Global hair loss problems are growing. The crowning glory that is a measure of our confidence and self-image is also a barometer that indicates good or bad health. Hair problems are many a time the first signs that something is wrong with our health.
The science of hair and scalp that deals with their health and disease is known as trichology. It was first developed in London in 1902. When there is a severe hair problem, a trichologist is the person you should be consulting. They will conduct a tricho analysis of the hair and the scalp to determine the problem.
It is important to understand how hair functions to ensure it is kept healthy.
How Hair Functions
Apart from giving us beautiful looks, hair has more important functions. It is a protective shield and protects the area from where it grows out. Our eyes are protected by the eye lashes; our eyebrows prevent rain and sweat from entering our eyes. Hair in the nostrils protects the nasal passages from dust particles. The skull and brain are protected by the hair on the head. Hair on the body keeps us warm.
Growth Cycle of Hair
Hair has a growth pattern that consists of three stages:
Anagen: This is also called the “growth” phase, which lasts for about three years. All the hairs are at a growing stage at any point of time.
Catagen: This is the “transitional” phase, which starts at the end of the Anagen phase and lasts for one month.
Telogen: This is the “resting” phase which starts after the Catagen phase and lasts for about three months. The hair does not grow during this time but stays attached to the follicle. At the end of the Telogen phase, the hair follicles re-enter the Anagen phase.
Hair problems are the first signs of some internal health problem. Hair loss can be an indication for several problems, such as thyroid problems, hormonal imbalance, dietary and mineral deficiency, anemia and ovarian cyst disease.
Modern lifestyle contributes to hair loss in several ways.
Physical and Emotional Stress: This causes hair to fall prematurely, leading to Telogen effluviums, which is a severe type of hair loss. Stress causes alopecia of the scalp, which is an auto immune disorder and starts as a patch of baldness, spreading all over the scalp.
Pollution: Environmental pollution is bad for the hair and for health. It breaks the disulphide and hydrogen bonds of the hair, which in turn makes the hair dry, brittle, matted and tangled.
Diet: The fast-food diet of today that consists of high amounts of animal protein, fat and salt is bad for the kidneys and turns blood acidic. This leads to hair loss. Vitamin deficiency due to these foods is another problem that causes hair loss.
Chemicals: There is no teenager today that does not get hair straightened, permed or colored at some point. These processes involve using strong chemicals on the hair to achieve the objective of the so-called “beauty” that changes with the latest trends. Chronic hair breakage is one of the most common problems because these chemicals weaken the hair.
Hair loss should never be taken easy as it can prove to be devastating. It can lead to lots of psychological problems, such as body dysmorphic disorder, which means low self-esteem and low levels of confidence.
Hair problems can be diagnosed by a trichologist physically examining the hair and scalp. With the use of a trichogram, the A/T ratio of hair (ratio of growth to ratio of fall,) the intensity of hair loss and the structure of the hair can be examined. Scalp analysis is done through capilloscopy and densitometry. Capilloscopy identifies the condition of the scalp and hair follicles; Densitometry is another method used to identify the volume and density of h air.
The trichologist would look for white bulbs at the ends which means the hair is in the telogen or fall out phase; and would also look for anagen bulbs with no root sheaths, which means that hair is in the growing phase but with a loose anagen syndrome. Signs of breakage indicate either mechanical or chemical hair damage.
The trichologist will take a look at your health history, into the medications you are on, as well as any nutritional deficiency due to some health problem or dieting. If breakage is found and there is no other health or nutritional deficiency, gentle hair care will be recommended as well as protection of hair from UVA/UVB rays. If a hormonal imbalance, diabetes, anemia, poisoning, thrush, kidney problems, liver problems or systemic lupus are suspected, then a blood test will be ordered along with a complete medical check-up. Treatment will vary depending on the condition diagnosed.
If the recession is affecting you, you should know that these worries can lead to depression and hair is the first to be affected.