GROW YOUR HAIR BACK:
The Ultimate Guide to Hair Care and Hair Loss Treatment and Prevention
There’s nothing truer than the saying, “Our hair is our crowning glory” – and this goes for both genders.
Hair grooming, but more importantly, having a head-full of hair is as important to men as it is to women. To women, it may be an important accessory of beauty, and for men, it adds to a sense of manliness, enhances their looks and makes them more appealing and attractive to women. Balding to men is associated with aging (only old men are expected to lose hair) and therefore, having hair on one’s head is a sign of virility and masculinity.
It’s for this reason that grocery stores have shelves stocked full with hair care and hair grooming products of all forms and kinds, for different purposes, and even specialized and customized for use of men and women. In one study, it was found that more than half of the men in the UK use about six to ten hair grooming products alone, from the staple shampoos and conditioners to hair gels and other styling products.
It’s mainly vanity, but we have to admit that having a full mop of hair makes up a significant part of who we are. Our hair identifies us – “He’s the one with the short-cropped hair.” Having a head-full of hair is almost synonymous to having a complete pair of arms and legs.
So for most people, the loss of hair can be a difficult experience. While it is a known fact that hair loss is an inevitable part of life – hair production slows down as we age – no one wants to be saddled with early baldness when you’re only in the prime of your life.
We’ve heard it all before: clients waking up one day in shock after discovering a coin-sized bald spot on their heads; women agonizing over the strands of hair they see on the shower floor; men looking for topical creams and shampoos to prevent the early onset of balding. Even more are tales of men and women on the search for the perfect wig or toupee to cover up the loss of their hair as a result of medication for a chronic illness.
Hair may be all about vanity but hair conditions, such as hair loss and balding may have emotional, mental and psychological repercussions: insecurity, the loss of self-confidence, humiliation or embarrassment, self-imposed isolation out of fear of what people might think of how we look with that missing part of ourselves. Hair issues are more than vanity.
But here’s one thing that most people miss when they talk about hair loss: It’s part of the natural process of the hair growth cycle. Shedding hair is normal, and losing hair as we age is normal. However, there are instances when we are shedding hair at an abnormally faster rate than usual – and this is something that we have to pay attention to. It’s also perfectly understandable and acceptable that some people would like to reverse the hair loss that comes as part of the aging process.
That said, hair loss isn’t as bad or as hopeless as it sounds. It shouldn’t be cause for added personal stress or social stigma, nor should it be something that should make us feel more self-conscious and less confident as individuals. With the advances in technology, you don’t have to be saddled anymore with the uncomfortable choice of wearing an ill-fitting, unnatural-looking hairpiece. There is now a wide array of options available to treat and cure hair loss, whether temporary or permanent.
But before diving deep into what these are, we’ll talk a bit first about some of the basics, including the science behind hair and the most important of all, the causes and types of hair loss conditions. Depending on the causes and types, you’ll be able to find the right cure and treatment for you.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND HAIR
You might think, “It’s just hair”, but think about this: What would you do if you wake up one day without a single strand of hair on your head? However, as we’ve mentioned, hair loss is a natural physiological process. In the hair growth cycle, old hair has to be shed in order for new hair to grow. As we age, our body’s capacity to produce hair also slows down similar to when our bones stop growing at a certain point in our lives.
To better understand hair loss, let’s begin by talking about the science behind hair. How does the hair cycle work?
Hair anatomy simplified
Our hair is part of what we call the integumentary system of the human body, which also includes the skin and nails. Hair is, in fact, a type of modified skin. It is made up of keratin, a form of protein, and is produced in tunnel-like structures in the skin called follicles. Inside the hair follicle is the hair bulb that is comprised of cells that deposit keratin and melanin, which is responsible for giving your hair its color. The hair that breaks through your skin from the follicle is the hair shaft. The shaft is basically composed of dead cells comprised of keratin fibers. In fact, the totality of hair on our head is a huge lump of dead cells, which explains why we don’t experience any pain when we go for a haircut.
How hair grows
The hair cycle is made up of four stages: anagen, catagen, telogen and exogen, and different hair strands may be at different stages of growth at one time.
Anagen is the growth phase. This lasts for about 3- 5 years where you can observe your hair growing every half an inch every month. Full-length hair from this phase is about 18 – 30 inches long. Studies show that this phase may also be affected by other factors. Asian hair, for example, has been found to have a longer anagen phase. Weather is also a factor; hair growth can be faster in summer than in winter.
Catagen is the regression phase and serves as the transition to shedding. During this time, the hair follicle slowly detaches itself from the papilla, which contains the very tiny blood vessels that nourish the cell. The loss of nourishment means that the hair also stops growing. This phase lasts for about 10 days.
The third and fourth stages are known as telogen and exogen, respectively. In telogen, the hair is supposed to be at “rest” until it finally detaches itself from the follicle and enters the exogen or shedding stage. Once the hair is detached from the follicle, the follicle remains inactive for about three months after which a new cycle begins again.
Hair follicles on our head are at various stages of this hair growth cycle, so that while some hair follicles are in the last stages, others are just beginning their anagen phase, while others still are in the middle of the hair growth cycle. It’s because of these varying stages of growth that our hair doesn’t fall out all at once. Instead, you only shed about 50 – 100 strands a day – this is the normal rate of shedding hair.
Generally, hair problems especially hair thinning and hair loss occur around the anagen phase or the resting phase. As we age, the length of the anagen phase also decreases as the hair follicles receive less and less nourishment from the body. The result is hair that is weaker and thinner after every cycle. In some cases, the hair enters the resting phase too early (or the catagen phase is too short) and this is when excessive shedding also happens.
Disruptions in the normal length of each phase, which can cause hair loss and hair thinning, may be the result of a number of internal and external stimuli. These are also what we call the triggers and causes of your hair loss. As a quick example, dieting can leave the body stressed and in need of important nutrients. Because of this stress, hair growth may be cut shorter than usual and there is an early onset of telogen or shedding of hair.
Some fast facts about hair and hair growth
- We have about 5 million hair follicles all over our body, and about 100,000 of them are on our head.
- About 10% of our hair follicles are in the telogen phase at the same time. Because these follicles are distributed throughout though, you don’t see any bald spots on your head.
- Over time, the follicles stop growing as we age, another reason why baldness and thinning hair are common among the elderly.
- As the hair grows longer and heavier during the anagen phase, it becomes difficult for the follicle to hold on to the hair, therefore triggering the second and third phases.
- The shape of the hair follicles also determines how long we can grow our hair. Round follicles are more likely to grow longer hair because it provides a stronger grip than flat follicles.
- Contrary to popular myth, pattern baldness that is common among men is not caused by genes from the mother. Hair is a polygenic trait so pattern baldness or hair loss attributed to genetics may also be likely caused by genes from the male side.
- Wearing a cap does not make men go bald. While it’s true that pulling on one’s hair can cause for hair loss – in women – wearing a baseball cap does not pull at one’s hair, causing it to shed. Experts have argued that the cap would have to be worn too tight on the head for it to put pressure that can cause damage and hair loss.
- Another misconception to correct is that staying out in the sun can cause hair loss. The radiation can damage the hair shaft, make it more dry and brittle and more prone to breakage, but does not cause permanent hair loss especially among men.
UNDERSTANDING HAIR LOSS
When we say “hair loss”, it generally refers to any of these things: balding, hair thinning, excessive hair fall, or total loss of hair. They may sound and mean all the same thing – the loss of hair, but there are different kinds of hair loss conditions depending on the nature of the problem and what’s causing them.
Types of hair loss
Let’s take a quick look at the major types of hair loss.
- Androgenic alopecia. In this condition, hair loss begins at the crown of the head, the top and center, forming the popular horseshoe shape. Because hair thinning seems to follow a particular path, the condition is also commonly referred to as pattern baldness. It is more common among males than females, and is generally thought to be due to genetics/heredity and the natural aging process (about 40% of men start to have noticeable hair loss in their 30s and lose about 65% of hair by the time they reach 60.).
However, the high incidence of androgenic alopecia is caused by the male hormones. Testosterone in the scalp is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that causes the follicles to shrink in size, therefore inhibiting the growth of hair, which eventually leads to baldness. However, hair follicles on the sides and back of the head do not have as much DHT compared to the top, hence why hair loss is concentrated on the crown of the head. Interestingly, DHT is known to help in the growth of the beard and hair on the chest, a reason why most bald men have hairy chests and grow their beards much faster.
Pattern balding is most common among middle-aged men, but signs can actually begin as early as the mid-20s. Once the hair loss starts, it generally takes about 15-25 years for most men with this condition to lose most of their hair. In some cases though, the progression of the condition can be fast so that others are already completely bald in just five years.
- Alopecia areata. This condition, called patchy hair loss, is the opposite of pattern baldness. Whereas in the former thinning hair follows a pattern, alopecia areata is marked by smooth and bald patches anywhere on the scalp. The bald patches are circular, and can be as small as a pencil eraser or as big as a quarter. It begins with one or two spots that multiply on other parts of the head. The condition is caused by an autoimmune disease where the antibodies mistake the hair as the “enemy” and start attacking it, resulting in hair loss.
- Alopecia totalis/universalis. This is a much serious type of alopecia areata also caused by an autoimmune disorder. Compared to the former, however, it is marked by the loss of an entire head-full of hair (alopecia totalis) or hair loss on the entire body (alopecia universal).
- Cicatricial alopecia. This type of hair loss is caused by a range of skin disorders, typically on the scalp that attacks the follicles permanently. When there is a scalp infection, for example, scarring happens, making it impossible for the follicles to grow hair. People with this condition typically have red and bald patches on their head.
- Traction alopecia. Unlike the other two that are caused by genetic or natural factors, this condition is self-caused and occurs most in women. Hair loss happens because of the continuous and constant pulling on the hair that puts pressure on the follicles. Pressure on the hair, brought about by wearing tight hair styles, braiding, weaving, or even hair treatments like bleaching causes the follicles to loosen their grip on the shaft and eventually cause hair to fall out, leaving bald spots on the scalp or very thin hair strands.
- Involutional alopecia. This one is less of a medical condition (it’s not caused by a disease or genetics) and is more concerned with the hair growth cycle. Also called telogen effluvium, this condition is marked by a long dormant phase of telogen than growth or anagen. This type of hair loss is the second most common next to pattern baldness but is also the most unpredictable and difficult to pinpoint its cause. Studies have shown that the dormancy phase in the hair growth cycle is related to a range of factors, including hormonal imbalances, pregnancy in women, stress, diet, etc.
Major causes of hair loss
While some conditions are medically-related, others are caused by more natural or artificial factors. And unknown to most of us, many of these things can either serve as the trigger that will cause us to start losing our hair, or the factor that can aggravate or worsen your already-existing condition.
Food. Hair growth is dependent on nutrients that the body possesses much like most psychological functions, so the absence of certain nutrients as well as the excess or oversupply of some can affect the hair growth cycle.
A diet that is poor or lacking in certain nutrients, particularly iron, protein, and vitamin B, which are essential in the production of keratin, can cause a long telogen phase and a very short anagen stage. On the other hand, excess supply of vitamin A in the body, especially those taken through supplements, can prove to be toxic and can cause a range of adverse body effects including loss of appetite, fatigue and consequently, hair loss.
Certain foods have also been found to aggravate or worsen hair fall, such as sugar that triggers the overproduction of the male hormone, androgen, which in turn causes the hair follicles to shrink in size and for hair to fall out or stop growing. Fish products that are known to contain high levels of mercury like tuna, mackerel and swordfish can also cause hair weakening and excessive hair fall. Studies have also found that fried foods are associated with the production of high levels of DHT.
Bodily activity. Stress caused by physical or emotional trauma, such as surgery or psychological stress can take the toll on the body and can manifest in negative effects including hair fall. Diet regimens that result into sudden weight loss can also cause physiological trauma that can lead to hair shedding and thinning.
However, stress-related hair loss is most common in women than in men and is more a temporary than a permanent case of hair loss. In such cases where the body is subjected to extreme stress, hair fall happens with 3 weeks to 6 months after the event.
Medical conditions and medications. A common medical condition that also causes hair loss is hypothyroidism, which can happen in both men and women. Patients suffer from an underactive thyroid gland, which is responsible for producing the hormone, thyroxin that performs important bodily functions, such as the regulation of body temperature, proper utilization of carbohydrates and fats, and production of protein. Since protein is an important nutrient for the production of keratin, inadequate protein supply in the body due to an underactive thyroid means that hair growth in the follicles is slow. In men especially, hair loss is one of the first signs of hypothyroidism.
Those taking medication for high blood pressure, such as blood thinners, and for depression may also experience temporary hair loss.
Chemotherapy is also one of the primary causes of balding among cancer patients, men and women alike. While not all chemotherapy treatments result into hair loss, some that involve the use of drugs like Altretamine, Carboplatin, Docetaxel, and Idarubicin can cause hair thinning and hair fall. In such cases, the hair loss varies from person to person and the dosage of drugs administered. Hair fall doesn’t occur at once, but rather after several weeks of treatment until hair fall rate increases after one or two months of exposure to chemotherapy. Radiation therapy as part of cancer treatment can also result in hair loss but typically only on areas where the radiation is targeted.
Hair practices. Our hair is one of the strongest and most elastic parts of our body. One strand of a healthy hair can be twice as strong as a copper wire of similar thickness. However, not all hair types are equal. Unfortunately, hair care practices and styling can lead to scalp damage and unnecessary pressure on the hair follicles, resulting in hair breakage and loss.
Natural hair that is subjected to constant physical trauma from excessive brushing or combing, tight braids or ponytails, or extreme scratching or massage can cause hair at the temples to become weak and to stop growing to its normal length. Clean shaving, especially for men, can cause white bumps to appear on the area where the hair was shaved short, and at times can become infected with puss and leave permanent scarring, affecting hair growth.
Hair styling products from shampoo, conditioner, to hair dye, bleach, gels and perm and straightening products may contain chemicals that can damage the scalp and cause the shaft to break, resulting into hair thinning. Beware of these products that contain toxic chemicals such as arsenic, thallium, meadow saffron (colchicum autumnale), and lead. These chemical ingredients can manipulate and disrupt the natural hair growth cycle, for example, shortening the anagen phase of growth. Hair procedures like hair relaxing and permanent waving, while it does not lead to permanent hair loss, can damage the quality of the hair and make it more prone to hair breakage.
THE LOWDOWN ON HAIR LOSS CURE AND TREATMENT
Can I grow my hair back? The answer, of course, is YES.
In fact, hair loss cures and treatments are a dime a dozen. There are cures that are designed for temporary hair loss conditions, and others more are available for permanent cases. It’s also important to note that some of these cures are specific to the cause and the type of hair loss, and other treatments don’t apply for other cases such as pattern balding. We’ve listed them all the same in order to give you a good idea of the breadth of choices available.
These cures are grouped into three types: medications for hair loss, cosmetic and surgical treatments, and natural cures. Most, if not all, of these are designed to slow down the shedding of your hair, promote growth, and in some cases, hide hair loss.
Medications for hair loss
Minoxidil (Rogaine). Minoxidil is one of the most common and popular forms of medication for hair loss, particularly pattern baldness but also generally used in cases of alopecia areata. It is an over-the-counter drug that comes in either liquid or foam form and applied on the scalp, particularly on the bald patches to promote hair growth and stop further hair loss.
Minoxidil typically comes in 2% and 5% dosage. With the former, hair growth is not visible up until the fourth month (16 weeks) of use, but it could be faster with the 5% dosage.This is most effective especially if you haven’t been bald for more than 5 years, your bald patches are less than 10cm across, and most of all, if the bald spots still have some tiny, fine hairs. Studies found that people who have used minoxidil have observed at least minimal to moderate hair growth. The new hair is typically downy soft, but with continued use, it will grow in thickness as the rest of the hair.
Take note, however, that this is not a permanent cure. Once the medication is stopped, the follicles go back to what they were before treatment. Also, it doesn’t work for all cases of pattern baldness – only about 35% of men have indicated noticeable growth. Doctors suggest that the use of the drug be stopped if there is no regrowth in one year.
While the drug is generally safe for use, some possible side effects are mild irritation of the scalp, dryness and growth of hair on some parts of the body especially the sides of the face and hands. In some cases, you might observe some increased hair loss around the first few days of use. If the hair fall continues after two weeks upon application of minoxidil, stop the treatment first and see a doctor.
Finasteride (Propecia). The drug is recommended for male use only, and is in pill form. The drug basically slows down hair loss, while promoting gradual hair growth. The drugs work by stopping the enzyme, type II 5-alpha reductas, which is known to produce DHT. The dosage is one pill a day, and has been found to be effective on 80% of men. Like minoxidil, it works best if the bald patches still have tiny, fine hairs. Results are visible within six to three months, and studies of those who have continued its use for two years show longer, thicker hair than those who used it for only for a short time.
It is generally safe, although some noted side effects are decrease in sexual drive and some temporary impotence that eventually lessens with long-term use of the drug. Women are strictly prohibited from taking finasteride or touching the tablets as studies have found that it can lead to the feminization of a male fetus during pregnancy.
Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are another form of medication used to treat alopecia areata. Since the hair loss is caused by an autoimmune disease, the steroid works by stopping the immune system from attacking the hair follicles, and therefore triggering hair growth.
Liquid coricosteroids are injected into the scalp every four to six weeks and is used for treating small patches of baldness. It can be painful and uncomfortable, and while it is effective, there have been some studies that have found that one of its long-term side effects is prematurely balding.
Corticosteroid creams and ointments are also available, and are applied directly on the area in the scalp where there is patchy baldness. The common forms of topical steroids are betamethasone, hydrocortisone, and mometasone. Some possible side effects include thinning and dryness of the skin and noticeable acne production.
Oral or tablet steroids are also available, but they are not generally prescribed because of known side effects such as diabetes and ulcers.
Contact immunotherapy. Another drug that can be administered for cases of alopecia areata is contact immunotherapy and is recommended for severe cases. Diphenylcyclopropenon (DPCP) is applied on the scalp every week, and the dosage of the drug is increased over time until a mild allergic reaction is observed, which signals that the drug is taking effect. Regrowth may be observed within three months from the beginning of treatment.
While it is generally safe like minoxidil and finasteride, noticeable side effects are skin rashes (contact dermatitis) and swollen lymph nodes in the neck area.
Thyroid medication. Hair loss as a result of thyroid problems will only be solved by treating the root cause. This means that you need to take medications for hypothyroidism in order to address the hormonal imbalance in the body. The most common medication for thyroid problems is levothyroxine, a synthetic version of thyroxine (thyroid hormone). Since the medication is used to address the thyroid problem and hair loss indirectly, the medication has to be continued even when you’ve gotten better or your hormone level has gone back to normal in order to continue hair growth.
However, be on the lookout for signs that indicate that you might be getting too much thyroid hormone, such as shakiness, a general feeling of restlessness, heart palpitations, and excessive sweating. Overdose of thyroid hormone can lead to osteoporosis and heart attack.
Cosmetic and surgical treatments
Hair transplant/surgery. A hair transplant or surgery is the quickest treatment for permanent cases of hair loss, although the most expensive. In pattern baldness, for example, where the top of the head is the most affected area, a hair transplant allows the surgeon to use existing hair to implant it into the bald sections of the head. It works by removing a graft or follicular sample in parts of the head that still have hair (usually this is the back of the head as this area is most resistant to hormonal changes), and placing this graft in the areas that are bald.
There are different types of hair transplant procedures depending on how the graft is extracted or removed:
- Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT).In this procedure, a portion of the skin on the scalp is extracted and then broken down into the smaller, individual grafts. Transplant sites on the bald patches are then created with tiny, fine needles and localized anaesthetics. The grafts are then implanted on the sites.
This procedure is preferred if the bald area is significantly big as many individual grafts can be made, and larger patches of baldness can be covered. However, the recovery rate is slower and may be less superior, although it will also depend on the skill of the surgeon performing the procedure.
- Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE).In this method, instead of taking out a whole sample strip, small, individual follicle grafts are cut using a machine and then transplanted. The process is more tedious and more time-consuming, but has been known to have higher recovery rate and there are no risks of scarring because no cuts and stitches are required.
Compared with FUT, this is preferred for those with only small patches of baldness and those who wear shorter hairstyles as there are no scars that will be exposed. For vanity, women also prefer this especially as it is less invasive than FUT.
Here are other pointers if you’re considering a hair transplant as a hair loss solution:
- A hair transplant is a cosmetic procedure and is not generally covered in usual health insurance plans. The cost typically ranges from $4,000 - $15,000, with an FUT costing lesser than the more tedious FUE.
- Besides cost considerations, a hair transplant is generally prescribed as a last resort for permanent hair loss problems. It is also not allowed for people under the age of 25, those with a continuing problem of hair loss, as well as those with other health conditions like uncontrolled diabetes, serious heart problems and hypertension. Patients whose hair loss is caused by other factors, such as a skin or scalp disorder or who suffer from a psychological condition that causes them to pull at their hair are not recommended for this procedure. Since the procedure requires taking a sample from the back of the head, those who do not have enough follicles from this section that can be used for transplant are not also eligible.
- Choosing where and who will perform your hair transplant is as important a consideration as to what kind of hair transplant to get. Of utmost consideration is that this should be done by the dermatologist /surgeon, and not his/her technician. The surgeon himself/herself should also oversee the design of your hairline and how the extraction of the graft will be done.
- Post surgery care is important if you’ve undergone a hair transplant or surgery. Expect some swelling of the face and on the scalp a couple of days after the procedure. To fast track hair growth, you may be asked to use Minoxidil or Finasteride. Saline is applied on the grafts for a few days, while you will be prescribed to use a diluted shampoo that is softer and less harsh on the scalp. Hair growth in the transplanted areas becomes visible in three – six months.
Laser treatments. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is used for the prevention and reversal of hair loss. Also known as red light therapy, cold laser, and soft laser, it is a form of light/heat treatment (therefore generally safer) that is used on cases of pattern baldness and alopecia areata. The procedure uses a device that emits light that penetrates into the scalp. The more commonly used lasers are the excimer, helium-neon and fractional erbium-glass. The procedure can increase the blood flow in the scalp to stimulate the follicles that are in resting or dormant phase to go into anagen, and at the same time, prevent the production of DHT, which destroys the hair follicles.
Laser therapy is available in salons and administered by a hair professional who has been trained in the procedure. Treatment is usually two to three times a week. Generally, each session involves a short 8-15 minute exposure of the scalp to the laser device. There is generally no prescribed period of time that the treatment should be administered, although the more frequent and longer the duration, the more effective results have been observed. Noticeable hair growth can be observed after 12 to 26 weeks of treatment. The LLLT is also prescribed as a complementary treatment in post-operative hair surgery.
Two of the most common LLLT products in the market are the Hairmax Lasercomb and the Capillus 272. The Lasercomb is a hand-held device that is used to comb the hair for 10-15 minutes every treatment, and takes about eight weeks of use in order to see a noticeable improvement in the thickness and quality of the hair. The Capillus is a laser cap that must be worn, and is more convenient because this can be used at home or even out in public (it can be worn underneath a cap or a turban).
While some medical practitioners are still on the fence about the effectiveness of laser treatments, studies have found that hair growth using laser therapy increased by 19 normal-size hairs per square centimetre. The regrowth is also observed as thicker, shinier and more manageable. It’s a non-invasive, painless procedure that works for both men and women. However, the LLLT is not a stand-alone cure and is thus used in combination with other treatments.
Platelet rich plasma therapy. This is a complementary treatment recommended during a hair transplant. Platelet rich plasma has growth components and proteins that promote and aid in healing. PRP is used to stimulate growth as it reverses the shrinking of the follicles that is common in pattern baldness.
Scalp reduction. As the name suggests, the procedure involves cutting away portions of the scalp that are bald. This is recommended for those with well-defined bald spots on the crown of the head. The procedure is used to reduce the size of the bald spots, and can also be employed as part of a hair surgery.
A scalp reduction procedure can be much more painful than a hair transplant. You may experience headaches right after the procedure, and scalp tightness for a couple of months.
Tissue expansion. In this procedure, a material called tissue expander is inserted under portions of the scalp with hair. Saline water is injected for six to eight weeks in order to expand or stretch this portion of hair-bearing skin. The bags are eventually removed and the expanded hair-bearing skin is cut away and moved to the adjacent bald area. This is typically used to address hair loss as a result of burns or injuries on the scalp.
Hair multiplication. Similar to the idea of cloning, this treatment involves taking out donor cells from the hair follicles and then growing and multiplying them in a laboratory. Once sufficient samples have been multiplied, these hair cells are then injected into the bald patches to stimulate hair growth. As a relatively new treatment, hair cloning is still in its research phase.
Hair concealers and hair fibers. These are one of the newest cosmetic answers to hair loss. As the name suggests, these products are applied on the scalp or hair to camouflage hair loss and give the appearance of fullness to thinning hair. Some of these are applied directly on the scalp, while others (hair fibers) are attached to the hair, much like hair extensions, to add volume.
This is a short-term cure, applied while waiting for hair to grow, and therefore recommended for those with mild to medium case of hair loss. In addition to being non-invasive, hair concealers and hair fibers are instant and affordable. Like wigs and hairpieces, they are used to effectively cover up balding spots while not getting in the way of growing hair. Compared to wigs, however, they are more natural looking and blend well with your natural hair, therefore drawing less attention when you’re out in public.
Here are some pointers and reminders in using hair concealers and hair fibers:
- There are many different types and forms of hair concealers. The two most popular types are hair sprays, and sprinkles and powder solids. Sprays are easy to apply compared to creams and powders. They contain chemicals and dye that can match the shade of your hair, making it fuller. However, it has a tendency to look less natural if applied haphazardly so it requires some care during application.
Sprinkles and powders are more preferred over sprays because they contain hair-building fibers that attach to the existing hair. The powder is applied directly on the bald patches giving the area a fuller volume and a more natural look. With multiple applications on the bald area, it can give full coverage.
- Because hair concealers work like wigs, choosing one that’s right for you is important. More than anything, it should be as natural looking and as subtle as possible. Pick one that matches your natural hair color. Most hair fibers come in nine colors, and if you want to achieve a good color fit, you can blend two colors. Apply first the dark color and then the lighter color.
- If you possible, look for hair concealers and fibers that contain real human hair as well as natural keratin fiber.
- Choose products that hold up well against exposure to wind and rain. The most common and tried and tested brands out there are Toppik and Nanogen.
- In applying hair concealers and hair fibers, make sure that your hair and your hands are fully dry so that it attaches well to your scalp or natural hair.
- Make sure to apply only the right amount as too much hair fiber can look unnatural. To do this, you can apply the hair fiber in layers or stages rather than in one go. Pat your hair or bush it lightly to spread out the layer. If you see that you need more to add volume, then apply another layer using the same procedure.
- Invest in a hair fiber applicator to make sure that the hair fibers are accurately placed on the thinning areas. A hairline optimizer also helps in creating a more natural looking hairline while saving hair fibers.
Hair pieces and wigs. One of the most traditional answers to hair loss, wigs and toupees are perfect for severe cases where full coverage is needed. Wigs can be made either from real human hair, animal hair or synthetic fiber. The materials are sewn together into certain hair styles and are worn on top of the real hair. For those who want to cover up only bald spots or add volume to thinning hair, hair pieces and hair extensions are also available. These are balls of hair that can be attached at the base or clipped to portions of the head.
While wigs are the cheapest and quickest way to cover up hair loss, there is a tendency for these to look unnatural and uncomfortable. Here are some reminders on picking out and using the right wig for you:
- Know the different types of wigs.Synthetic wigs are easy to style and are less expensive than human hair wigs. On the other hand, wigs made from human hair have a more natural look and feel, and are more preferred by those with permanent cases of hair loss. Though they take longer to style, human hair wigs are worth an investment if you plan on wearing it for a relatively long period of time.
- Consider other factors besides color.Color is important – your wig or hair piece should match your natural hair to look natural. However, consider also texture. You wig should feel like real hair; it should have a smooth and silky feel. For those that need full coverage, choose a wig that bounces to give the illusion of volume. A wig that has a lacing that fits your natural hair also helps in making sure that you have a more natural looking hairline.
- Make sure to get a professional fitting.While there are wigs that can easily be bought off the rack, it is best to visit full-service wig salons that can do a proper fitting and wig styling for you especially if you’ll be using it for a substantial period of time.
- Always shampoo and condition your hair regularly.Let your hair breath by avoiding wigs that are made with cotton and nylon caps that absorb moisture and lead to drier and more damaged hair. Instead, choose those with netted caps. Make sure your wig isn’t too tight. Secure it with hypoallergenic double-sided tapes. Do not put your wig on over wet hair to avoid the growth of mildew and bacteria.
- Maintain the health of your hair while wearing a wig.For those using a wig as a temporary solution to a mild or medium case of hair loss, it is important to pay attention to hair practices that will keep the rest of your natural hair healthy while you’re donning on a wig.
- If you’re using hair pieces, add an extra layer of security by securing it with bobby pins to keep the extensions in place.Attach the hair piece first before styling your hair so that it will look natural together with your real hair. Comb the fake hair and the real hair for a more natural look.
Hair spa. A hair spa treatment is one of the most convenient, non-invasive, not to mention, most rejuvenating ways to treat hair loss and promote healthy hair growth. Besides hair loss, it has also been known to address other hair issues like dandruff, split ends, and dry and damaged hair. There are many forms of hair spa treatment depending on what’s offered at the salon, but it generally includes an oil massage of the scalp, shampoo and deep conditioning. The whole process helps in blood circulation, bringing the needed nutrients to the follicles, and activates the glands to produce oil.
Massage with natural ingredients. A good head massage can increase the blood flow to the follicles to help in the absorption of nutrients needed for your hair to grow. Using these kitchen ingredients and essential oils on your head can help in repairing damaged follicles, treating scalp infections and disorders, and stimulating hair growth.
- Fenugreek. Fenugreek seeds have been found to help in treating hair fall and hair loss. It contains hormones and protein that rebuild the follicles and stimulate growth of hair. Soak a cup of fenugreek seeds in water overnight. Grind it to a paste and apply on your hair. Cover your hair with a shower cap and let it stay for 40 minutes, and then rinse. You can do this everyday for a month.
- Aloe vera. Aloe vera is one of the most traditional and common natural hair loss treatments. It is known to possess enzymes that promote hair growth and a healthy scalp by regulating the hair and scalp’s pH level. Known as a hair miracle, it is also used to treat other hair/scalp conditions like scalp itchiness, scalp redness, and inflammation. It also helps in minimizing dandruff and making the hair shinier and stronger.
Rub the gel-like sap/juice of the aloe vera leaf directly on your scalp. Leave it on for a few hours and then rinse with lukewarm water. Do this three to four times a week. You can also mix a tablespoon of aloe vera gel with wheat grass juice to boost hair growth. Wheatgrass is also rich in protein, vitamins C and E and other minerals. Drink the wheatgrass juice mixed with aloe vera extract for two weeks to stop hair breakage and minimize hair fall.
- Indian gooseberry. Also known as amla, Indian gooseberry is one of the most popular natural ingredients that can induce fast hair growth. It is also a known antibacterial that can help maintain a healthy scalp. Mix a tablespoon of Indian gooseberry pulp and lemon juice. Use it to massage your scalp, and cover with a shower cap after. Leave on for the night and wash with shampoo in the morning.
- Licorice root. Licorice is an herb that is also used to treat and prevent hair loss and hair damage. It is soothes the scalp and helps with dry flakes, dandruff and other forms of scalp irritation. Mix a tablespoon of ground licorice root with a cup of milk and a quarter teaspoon of saffron. Apply the paste on the bald patches and leave it on overnight. Rinse in the morning. You can do this two to three times a week.
- Castor oil. This essential oil is a secret hair miracle worker. The oil is known to contain antifungal and antibacterial ingredients, which makes it a good cure for scalp infections. It also has omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, protein and other essential nutrients that can help retain hair moisture and aid in hair growth.
Massage the oil on your scalp and all the way down to the end of your strands. Pile your hair up into a knot on your head, cover with a shower cap and then blow-dry your strands for 15 minutes. Wash your hair with shampoo and conditioner after.
- Coconut milk / coconut oil. Coconut milk/oil, like aloe vera, is one of the oldest and most common natural ingredients for promoting hair growth and growing healthy, shiny hair. Coconut is rich in protein, iron and other minerals that promote healthy hair and prevent breakage. Apply the coconut milk/oil on your bald spots or all over the scalp, and leave it on overnight. Rinse the next day with cool water. You can do this every time you wash your hair.
- Egg mask. Eggs are one of the riches sources of protein, which is the building block of keratin, as well as other minerals like zinc, iron, selenium, phosphorous and iodine. Mix an egg white with a tablespoon of olive oil and honey to make a paste. Apply it on your hair and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse and shampoo using cold water. You can apply this egg mask on your hair once a week.
- Rosemary-peppermint-sage oil mix. Rosemary oil is known to contain ingredients that can stimulate cellular metabolism, therefore promoting increased hair growth. Mix three to four drops of rosemary, peppermint and sage oils with a tablespoon of coconut oil. Massage the mixture onto the bald patches or areas with thinning hair at least once a day.
- Apple cider vinegar. Mix about 75 ml of apple cider vinegar with a liter of water (you can store it for future use). Use the solution as a final rinse after shampooing your hair. Known as a gentle scalp cleanser, it can help maintain the pH balance of your scalp and accelerate hair growth.
- Potato juice. Potato is a good source of vitamins A, B and C, which are essential for stimulating hair growth. Cut out a potato into slices and extract the juice by blending. Apply the juice on your scalp. Leave it on for 15 minutes and then wash with a mild shampoo. This can be applied any time you wash your hair.
- Garlic is another secret miracle worker. It is known to promote increased blood circulation in the scalp and regeneration of hair. Boil the crushed garlic cloves in coconut oil. Apply the mixture on your scalp as you massage the root of your follicles. Wash your hair with a mild shampoo. You can do this three times a week.
- Henna and amla paste. Henna is known to help in growing longer and thicker hair, while amla is a natural ingredient for hair loss. Mix the two and add some coconut oil and yogurt to make a paste. Apply on bald patches.
- Green tea. Brew two bags of green tea in a cup and let it cool. Use it to massage your hair and scalp. Wash off after an hour.
Eat the right foods. Hair production relies on the nutrients contained in the bloodstream, therefore the right diet matters in preventing hair loss and promoting the growth of hair in the follicles. Eat foods that contain the following nutrients:
- Omega-3 fatty acids - salmon
- Protein - beef
- Iron - green leafy vegetables like lentils, kale, and spinach
- Vitamin C - fruits like papaya, broccoli, kiwi and oranges
- Vitamin B - banana, chicken, oatmeal and beans
- Vitamin E - cereals and tofu
- Zinc - pumpkin seeds and chickpeas
- Biotin - eggs and yeast
On the other hand, avoid these foods:
- Trans fatty acids – can increase the production of DHT, which has been known to destroy the hair follicles. These are found in vegetable oil, soybean oil and corn oil.
- Sugar – can cause hormonal imbalance and increase the production of DHT.
- Processed foods – can also cause hormonal imbalance.
- Alcohol – it is known to aggravate inflammation and excessive alcohol drinking can lead to liver toxicity, which is associated with hair loss.
- Caffeine – can also cause hormonal imbalance and the increased production of DHT.
Take in natural supplements. If you aren’t getting enough nutrients from the foods you eat, you can also try taking natural supplements to address your nutritional deficiencies. Multivitamins that especially contain vitamins A, C, and the B-complex vitamins can be taken once a day. Fish oil capsules that contain omega-3 fatty acids are also recommended.
Studies have also found that bone broth is a good source of protein, iron, collagen, glucosamine and other minerals that can promote healthy hair, skin and nails. If you can’t find bone broth, there are bone broth protein powders that are available.
Observe proper hair care practices. The right hair care practices promote a healthy hair growth at the same time as it reduces and prevents hair damage such as breakage. Washing your hair with a mild, preferably natural, shampoo and conditioner with biotin should be an important part of your hair care routine. Go for cool showers instead because hot water can dehydrate your hair strands and lead to dry, thin hair that is easy to break. Lower temperature can help lock in moisture. Limit the use of the blow-dryer.
Also, contrary to people’s belief that a 100 brush strokes a day can make your hair shiny and long, too much and too frequent brushing and combing can actually exert unnecessary pressure on the follicles, causing it to loosen its grip on the hair shaft, eventually resulting into hair fall. While regular combing is needed in order to encourage blood flow into the follicles, do so only when you need to style your hair like in the morning. Use a wide-tooth comb as it allows for less tugging and pulling when you brush especially when dealing with tangles. If tangles become unmanageable, use a moisturizing shampoo to loosen them.
There seems to be some contention over whether hair products like hair sprays, hair gels and serums can lead to hair loss. What’s true though is that frequent use of these products can damage your hair, either make them thinner or more prone to breakage. Limit the use of these products for those occasions when you absolutely need to. If you used hair products with harsh chemicals especially hair sprays, wash your hair at night with a mild shampoo to get rid of the chemicals.
Try balayam yoga. Balayam yoga (also called balam yoga) is an ancient acupressure exercise associated with hair growth. It comes from the Hindu words, Bal, which means hair, and Vyayam meaning exercise. The exercise involves rubbing the fingernails on both hands together to stimulate activity in the scalp. It has been known to help cure pattern baldness in men and women if done correctly and frequently over a long period of time.
To do the exercise, simply rub the fingernails of both hands – except the thumbs – against each other as hard as possible. Make sure not to let the surface of the nails rub against each other – just the tips. In acupressure therapy, it is believed that the hair follicles on the scalp are connected to the fingernails and by doing the exercise, it will stimulate blood circulation and nutrients into the follicles, therefore promoting hair growth.
Do the exercise for 10 minutes twice a day – before breakfast in the morning and before dinner at night. Complement with the right foods rich in protein and iron. Results are visible within three to six months.
Do not try this if you have high blood pressure as it can worsen your condition. The balam yoga also works only for those with pattern baldness and not other types of hair loss.
Again, as we’ve mentioned at the start, these treatments and cures are dependent on the cause and type of hair loss. While massage oils and a hair spa treatment can work on hair loss in men caused by a skin or scalp infection, these may not work for cases of pattern baldness that are hereditary or caused by DHT associated with male hormones. Even medications like minodixil and finasteride cannot offer a permanent cure. In cases of permanent hair loss like pattern baldness, sometimes the best type of cure is simply management of your condition.
MANAGING HAIR LOSS AND OVERALL HAIR CARE
Managing hair loss is just as important as treating it. Now that we’ve talked about the different treatment options and cures available to reverse hair loss and promote increased growth, let’s talk about how you can manage your condition and at the same time prevent further hair loss. The first is more psychological, while the second is more practical.
Managing hair loss as a result of medication (chemotherapy)
Dealing and coping with hair loss is a particularly important issue especially for those who lost (or continue to lose) their hair because of cancer and other chronic conditions that require chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It can be a particularly trying time, and there are instances when the depression settles in that the patient is unable to even consider or think about hair loss options and cures.
So, here are some pointers on how to better cope and deal with hair loss while you wait for your hair to grow back.
- Consider using a soft cap on your head.Especially for those who do not prefer wearing wigs, a turban or a cap on your head can be more comfortable (and fashionable, for others). You can also wear a soft cap at night to collect the falling hair.
- Apply sunscreen on your scalp.If you choose to go out without a turban or wig, make sure to put sun protection on your scalp.
- Consider scalp cooling.The procedure involves putting on a tight cap with cold gel on the head. The cold temperature decreases the size of the blood vessels in the scalp that less amount of chemotherapy drugs can penetrate right through the follicles, therefore reducing the amount of hair loss.
- Do not lose sleep over it.The more one obsesses over the loss of hair, the more depressed one can get. This can lead to unhealthy habits that can only worsen or aggravate hair loss, such as consuming too much sugar or sleeping less, which can contribute to increased stress and physiological trauma to the body. Proper management of the depression that comes with hair loss is important. Having a strong support group that one connect with and share feelings and advice is a big help. It’s also a big boost if one can learn how to make the most of their appearance to divert attention from their head by playing up other features of their body, such as wearing make-up or putting on a statement jewelry or a striking piece of clothing.
For others whose hair loss is due to other, non-medical conditions, here are some pointers:
- Get the right style.For men who are suffering from pattern baldness, the easiest way to manage hair loss is to ask your barber for a style that will draw less attention to the thinning hair. Shorter hairstyles can reduce the impression of thinning hair, while a longer one can emphasize it. Others often make the mistake of growing their hair on the sides of their head as a way to cover up the thinning at the crown. This is wrong – it only calls attention to the bald spot. Instead, a clean cut on both sides will be better. Avoid also combing over some strands of hair over the bald patch as an attempt to cover-up – it only draws attention to it.
- Learn to get used to it.Men with balding hair would like to wear caps as a way to mask or cover-up their thinning hair. But while this is understandable, wearing a cap will not make the issue go away. Rather, by teaching oneself to get used to your new look, the easier it will be to accept and the less awkward you’d feel if you’re out in public. Wear a hat only when necessary, that is, if you need scalp protection.
- Be patient.Growing naturally healthy hair already takes time, then more so is growing back hair due to a medical condition, or physical factors like stress or trauma. Hair grows about a quarter to a half inch at most in a month, so be patient and learn to wait it out while sticking to a regimen of proper hair care practices and the right diet.
Preventing further hair loss
When you’re investing considerable time and money on a mix of hair treatments and cures, the last things you should be doing are those that will only aggravate your condition. Likewise, when your hair has finally grown back, the last thing you would want is for you to go through another horrific episode of hair loss. Preventing further – or another case of hair loss, and stopping it before it actually happens should be your goal.
In addition to the hair care practices we’ve listed earlier to help stimulate hair growth, here are other more tips to ensure that you grow hair that is more resistant to shedding, breakage and other damages.
- Shampoo your hair wisely.Washing your hair with shampoo is important but overdoing it, even while using mild ingredients, can still cause damage. As a general rule of thumb, wash your hair with shampoo at most three times in a week only.
- Use a conditioner after you shampoo.Conditioners lock in the moisture, preventing your hair from becoming dry, brittle and therefore, easier to break.
- Wash your hair with care.Likewise, don’t be too harsh on your hair when you’re washing it. Instead of rubbing the shampoo harshly on your hair, simply lather up at the scalp with a gentle massage while letting the suds run down the strands.
- Use a soft towel or cloth to dry your hair.Rubbing it with a towel can make it more vulnerable to breakage. Instead, use a towel or a cloth made of soft material. Pat the hair dry rather than rubbing it with the cloth.
- Drink enough water.Hydration is important to prevent overall dryness, including in the scalp area. Water also aids in blood circulation, which is needed in order to bring much-needed nutrients to the follicles.
- Reduce smoking.Smoking can limit the supply of the blood that flows into the scalp and the follicles, therefore affecting the rate of hair growth.
- Use your own comb and brushes.Remember that hair loss can also be caused by scalp or skin infections, in most cases due to fungal or bacterial growth as a result of unhealthy hair practices such as using dirty combs and brushes. Regularly wash your hair grooming supplies.
- Rest and avoid stress.As mentioned earlier, hair loss can be part of the body’s response to physical or emotional shocks or trauma and stress. Help your body manage its reaction to these adverse stimuli by getting enough sleep. Exercise produces endorphins, which helps manage and reduce pain, and it also boosts blood circulation.
- See a doctor.While it may be easy to treat hair loss that’s caused by stress or other physical or emotional shock, other types especially those caused by medical conditions require expert attention. Do not self-medicate. A medical test is necessary to determine the real cause of your hair loss. A medical diagnosis is important in order to rule out other factors that might be the cause of your hair loss. On the surface, it’s easy to attribute hair loss to stress or the lack of sleep, but it is highly possible that the hair loss may be caused by an unknown or undetected condition related to hormones or genetics. With the right diagnosis, you’ll be able to get the right medication and course of treatment.
Hair loss is not a hopeless condition. While there are certainly cases of permanent hair loss in men, there are still cases when it’s only temporary and therefore can be treated, controlled and prevented. There are treatments and cures available, and many of these especially those for temporary cases, can be as simple as lifestyle changes -- eating the right foods, learning to manage stress properly, and doing away with unhealthy, nasty habits that can aggravate the condition.
In most cases though, it’s all a matter of attitude. Being bald should not be a cause of stigma. It does not make you less of a person or less masculine, less virile, and less attractive and appealing. In fact, a clean shaven head is becoming a popular trend among men these days, and there are certainly many bald men who have managed to make themselves look clean, elegant and suave despite their hair loss. Learn to come to terms with it. It’s hair loss, yes, but not brain damage. It does not affect your core.