Beauty: hitting back at hair loss
discovers the root causes of hair thinning and ways to regain fuller-looking locks.
The last time Sarah Christian lost her hair, she was in the prime of her life. “I was 28, single and searching for Prince Charming. I couldn’t imagine losing my hair, let alone the tragic wigs I would be left to wear,” reveals Sarah.
“Losing your hair is one of the hardest things a woman will ever deal with. We spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year on our hair, so imagine the day when your once long brown hair is no longer on your head, but all over the floor, your bed and handfuls come out in the shower.”
Sarah isn’t alone. In fact, one in three women will notice hair thinning or hair loss after the age of 30 and it can start as early as your 20s. For most women, thinning hair, bald spots and a receding hairline are distressing because shiny lush locks are often viewed as the ultimate sign of femininity.
“Hair is an important feature for the majority of women, who identify their sense of self-worth and ‘looks’ based on good hair,” says dermatologist Dr Eleni Yiasemides. “Society places a great deal of value in people’s appearances and hair is a major factor. Normal hair loss is around 100 hairs per day. Anything over 150 hairs can be significant and can require review by a doctor.”
Sarah, now 32, has been dealing with hair loss since she was nine years old. “My once thick, long brown hair was falling out, my pillow was covered, handful after handful of hair would come out in the shower and my brush was overflowing,” she recalls. “It wasn’t long after that I was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune condition which causes sudden hair loss.” As the bouts of alopecia continued into adulthood, Sarah felt stripped of her femininity, sexuality and beauty.
Types of treatments
According to trichologist Simone Lee, hair loss is often temporary, but may become more permanent as a result of ageing or other factors. “There are many treatments for hair loss and thinning. However, only a few ingredients have proven to be effective or produce results, including hair regrowth,” she says, such as minoxidil and aminexil. “Common hair loss treatments may appear in the form of specialised haircare products, including topical ointments and medications.”
Although they won’t treat the cause of thinning hair, thickening shampoos, conditioners and styling products can help the hair to appear fuller.>>
Did you know? The average person’s head has up to 150,000 hair follicles.
The causes of hair loss
“Scalp hair grows approximately one centimetre per month,” explains Simone Lee. “The rate of growth can be affected by various skin disorders that cause damage to the hair follicles, hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies, surgery or prolonged illness, reactions to medications, age and genetic predisposition.”
Hairdresser Kenneth Stoddart says several of his female clients display signs of thinning hair. “I usually find that hair can thin around six months after something stressful has happened and it can take another six months for it to come back to normal.
“Childbirth is also a major cause of thinning hair,” Kenneth continues, “particularly around the temples. Again, this can take up to one year for the hair to grow back and, in some cases, the hair doesn’t grow back entirely as it was.”
Signs and symptoms
“Men, women and children often present different signs and symptoms of hair loss,” says Simone. “At any age, hair loss found in hairbrushes, on the bathroom floor and in drains may be a visible concern to the sufferer.”
Some women may find that their scalp is more noticeable in their part line, while men may experience a receding hairline.
“Other signs may be a sudden loss of hair in patches, or patches of broken hairs on the scalp,” Simone adds.
It’s also common for women to find they’re able to do more loops with their hair elastic because their ponytail has become thinner. It’s not a cause for panic. Instead, seek advice from a medical professional to determine the cause and the best treatment option for you.
“The key is to start treatment early,” says Dr Yiasemides. “There are lots of infomercials promising ‘miracle cures’, which are false and add to a woman’s disappointment and cynicism about this condition and its treatment.”
Dr Yiasemides also says it usually takes around six months of topical treatments to see a result for male or female pattern hair loss and that the primary purpose of this form of treatment is to stop the condition worsening.
“There is no cure or prevention – all treatment is lifelong,” she says.
Did you know? “Hair can thin around six months after something stressful and can take another six months to come back to normal.”