Few subjects remain taboo in today’s over-sharing world: one of them is hair loss. Remy Rippon uncovers what most of us would rather hide.
Whatever your thoughts on over-sharing on social media, there’s one universal truth we can’t refute, particularly when it comes to our beauty regimen: every product, tool and technique is laid bare for the world to see. As a result, there are few remaining beauty taboos. If we’re enduring it, chances are we’re talking about it. But there’s one exception to the rule, a very real phenomenon that’s omitted from the conversation – hair loss.
It may be unsexy, but it’s happening. “Fifty per cent of all men and women are affected by hair thinning and/or hair loss at some point in their lives,” says Gina Thomas, educational director for Wella and Coty Professional Beauty. And the causes are plentiful: stress; hormones; pregnancy (during and after); genetics; diet (calorie-restricted or low-carb in particular); life stage (puberty, menopause); medications; and environmental factors (sunlight, pollution, even water quality) can all contribute to changes in hair texture and loss.
“It’s usually a consequence of something else happening,” says dermatologist and Dyson Supersonic spokesperson Professor Rodney Sinclair, adding that hair loss can
be a glaringly obvious warning of iron deficiency, thyroid problems or hormone imbalances. It generally falls into one of two camps: hair shedding, which is hair falling out from the scalp or breaking (you might notice more strands in your brush or on your pillowcase), and balding, which is hair disappearing, resulting in visible patches of scalp. It can range from severe cases of alopecia (patchy hair loss due to autoimmune factors) to less severe hormone or stress-related hair loss, and diagnosis is usually carried out by a dermatologist via a blood test and physical assessment.
“I ask [hair-loss patients] if any health or lifestyle changes have occurred six to 16 weeks before noticing hair loss,” says trichologist Dr David Kingsley, adding that it can take a few months for the hair to fall out once it actually stops growing.
Any form of hair loss, however, affects self-confidence. A study by Nioxin, a leader in hair-loss products, in partnership with a Yale University psychologist, found that a quarter of the 4,000 people surveyed would avoid social interactions if they experienced hair loss or thinning. Six in 10 respondents agreed to feeling concerned about hair thinning, with 25- to 34-year-olds being the most concerned. It’s no wonder, then, that the beauty market is flooded with products to treat hair loss, with varying degrees of efficacy.
Sinclair says there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and the right treatment is largely based on the type of hair loss. “If it’s hair shedding, it’s important to find out what the cause is,” he says, “and if it’s short-lived, you might not actually need to do anything.” Sinclair adds that for more concerning hair loss, topically applied minoxidil may be prescribed. Over-the-counter products, such as Nioxin’s 3D Care System, can also complement prescribed treatments.
Likewise, some at-home tweaks can be beneficial. “Wear your ponytail loose,” says Thomas. “This minimises stress along the hairline, which contributes to breakage.” The styling devices you use can have an impact, too. Choose a heat-controlled hair dryer; the Dyson Supersonic regulates the exit temperature by measuring it up to 20 times per second to avoid frying follicles, which causes breakage. And Kingsley advises washing hair regularly. “It stops growing an average three months prior [to falling out], so not washing it will cause the hair to accumulate and increase the amount seen when washing.”
Phyto PhytoPolleine Botanical Scalp Treatment, $40. Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt, $41. Bio Ionic Silver Nanoionic Conditioning Brush, Extra Large, $45. Protective Shampoo, and Conditioner, $35 each.