Hair loss is a lot more common than you might think! Approximately a 147million people worldwide have or will be affected by some form of Alopecia (hair loss) in their life (FAQ’s | National Alopecia Areata Foundation). There are so many causes for hair loss nowadays. Unfortunately, some things we don’t have much control over. About 57% of females and 73.3% of males over the age of 80 showed increasing hair loss, also referred to as aging hair loss (Alopecia androgenic) (Gan and Sinclair, 2005; Mayo Clinic, 2020). It’s not just age that can cause hair loss. One study showed an increasing prevalence of hair loss among millennials (Citroner, 2018). This could be down to the growing number of young people adapting a Vegan or Vegetarian diet without planning and researching it properly first. This would cause deficiencies in nutrients that are important for hair growth and maintenance such as protein, Zinc, Iron, and Vitamin D (Citroner, 2018).
The main reasons for hair loss are.
- Hormonal changes. Hair loss can occur during or after pregnancy and during menopause (Mayo Clinic, 2020). Hair loss can also occur during puberty in both males and females (Hair Ink, 2019). Also some contraceptive pills can have hair thinning or hair loss as possible side effects, but this would only really effect someone who’s sensitive to the hormones in the pill or who have a family history of hormone related hair loss (Watson, 2016).
- Medical conditions such as Alopecia, undiagnosed and untreated Hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, scalp infections and a psychological disorder called Trichotillomania where the person has the irresistible need to pull out their own hair (Mayo Clinic, 2020).
- Some Medications and supplements can cause hair loss. These include Antibiotics, Anti-fungal medications, Anti-depressants and mood stabilizers, Blood thinners, Cholesterol lowering medication, Immune suppressors, Anti-convulsant, Blood pressure medication, Acne medication and weight loss drugs (Gotter, 2018). High doses of some supplements can also lead to hair loss, especially high doses of vitamin A (Gotter, 2018).
- Radiation therapy on the scalp can cause hair loss, but it should grow back. However it usually grows back different (i.e. different colour, if it was curly before it may grow back straight or vice versa) (Mayo Clinic, 2020).
- Stress can be a trigger for many illnesses, and hair loss is one of them. Stress can interrupt the hair growth cycle by moving hairs out of the growth phase too early, causing large volumes of hair to fall out prematurely (Citroner, 2018). It has been shown that people can experience hair loss several months after an emotionally or physically stressful event (Mayo Clinic, 2020). This doesn’t mean a few stressful days will cause your hair to fall out, but studies have shown that severe and prolonged stress could (York et al., 1998; Hadshiew et al., 2004).
- Certain hairstyles that pull tight on the hair can cause Traction Alopecia. Professional ballerinas who wear their hair in a tight bun most of the time often experience Traction Alopecia, which is also referred to as ‘Ballerina baldness’ (Sophie, 2011). Adding heavy hair extensions, hot oil treatments and excessive bleaching and dying can also damage your hair (Citroner, 2018).
- Family history of hair loss can increase your risk of alopecia androgenic (aging alopecia), male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness.
- Lastly, poor nutrition can be a major cause for hair loss. There are certain nutrients that play an important role in healthy skin, hair, and nails. Being deficient in one or more of these nutrients can lead to hair thinning or hair loss (Mayo Clinic, 2020).
There are different types of Alopecia.
- Alopecia Areata is patchy hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body. It can grow back or sometimes it will develop into alopecia totalis, or alopecia universalis.
- Alopecia Totalis is total hair loss on the scalp.
- Alopecia Universalis is total hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body like the eyebrows, eyelashes etc.
- Diffuse Alopecia Areata results in an unexpected thinning of the hair on the scalp.
- Ophiasis Alopecia is when a band of hair loss occurs around the side and lower part of the scalp.
As of now there is no proven cure for alopecia. For many people the rate at which hair grows back, or whether it grows back at all, varies. There are many supposed ‘cures’ out there that claim to cause hair growth, but most of the time these treatments are only backed by anecdotal evidence. One thing for sure is that good nutrition will help both maintain healthy hair and repair damaged hair as well as possibly helping with hair regrowth. Here are some foods you could add to your diet to help with hair growth and maintenance.
- Eggs – Eggs are a great source of both protein and Biotin. Both nutrients play an important role in hair growth and maintenance. Hair follicles are mostly made from a protein called Keratin, so being deficient in protein can lead to hair loss (Guo and Katta, 2017). Biotin is essential to produce that protein Keratin that makes up hair follicles (Patel et al., 2017). Biotin deficiency has been shown to cause hair loss (Trüeb, 2016). One large egg contains approximately 6.28g of protein (mostly in the egg white), and 15µg of Biotin (mostly in the egg yolk).
- Berries – Berries and other fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants which can help prevent the hair follicles being attacked by molecules called ‘free radicals’ (Trüeb, 2009). Beerries also contain vitamin C which plays a role in the production of a protein called Collagen, which helps strengthen hair (Finner, 2013). The vitamin C in Berries and other fruits and vegetables helps with Iron absorption, and Iron deficiency can also lead to hair loss (Park et al., 2013).
- Iron deficiency is the world’s most common nutritional deficiency, and is also a well-known cause for hair loss (Guo and Katta, 2017). Spinach is a good healthy source of iron. It also contains vitamin C (which will help with the absorption of the iron), folate, and vitamin A. All of these nutrients can help promote healthy hair (Raman, 2018). Other good sources of Iron include lean red meat, offal, beans (red kidney beans, edamame beans and chickpeas), nuts, dried fruit, fortified breakfast cereals, soybean flour, shellfish, turkey, and quinoa.
- Oily fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, and trout are great sources of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Oily fish also contains Selenium, vitamin D3, and B vitamins that could help promote strong and healthy hair (Guo and Katta, 2017).
- Oysters contain more Zinc than any other food source (Raman, 2018). Zinc is known to maintain the growth and repair cycle of hair (Karashima et al., 2012). Some studies have shown that consuming too much Zinc from supplementation can actually cause hair loss, so it’s probably best to get your zinc from food (Plonka et al., 2005). Don’t worry if you aren’t to pushed on Oysters though, there are other food sources of Zinc such as crab, lobster, red meat, baked beans, fortified breakfast cereals, the dark meat of chicken and pumpkin seeds.
- Seeds contain Zinc, Selenium and Vitamin E, all of which have been shown to maintain healthy hair and possibly encourage hair growth (Guo and Katta, 2017).
Be careful if you decide to start taking supplements of any of the nutrients mentioned above as consuming too much of certain nutrients, especially vitamin A, D and E, can lead to hypervitaminosis which can not only cause hair loss, but could cause some serious health repercussions. It’s always best to try to get your nutrients from food and seek a medical professional’s advice if you feel you need to supplement.
Another thing you could do that could help with hair growth is scalp massage. Some studies have shown that scalp massage resulted in improved hair thickness and hair regrowth. One study saw in increase in hair thickness only 24 weeks after introducing scalp massage (Koyama et al., 2016). Another study showed that 69% of participants reported hair loss stabilization or re-growth after one year of twice daily scalp massages (English and Barazesh, 2019). Not only does scalp massage help relax and alleviate stress (one possible cause for hair loss), it may also encourage hair re-growth by stimulation the hair follicles (essentially wakening them up), and helps to dilate the blood vessels under the scalp so more blood gets to the hair follicles to nourish them. You can get a head massage done, or you can massage your own scalp using your fingers. There are also loads of gadgets out there that will help you give your scalp a good massaging without having to pay someone else to do it.
If you do experience hair loss there’s no need to worry! First you should see your doctor as it could be down to a nutrient deficiency, and that could be solved by adding that nutrient to your diet in larger amounts. If you feel anxious or embarrassed there’s no need to be, but there are numerous ways you can easily disguise your hair loss no matter what part of your body it’s on or how much it is.
For eyebrows there are loads of great eyebrow kits out there that allow you to draw very realistic eyebrows. If you don’t fancy that you could always go for microblading, which is more permanent (so you wouldn’t have to draw on your eyebrows every morning).
There are false eyelash treatments available specifically for people who’ve lost their eye lashes due to alopecia or other reasons.
Hair pieces and wigs made from real hair can look so realistic nobody would ever guess it’s not your real hair. There are several charities that provide wigs for people living with Cancer or Alopecia, especially for children and teenagers.
The Little Princess Trust is one of those charities. They provide high quality human hair wigs for young people up to age 24 who have lost their hair from Cancer or Alopecia. They’ve been a registered charity since 2006 and since then provide up to 2000 wigs per year to children and young people in Ireland and the UK and are in the early stages of providing wigs to mainland Europe as well. They also fund ground-breaking Paediatric Cancer research and have so far raised approximately £5 million for this cause. You can support them by donating money or hair. Hair donations need to be a minimum of 7 inches to make a wig, but due to a high demand for long haired wigs donations of 12 inches or more would be greatly appreciated. If you want to donate money and hair you could get sponsorship for growing your hair and then getting it cut.
You can also follow them on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter
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