THROUGH THICK AND THIN
Solutions for lusher locks
Regardless of the type of hair you have, or wish you had, there are loads of bottles and sprays on the shelves to help you achieve a good hair day. But what if your strands are putting on a disappearing act? Volumising shampoo isn’t much use when most of yours is going down the drain. Given the long-held perception of lush, thick locks as our ‘crowning glory’, it’s not surprising that a change in volume can cause significant distress, and with hair thinning and loss a realistic result of the ageing process, we’re beginning to hear more about the issue from a female perspective.
“Women’s hair loss is definitely on the rise, with female clients nearly equalling male clients in number,” says Carla Hunt of Clive Hair Clinics. “Women are leading busier and more stressful lifestyles that are having a direct impact on their hair.”
It’s helpful to note the difference between fine hair and hair that’s thinning. The fineness of hair relates to the diameter of each strand, whereas if your hair is thinning, it means you have fewer strands than average per square centimetre on your head. If you’ve always had fine hair, you probably have your parents to thank, and although there are plenty of factors that can cause temporary hair loss, if your hair is beginning to thin, in many cases it also comes down to genetics and it can be permanent.
Further confusing matters, several factors can cause the hair you grow to be weaker, smaller in diameter and more prone to breakage (finer), as well as impede its ability to regenerate, leaving you with far fewer strands (thinner). “Currently, 30 percent of women experience female pattern thinning [which encompasses both of the above] before they reach the age of 30,” says Carla.
Because of the hormonal changes involved in thinning hair, the number of women impacted increases to more than 50 percent after menopause or after a hysterectomy, regardless of ethnicity or hair type.
So, other than a hairbrush full of hair, what are the first signs you’re losing more than the typical 50-100 strands a day? Sudden loss caused by intense stress or illness can be sporadic. Gradual loss in men is usually noticed first at the temples and then the crown. In women, hair loss is more generalised or signalled by a gradually widening part.
“The age when hair thinning starts differs for women as there are many factors that can trigger and worsen hair loss,” says Carla. She lists factors such as stress, improper diet, nutritional deficiencies (particularly iron), medication (including that for depression), hormonal imbalances caused by conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome, and too much anaerobic exercise, which increases the male hormone testosterone. The good news is that once they’re identified, many of these causes can be addressed so that loss can be minimised.
“If these problems aren’t addressed, thinning hair will become more obvious as a woman goes
“Women are leading busier and more stressful lifestyles that are having a direct impact on their hair”
through pregnancy, and the stress of childbirth, raising a family and juggling work commitments,” says Carla. “This can lead to shorter, weaker hair that only grows for 12-24 months [rather than the healthy average of three to five years] before falling out.”
Hair clinics like Clive take into account a wide range of causes and offer long-term treatment programmes that address many variables. After undergoing a Hair Mineral Analysis Test, treatment can involve cleansing and invigorating the scalp, strengthening the hair follicles and stimulating stronger hair regrowth. Blocking a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which plays a part in genetic hair thinning, is also key.
Effective treatment can take several months, due to the nature of the hair-growth cycle.
But Carla says looking at the bigger picture is more useful than many of the quick-fix topical solutions available.
That said, the market for at-home treatments is exploding. Traditionally effective products like Women’s Regaine containing minoxidil are being joined by products that mix cosmetic and scientific approaches.
RevitaLash, the US brand that developed a treatment to encourage longer eyelashes, has just introduced a treatment foam using the same peptide complex that’s in its lash-boosting serum, but in a more concentrated dose, for hair. If you’ve experienced the lash lengths RevitaLash delivers, it’s likely you’ll be first in line for the new offerings, which include a shampoo and conditioner. However, if you’re experiencing hair loss rather than compromised strand health, the jury’s out as to whether it’ll make a difference or not.
“The RevitaLash Hair Collection doesn’t stimulate growth, but rather offers key ingredients that treat the hair and scalp for optimum health,” says Lori Jacobus, RevitaLash chief marketing officer. “The products offer the ideal environment for hair to thrive by hydrating, nourishing and restoring damaged strands. The Volume
Enhancing Foam contains key ingredients, including peptides, biotin, lipids and panthenol, to help condition, strengthen and soften hair. Biotin, or vitamin B7, contributes to the production of healthy hair and nails by providing ingredients essential to the process of hair enhancement. Panthenol, also known as vitamin B5, helps to smooth and strengthen hair. This rich combination of B vitamins, along with peptides and antioxidants, works to fortify hair and reduce brittleness and breakage.”
For those who are experiencing the more advanced stages of hair loss, other intensive options are being used in New Zealand clinics. These include injections of your own PRP (platelet rich plasma) into the scalp, and light therapy. The latter, sometimes called low-level laser therapy (LLLT), involves directing light energy into the hair follicles, which stimulates the cellular activity that’s believed to make ageing cells more active.
Although approaches to treating thinning hair vary, Carla suggests taking action as soon as you notice a difference in your locks. “Once hair follicles die, there’s no treatment available to get them back that would be a cure for baldness, which doesn’t exist.”