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  • Writer's pictureThe Shampoo Lounge

Hair fall 101: Everything you need to know about hair loss and how to stop it in its tracks

We have heard that it’s pretty normal to lose up to 100 strands per day. But, one thing that we seem to be losing more of during the pandemic is our hair. “Hair fall is a normal phase of the hair growth cycle, whereas hair loss is an indication that something is impairing the growth cycle per se. In hair fall, you lose your hair strands, and hair loss is its more advanced stage where you are not just shedding hair but also losing its density. What is happening is that you are losing hair, and the rate at which your hair grows is declining,” says Mumbai-based cutaneous surgeon Dr Satish Bhatia.

What can you do if you notice sudden, extreme hair fall?

The most important thing is to try to identify the cause of hair loss if possible. “A sudden increase in hair loss is commonly due to telogen effluvium, a reversible condition in which hair falls out after either a physical, medical, or emotional stressor. The hair fall usually starts two to four months after the inciting factor,” says Cincinnati-based board-certified dermatologist Dr Mona Mislankar, MD, FAAD. It’s important to have a healthy and balanced diet all the time, but even more so during the telogen phase to activate new hair growth. Elevate your nutrition game by adding more greens, nuts and seeds to your diet. “At the heart of a hair care routine is a healthy diet which is rich in protein, folic acid, biotin, zinc, calcium and other minerals and omega fatty acids,” Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, consultant dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon at MedLinks.

What are the factors causing it?

The two most common reasons for hair loss are telogen effluvium and androgenetic alopecia. She explains, “Androgenetic alopecia refers to hormonal and genetic related hair loss whereas telogen effluvium refers more to stress related hair loss.” To understand loss, we must understand the cycle of hair growth which is divided into three phases—anagen (growth), catagen (transition) and telogen (shedding). “Anagen is the growth phase in which a single hair follicle can exist for two to six years. Telogen is a three-month rest period until it is pushed out by a new anagen hair. At any given period 10-15 per cent of our hairs exist in this phase, however a number of stressors both mental or physical (pregnancy, surgery, illnesses, infections, medications, etc) can alter this balance causing a larger number of hairs to enter this resting telogen phase,” adds Dr Mislankar. This will occur over a two to four months phase of extreme hair shedding. In a normal scenario, it is common to lose approximately one hundred hairs a day, however during telogen effluvium, one can experience losing up to three times as much hair.

How to cope with it?

The key is to understand that not all loss of hair is telogen effluvium. “Sudden onset massive hair loss can also be due to alopecia areata which is an autoimmune disorder of hair,” he adds Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, consultant dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon at MedLinks. Acute hair fall always occurs due to some underlying biological or hormonal reason. “When we observe sudden hair fall which is massive, the first thing is to rule out issues like iron deficiency anaemia, Vitamin D and B 12 deficiencies, thyroid disorders and autoimmune conditions,” he adds.

Acute emotional stress (breakups, examinations, loss of job) can also trigger a cycle of hair fall. When we are in a flight and fight mode, we release the stress hormone, cortisol, which signals our hair follicles to shift from the growth phase to the resting phase. The good news is that stress hair fall doesn’t need to be permanent. Find ways to cope with stress and you will find your hair fall troubling you less.

Can you stop hair loss?

The way to work around hair fall is to go to find out the root cause and fix it. “If it is because of any fever or acute illness you had and now you have recovered, you need not to worry. You just need to focus on a healthy diet. If it’s because of anaemia, thyroid or zinc deficiency, it needs to be treated by consulting a physician,” says Dr Chaturvedi.

However, if the hair fall is ongoing and there is no respite for six months, you should get medical help. “If you notice true bald patches of hair loss, consider seeing a dermatologist as soon as possible as there are clinical treatments that can help reverse the process,” adds Dr Mislankar. “Severe hair fall can also be controlled and a good regrowth can be achieved by the treatments like Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP therapy), Growth Factor Concentrate Therapy (GFC therapy) and hair mesotherapy,” adds Dr Chaturvedi.

What should be in your haircare kit?

Be patient, literally as you give hair time to grow back. It is important to know that the hair should start to grow back approximately six months after extreme hair shedding is noticed. During this time, avoid harsh in-salon chemical hair treatments that will alter the bonds of the hair. “Also be wary of over washing, overbrushing, and overheating. Using a UV/heat protectant while styling the hair can be very helpful. Additionally, 100 per cent silk pillowcases have shown to have lesser drying effects on the hair and provide less friction on the sleep surface therefore leading to less irritation and tangling of the hair,” advises Dr Mislankar.

Dr Chaturvedi also suggests switching to gentler sulphate-free shampoo and a nourishing conditioner. If you are in the shedding phase, the last thing you want is to lose hair to damage due to tangling and poor haircare practices, such as rough drying with towels, using the wrong bristled-brushes, exposing your hair to too much heat via styling tools. A gentle scalp massage once a week helps in stimulating blood circulation, which in turn boosts hair growth. Meditation, yoga, dance, art, journalling and music are tools you can tap into to build inner resilience and stronger roots.

article written by APARRNA GUPTA for Vogue

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