Let a medical professional walk you through if the ingredients in a supplement are right for you.” And when your provider asks you what medications you’re taking, be sure to include supplements in the list.
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How else can I encourage hair growth?
Daniel often recommends Nutrafol, a supplement that improves hair growth. But check with your doctor before taking it. Also on her list: gentle haircare products, shampooing every other day, using less heat and styling it less often.
She often discussed integrative care, including some treatments borrowed from Eastern medicine, with patients. Massaging the scalp for a few minutes every day promotes circulation and therefore hair growth.
Peppermint helps stimulate circulation, too. So, essential oils or shampoo with peppermint may help. But you can be allergic to peppermint, too, so check with your healthcare provider before using it.
Is there a way to prevent hair loss?
A good diet, sleep, stress management, exercise – all these are good for overall health, and that includes hair and skin.