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Hair Loss and Why It Happens

John Simmonds

Posted on February 26 2018

Hair Loss and Why It Happens

Taking Better Care of Your Hair

Because we're constantly producing new hair, we can get a fresh start, a second chance at caring for our hair if we did things wrong in the recent past. This means replacing the old damaged hair with new freshly growing hair, but it will take some time for this process to occur when you consider that hair grows at the rate of 1 2 inch per month. Permanent dyes or hair setting agents can damage all of the hair on top of your head, so for most people shaving the entire head is not a feasible option!

It may take a year or so for old damaged hair to be replaced, but it can be worth the wait – impetuous hair decisions can have their consequences.

When we reach a certain age, hair starts to thin, and that's when we try and color it. This can be counter productive to the desired effect, by making the hair even drier and even thinner.

Here are some basic enemies of healthy hair:

HEAT

Drying with a blow-dryer: Deep in the cortex are air pockets that give hair an added bounce. These air pockets have moisture in them, and if you blow-dry your hair at a high temperature, you can boil the moisture and cause the hair shaft to explode! So a moderate temperature is essential when you blow-dry your hair.

Using hot rollers: These may be the single most damaging thing for hair because they apply heat directly to your hair.

Exposing hair to direct sunlight: Heat decreases the amount of moisture in your hair, causing problems similar to those of blow-drying. Exposing your hair to high doses of ultraviolet light from direct sunlight can cause signi ficant damage to the bonds in the keratin.

Rubbing too hard to dry hair: If you rub your hair roughly with a towel, the friction pulls out hair and may produce structural damage to the remaining hair shafts.

STRUCTURAL DESTRUCTION

Hacking it with dull scissors: Dull scissors can split apart the cuticle, leaving broken hair with split ends that tend to peel down the hair shaft.

Back brushing: Think of your hair as a one-way street which runs from the scalp to the tip of t he hair follicle. When you brush or comb the hair against the scales, going from the tip of the follicle to the scalp, you can irreversibly damage the shaft and break the hair. Intact, unbroken cuticle cells are glossy and smooth and give hair its shine and luster. Back brushing changes the character of the cuticle so that it loses its shine and luster.

Using a metal comb or brushing too hard: Plastic combs create much less friction than metal

combs and are a better choice. Combing or brushing wet hair can fracture the hair shafts, but conditioners can help by detangling and allowing a comb to be passed through the hair without tugging on it, which may cause it to fracture. When combing, start at the ends and work your way up to the scalp, making sure to stay with the grain by combing downward away from the scalp.

CHEMICALS

Perming: As we explain in the earlier section, “Perming your hair,” the perming process breaks apart the scales so that water can be absorbed and the hair can be reshaped. Leaving perm solution on for too long or perming too often can permanently damage the hair shaft.

Bleaching or coloring: The earlier section, “How dyes work,” explains how bleaching or coloring your hair can damage the cuticle and increase the porosity of the hair shaft, weakening the hair by allowing it to absorb too much moisture.

Using hair sprays: Hair spray coats the cuticle and changes its porosity, and it makes hairs bind to each other and pull at the points of contact. They can produce traction from the constant pulling that may fracture the hair cuticle and the spindles below, exposing the cortex to possible environmental damage.

BAD DIET

Smoking, drinking alcohol, eating sugar (this includes high glycemic foods like bread, yes, bread) can inhibit healthy hair growth.

Different types of hair loss.

Hair falls out of your head every single day, at a rate of about 100 to 150 hairs if you are a Caucasian (Asians lose 80–120 per day and Africans 60–100 per day). You aren’t going bald if your hair is coming out at these rates because that is the rate that new hair grows up from the scalp. If the hair that falls out isn’t replaced by the same number of new hairs, then you have a balding problem. Hair loss isn’t noticeable in the average person until more than 50% is lost, which is around 50,000 hairs, more or less.

Why does hair loss occur at all? You were born with your hair, and by simple logic, you should die with it, right? Not one organ in the human body dies as a natural course of aging, yet hair follicles commit mass suicide over time. Other human organs may change over time and become less functional, but they don’t disappear altogether. Is hair loss a type of genetic adaptation? No one knows.

This section looks at the different types and causes of hair loss, including the cause of 99% of all cases of male balding: male pattern baldness.

There’s more than one category of hair loss. Can your doctor tell just by looking at you what kind of hair loss you have? Yes, some- times. Hereditary hair loss patterns, the most common type of hair loss in men, have developed into a classical clinical descriptive sci- ence. Genetic hair loss appears in distinct patterns, and these pat- terns are almost 100% diagnostic for male pattern baldness. The later section, “Norwood classi fications for measuring male pat- tern thinning” covers the most common baldness patterns.

Uniform Hair Loss

A small segment of people lose scalp hair uniformly (diffusely), rather than losing hair in speci fic scalp areas. Uniform hair loss isn’t as easy to detect as other types of hair loss because the hair is steadily lost all over the head. It’s much easier to detect a bald spot resulting from hair loss in a specific area of the scalp from

Hormonal influences on hair

Hormones are biochemical substances produced by our body's' glands. The primary male sex hormone is testosterone. Testosterone and other related hormones that have “masculinizing” effects are produced primarily in the testicles. These same hormones are the cause of many changes that occur in puberty in boys. The hormones that cause acne and beard growth also can trigger the beginning of baldness. Testosterone is also produced in women from the adrenal glands and the ovaries, and it is produced in lower concentrations than the testicles produce the hormone in men. In women, most of the testosterone is converted into estrogen.

The hormone believed to be most directly involved in androgenetic alopecia is dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which it binds to receptor sites on the cells of hair follicles to cause speci fic changes associated with balding.

The presence of androgens (steroid like substances), testosterone and DHT cause the death of hair follicles. In addition to the testicles, the adrenal glands located above the kidneys produce androgenetic hormones; this is true for both sexes. In females, ovaries are the major source of hormones that can affect hair. Androgenetic hormones stimulate many of the male sex characteristics we see in adult men. Androgens like testosterone, are converted into estrogens in women, which make women develop their typical female sex characteristics.

Stress

When the body experiences stress caused by a traumatic experience, nutritional deficiency, or illness, the rate of hair loss can increase. For example, a 39-year-old patient lost his 4-year-old child to cancer and within just a few months, the man lost all but the permanent wreath of hair around his head. He may have had the genetics for this balding pattern, but it was only expressed in the case of an extremely stressful situation.

Women’s hair seems to be more sensitive to the effects of stress than men’s hair. This may be because women with a genetic predisposition to hair loss usually have a higher percentage of fragile hair with thinner than normal hair shaft thickness (referred to as miniaturized). But unlike in men, the hair loss in women is often not permanent or complete.

The type of hair loss induced by stress is called telogen ef fluvium, which is very different from another predominant hair loss type called androgenetic alopecia. Telogen effluvium is the reversible shedding of hair in the resting phase when the body senses the need to divert its energies. Therefore, stress temporarily changes the amount of hair that’s shed, but the lost hair is likely to grow back.

Lack of blood supply

Chinese medicine dictates, as do some Western doctors, that a lack of blood supply contributes to hair loss. Bald skin gradually loses some of its blood supply and as a result becomes thin and shiny, which some attribute to the lack of hair, but if the blood supply becomes diminished, the hair is going to fall out. The theory suggests that the follicle requires a certain amount of blood in order to be nourished. For that reason, a hair tonic (Herbal Hair Tonic) is rich with nutrients to create more blood, additional hormonal nutrients and a guiding herb to send everything upwards to the scalp. Using a guiding herb is normal practice in Chinese herbology, and works amazingly well.

Hair follicles are some of the most rapidly metabolizing cells in the body. Growing hair requires the proper oxygen and nutrition that comes with a good blood supply in a healthy body. When hair follicles are transplanted into skin grafts or scar tissue, both of which may have a relatively poor blood supply, the presence of the grafted hair causes the local blood supply to increase. The end result is that as the hair grows, so does the blood supply.
Environmental Components

Can you eat yourself into a full head of hair? Probably not, but environmental factors, including what you eat, can cause the opposite: hair loss. The following list addresses just a few of the environmental factors.

How and Why Hair Loss Happens

  • Selenium: Intake of selenium to the point of selenium toxicity produces hair loss, among other

    effects.

  • Lead, cadmium, mercury, iron, aluminum, and copper: These are the most common environmental causes of hair loss. Many of these substances can be found in fish, reflecting contamination of the world’s oceans. Lead may also be found in hair dyes and paint. Heavy metals accumulate in the body over time to the point where hair loss and general deterioration of health occurs when the critical volume of metals in the body is achieved.

  • Air pollution and smoking: These factors exacerbate the genetic feature carried by potentially balding men. Scientists believe toxins and carcinogens found in polluted air can stop hair growing by blocking the mechanisms that produce the protein from which hair is made.

Doctors hope that science will discover ways to treat pollutant contributions to hair loss with topical lotions to block the effects of the pollutants on the hair follicles.

Examining Hair Thinning in Women

Women are generally more attentive to the appearance of their hair and notice the see-through quality of thinning hair early on. Most women with thinning hair don’t lose enough all at once to clog the drain, so problems with styling may be the first sign of the female genetic balding process. This is fortunate because the slow onset of thinning allows women to adjust their styling to compensate for their hair loss.

Most women are able to conceal thinning with a new hairstyle, up to a point. Layering, a pulled-back style like a pony tail, or a bun can hide thinning hair fairly well. Or women can use hair extensions or other hair systems.

Although camouflaging hair loss can be effective, it is undeniable that hair loss is a psychological challenge for women who think back to the luscious, thick hair of their youth and see it coming out in bunches on the hairbrush. Thinning hair can make a woman feel older and less sexy.

Possible Causes

There are a number of types of identi fiable hair loss in women, and they differ based on their causes. The cause of female hair loss is re flected in the pattern, so doctors look to the pattern of loss to get an idea of the cause and how to treat it.

About 10% of women experience the classic pattern of genetic hair loss, which is an intact frontal hairline for the first 2 3 inch or so and hair loss behind that persistent hairline. Another recognizable pattern of genetic hair loss in women is hair loss con fined to the top of the head, sparing the leading

frontal edge of the hair line. Some women with genetic hair loss experience a diffuse hair loss, which is a thinning of the hair all over the head (including the sides and back of the head) and isn’t confined to any particular area. This is more common in postmenopausal women, although it does show up in younger women as well.