Did you know that hair loss is part of the everyday human experience! In fact, Celestine Gitau, a trichologist, says the human scalp alone loses 50 to 100 hairs daily. Now, don’t be alarmed by the thought of full-blown balding in the long run, as hair growth is cyclical, and follows a growing, resting and shedding sequence. So, rest assured that fallen hair will soon be replaced, as each hair is at its own stage of development. However, if the hair growth cycle which spans three to seven years is disrupted by an underlying reason, hair thinning or balding may occur.
Now what are some of the reasons that disrupt normal hair development, thus wreaking havoc on your hair! Continue reading to find out.
1. Tight hairstyles
There is no denying that a fresh hairdo looks good, with each hair snatched into place. However, hairdresser Kinyua Tarah cautions, styling techniques that ‘pull too tightly to create a neat finish’ can result in hair loss. The offenders, popular styles like ‘braids, weaves, ponytails and lines.’
When hair is pulled when being done, Ms Gitau explains, hair projecting out of the scalp breaks away from the hair follicle, its anchors to the skin. If these hairstyles are done repeatedly using the same pulling technique, the hair follicles tasked with growing hair become damaged and unable to continue in their role of hair production.
2. Lack of moisture
Inadequately moisturising your hair, Ms Gitau counsels, breeds brittle hair.
Yes, we are all blessed with sebum, our body’s own moisturizer, but sometimes the amount produced by our sebaceous glands, is insufficient. Ms Gitau illustrates that hair starts growing inside our skin, and projects out of the scalp as it continues growing. So, depending on a person’s hair length or type, the sebum has a long way to travel, corners to take, before reaching the tip. Many a times, the sebum does not reach the ends due to external factors like heat or climate ‘drying the natural hair moisturiser,’ leaving behind hairs that break easily.
The African matted hair is a force to be reckoned with, therefore vigorously combing out its knots is quite appealing. However, Dr Bansil, a dermatologist, warns against forceful combing, as it results in a form of self-induced hair loss, known as cicatricial alopecia. What happens here is that inflammation cells develop around the yanked hair follicles, destroying it. Upon destruction, the hair follicles are replaced by scar tissue, culminating in hair loss around affected the area.
At times, culture, religion, or mere convenience, calls for hair coverage. However, Ms Gitau notes, tightly and regularly worn headpieces, like wigs or turbans, can cause traction alopecia, whereby constant hair pulling weakens the hair root, leading to hair loss.
5. Medical conditions
Not all hair loss is self-inflicted, Dr Bansil clarifies, as medical conditions can also bring about hair fall.
Bacterial and fungal infections, destroy the hair root located deep within the skin. This then damages the hair follicles tasked with hair production.
Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease characterised by ‘hostile antibodies attacking and destroying healthy hair cells,’ is a common cause of hair loss. When healthy hair cells, in the hair follicles are attacked, the follicles become damaged, weakening the follicles capacity to manufacture new hair.
Scarring after injury or surgery leads to hair loss, when the development of scarring tissue to cover the punctured wound, replaces hair follicles.
6. Hormonal Imbalances
Did you know, no correlation exists between age and hair loss, Ms Gitau explains, as some begin balding in their 20s or 30s! The problem here is a hormonal imbalance, thanks to a genetic linkage predisposing some women to a surplus of androgen, a male sex hormone, causing female-pattern-baldness. What age does is ‘aggravate the condition’.
Prolonged stress can result in Telogen effluvium, a condition that disrupts the normal hair growth cycle. Here, hair follicles quickly transition to the resting phase, where the hair stops growing and sits on the scalp for several days, before shedding.
Trichotillomania, a psychiatric disorder, characterised by ‘people under stress pulling their hair,’ to relieve tension, results in hair loss around the affected area, due to follicle damage.
8. Nutritional deficiencies
Eliminating carbohydrates, an energy giving food, from your diet, in favour of a protein-based diet, can culminate in hair thinning. Energy is the first thing the body needs, nutritionist, Ms Gichuhi explains. Deprived of its carbohydrate source, protein takes on the energy providing role instead of building, maintaining and repairing the body, which is inclusive of hair care and production.
Strict adherence to plant-based diets is damaging to the hair. Unlike animal protein, plant protein, Ms Gichuhi states, does not possess all the amino acids required for hair production. Therefore, failure to make up for the deficiencies, halts the hair production process due to insufficient amounts of hair growing amino acids.
Deficiencies in vitamins B, C, D, E, which ‘maintain the integrity of the hair, its color, elasticity and texture,’ can lead to hair breakage. These vitamins contribute to the production of sebum, the body’s natural moisturiser, and consequently hair maintenance, for sebum nourishes the hair, preventing its drying.
Before catastrophising the reasons behind your hair loss, know that majority of the conditions listed self-correct, once the underlying reason is addressed by a medically trained professional, in hair and scalp problems.
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