Let’s talk about hair loss (alopecia), its causes, its many forms, the science, symptoms, and practical solutions to overcome what can be the devastating effects of hair loss.
What is Alopecia?
Miriam Webster’s definition of alopecia – doctors use “alopecia” to refer to various forms of hair loss, including “alopecia areata,” a sudden loss of hair in patches that involves little or no inflammation. Effectively it’s the term used in the medical field to refer to various forms of hair loss affecting both men and women e.g. beards on men and eyelashes or eyebrows.
Losing hair from your scalp is a part of the normal hair lifecycle, known as the exogen phase a hair is shed whilst a new hair is growing through between 50 -100 hairs a day are in the exogen phase.
A bald spot, losing hair in clumps or patches may well have a number of different causes including but not limited to genealogy, diet, stress, hormones and age. Let’s look at:
- Alopecia Areata
- Hair Loss and Diet
- Traction Alopecia
- Androgenic Alopecia (Male/Female Pattern Baldness)
- Hair Loss and Edges (hairline)
- Hair Loss and Products
- Hair Shedding
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks healthy hair follicles, making them smaller to the point where it slows down hair production until it eventually stops. Alopecia areata means hair loss in areas, in spots that are round about the size of a quarter.
The immune system sees normal cells as invaders and they’re attacked the resulting hair loss or baldness in patches or spots is sudden. The hair can grow back with no further occurrence, but for some, after regrowth, the hair loss reoccurs. Genetics can be the cause of alopecia areata with many knowing a family member with the condition.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley held a press conference where she openly spoke about her sudden onset of alopecia how she’s come to terms with her hair loss and how she’ll be moving forward with her new normal. Her revelation (here) is both powerful and brave.
Hair Loss And Diet
A healthy balanced diet that entails all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and proteins and isn’t deficient in any area will lead to healthy hair. Only two to three months of a deficient diet will lead to hair loss. A diet deficient in iron will cause hair loss whereas too much Vitamin A can do the same thing, so a healthy balance of nutrients is key.
To ensure that you don’t lose hair because of your diet, undertake the following steps consistently:
- drink water just like your skin your scalp needs to be hydrated.
- hair is made up of protein and iron so an adequate amount in your diet is vital for growth.
- vitamin c is necessary for the absorption of iron.
- varied meals with all nutrients are optimal (Read) My Hair Is What I Eat an article that breaks down the minerals and vitamins that are needed and that impact hair health.
Traction alopecia is the loss of hair by repeatedly pulling on the hair around the hairline, temple and nape.
Poor hair care habits, tight weaves, braids, hair gel on the hairline, ponytails and stretching hair into styles can lead to traction alopecia. Hair strands are delicate and tugging and stretching the hair to achieve a specific look can pull hair from the follicles. Ultimately pulling hair strands damages the follicle, the follicle can shut down completely with no further hair growth.
Nyasha Musa Grace, trichologist at Afrotility advises that “while traction alopecia can be reversed if treated early it can turn into scarring alopecia which will result in permanent hair loss”.
The signs of potential traction alopecia after hairstyling are:
- sensitivity or pain
- small red pimples
- taut scalp and skin around the hairline and nape
- hair loss
- thin or broken hair
You can avoid traction alopecia by being gentle with your hair and treating it like fine china. Ensure that when a stylist combs, brushes or styles your hair they are equally as careful and deliberate with your hair strands.
When styling curls in braids, protective styles, weaves, ponytails, any style that’s not your natural curl pattern, upon completion, there should be no pain or discomfort.
Androgenic Alopecia – Male/Female Pattern Baldness
Male pattern baldness is hair loss in men that occurs in a pattern, first, the hairline recedes then hair at the crown is lost forming a horseshoe shape. It may take 5 – 25 years for a receding hairline to go completely bald. This type of hair loss is permanent, there are three ways this occurs it can be hereditary, hormonal or age-related. The hair follicle shrinks over time resulting in shorter finer hair, the follicle is still alive so theoretically hair can grow back.
Unlike alopecia areata, male pattern baldness is not due to a medical condition or disease. Hair can be restored through transplant, topical applications or medication.
Nyasha points out that female pattern hair loss is poorly understood in that the causes remain unclear, though it is believed to possibly have a genetic cause. It presents largely as thinning of the hair and not total loss as in males. It commonly affects women who are post-menopausal. Diagnosis and treatment are best carried out by a dermatologist or trichologists.
Hair Loss and Edges (Hairline)
Having your edges “laid” is a big thing in the curly hair community the theory being that it finishes off a look, makes it sleek and polished. It’s an aesthetic, a narrative that is subjective. Arguably it could be said that simply having edges is what’s important whether they are laid or not.
We could change the narrative and allow edges to just be. If they’re curly, straight, flat or rolled up they are perfect just the way they are. It’s interesting that those with curly hair work so hard to make their entire head of curls the curliest they can be and then there’s one section of hair where you try everything in your power to make it straight. 🤔
The hairline (edges) is fragile, the preening, gelling, combing brushing and sweeping of edges on a daily basis can make it weak.
Edge control can have light or maximum hold. Formulated with ingredients that prevent edges from curling up these products will not allow moisture into the hair shaft and have a drying effect. If you layer these products for several days without cleansing you’re encouraging build-up on the hair and scalp, leading to breakage, thinning and hair loss.
Hair Loss And Products
Hair loss from products can be:
- the result of applying products that are not suited to a particular hair type
- hair that’s weighed down and clogging the follicles
- ingredients in the product that are harmful or toxic
- using products incorrectly
It’s important to ensure that products that you use have quality natural and organic ingredients. At Luxju we are advocates for great products and not those that are damaging to hair and your health. (Read) What are the bad ingredient in curly hair products?
Users of Devacurl products have reported experiencing hair loss and damaged hair after using the products. There’s a class-action lawsuit against the company from users of their no-poo and low-poo cleansers. Devacurl is working with industry specialist to address the needs and concerns of their customers.
Nyasha says products to combat hair loss are best prescribed by a trichologist or dermatologist. Trichologists specialize in understanding and treating diseases of the scalp and hair and some are trained to make products for each client to meet the clients needs.
On the average scalp, there are approximately 100,000 hairs, and we‘ll normally shed between 50 to 100 hairs a day. Shed hair doesn’t fall randomly from the scalp but comes out when the hair is combed or brushed and is identified through the bulbs at the beginning of the hair strand.
But hair can shed in abnormal volumes, the scientific name being telogen effluvium. Hair enters telogen, the resting phase prematurely, this phase lasts 2 to 4 months before falling out. The thinning or shedding can leave patches, the result of excessive amounts of hair fall.
The causes of excess shedding can be stress, shock from a traumatic event, illness, childbirth, deficient diet or menopause. Telogen effluvium can resolve itself completely, the hair grows back within 3 -6 months after the cause of the initial shedding has been resolved.
The information above is a useful guide to the symptoms and causes of hair loss. Healthy hair can be supported by scalp massages that have proven in 2016 and 2019 studies to improve hair thickness, hair growth and help with hair loss. You can massage the scalp with your fingertips or hair massagers to stimulate blood flow to the follicles.
For clinical diagnosis and treatment of any condition seek professional advice from a doctor, trichologist or dermatologist. You can book a consultation with Nyasha Musa Grace at Afrotility.
Let us know in the comments section below the products or ingredients that have helped with hair loss.