The natural growth cycle involves the constant growth, shedding and replacement of single hair strands. This natural cycle accounts for normal daily hair loss, which can range from 35 to 150 hairs per day.
Good nutrition and exercise contribute to normal hair growth and strong, healthy hair; and keeps hair strands healthy and strong.
A balanced diet of nutrients, vitamins and minerals contribute to a healthy scalp and healthy hair. Sadly, some of today’s eating habits (fast food, non-nutritious foods) can lead to abnormal hair loss or fragile hair. As a hairdresser, you may see an unhealthy diet reflected in your client’s hair. It is important, therefore, to understand which nutrients, vitamins and minerals are valuable for the production and maintenance of healthy hair.
Hair is made up of protein so it’s important for a diet to offer enough protein to keep hair strong and healthy. Insufficient protein leads to dry and brittle hair while low-protein diets may even lead to hair loss. Good sources of protein include: red meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, nuts and legumes.
Iron is the most critical mineral for healthy hair. An iron deficiency can cause anemia, which is a major cause of hair loss.
Hair follicles and roots require a blood supply that is rich in oxygen and nutrients. Anemia interferes with this nutrient supply to the hair and interrupts the normal growth cycle, which in turn causes more hair to fall out. Red meat, poultry, fish, lentils, kale, broccoli, spinach and salad greens are all good sources of iron in a diet.
Biotin is a B-vitamin that aids in proper hair growth. Adding more biotin to a diet will help reduce hair loss and hair breakage. Whole grains, egg yolks, liver and soy flour are all excellent sources of biotin.
Zinc and Selenium
Lack of zinc and selenium can lead to a dry and flaky scalp, as well to hair loss and brittle hair. Bean sprouts, fortified cereals, whole grains, oysters, eggs and beef are excellent sources of both minerals.
The body is unable to make its own omega 3 fatty acids so it’s important to include them in a well- balanced diet. These fats are located in the cells that line the scalp and they aid in the production of the oils that condition and hydrate hair and scalp. Good sources of omega 3s include oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, as well as whole grains, nuts, seeds and avocado.
Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron and is a must in any diet. Along with iron, vitamin C is excellent insurance against hair loss. It’s an antioxidant and readily absorbed into the body. It fights free radical damage and improves overall hair and body health. It also aids in the production of collagen, which strengthens the hair shaft. Among the best sources of vitamin C are blueberries, oranges, strawberries, kiwi, guava, papaya, sweet potatoes, cabbage and broccoli.
Ultraviolet light from the sun can harm hair as well as skin by forming damaging free radicals.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that fights free radical damage, so it’s essential for optimum hair growth. Nuts are excellent sources of vitamin E, as well as of zinc and selenium.
Your body requires vitamin A in order to manufacture sebum, the oily substance that conditions scalp and hair. Sebum ensures that the scalp is hydrated and itch-free due to dryness. Consume vibrant orange and yellow vegetables such as pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot and papaya contain high levels of beta-carotene, which creates vitamin A. Some examples include pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots and papaya. Animal sources are also awesome sources of vitamin A.
Regular exercise helps you feel better and stay healthy, which improves your overall self-image. Plus, exercise actually improves hair health! Here’s how:
Stretching regularly improves your posture, thereby encouraging blood circulation to the scalp. Better circulation means that more nutrients and oxygen are supplied to scalp cells, allowing them to grow stronger.
The medical community has been slow to recognize the mental distress caused by hair loss but the emotions are very real for sufferers.
Experts say millions of people in the U.S. suffer from hair loss. Because you are an experienced salon professional, it’s likely you will be one of the first people your clients choose to discuss their hair loss concerns. That’s why it’s important to create an open and friendly environment for these conversations. It’s also important to learn as much as possible on the topic of hair loss so you can assist and provide your clients with accurate information. Your expertise could have a direct impact on clients’ happiness and self-confidence.
Scientists believe that nearly 95% of the hair loss seen in men and women is caused by an advancing condition called androgenic alopecia, which is also known as hereditary hair loss.
This type of hair loss can begin as early as your teenage years and is often fully visible by the age of 40. It’s also important to note that approximately 40% of men and women exhibit signs of hair loss by the age of 35.
The gene for androgenetic alopecia can be inherited from either side of the family. Affected members of the same genetic background may have differing degrees of thinning. For men, it is referred to as male pattern baldness and usually advances to the familiar horseshoe-shaped fringe of hair. In women, it shows up as thinning of the hair throughout the entire crown of the head. In some cases, the hair on the sides may also become thinner. Most women preserve their frontal hair lines. It is rare for a woman to become completely bald.
In androgenetic alopecia, a combination of heredity, hormones, and age causes progressive shrinking, or miniaturization, of certain scalp follicles. This results in shortening of the hair’s growing cycle. Over time, the hair’s active growth phase becomes shorter and the resting phase becomes longer. Eventually, there is no growth at all. The amount of follicles that become miniaturized greatly depends on the heredity of the individual.
Since hair length and thickness are determined by how long the hair is able to grow before entering the next resting and shedding phase, the hair loss process is a gradual conversion of terminal to vellus-like hair follicles. The net result is a growing number of short, thin hairs that are scarcely visible above the scalp. Ultimately no more hair is produced out by these follicles. In addition, more follicles are in the resting phase at the same time. Consequently, there is less scalp coverage.
Despite the dramatic change in follicle size with androgenetic alopecia, the structure and number of actual follicles do not change.
This is a sudden hair loss in round or sporadic patches. This type of hair loss happens in individuals who have no apparent skin condition or serious disease. It is frequently attributed to stress. Alopecia areata is limited to a few areas and is often reversed in a few months, though it may reoccur. The National Alopecia Areata Foundation calculates that 2.5 million men, women, and children experience this type of hair loss.
This premature loss of hair in the resting phase (telogen) can result from various causes, such as difficult childbirth, shock, drug intake, fever, etc. Some women also experience sudden hair loss when they stop taking oral contraceptives or if they follow a crash diet that is too low in protein. The hair loss is usually reversed once the condition is resolved.
Traction or Traumatic Alopecia
Patchy or dispersed hair loss is occasionally due to repetitive traction on the hair, such as pulling or twisting. This kind of hair loss also occurs after excessive application of chemicals, such as permanent wave solutions, or after extreme use of hot combs. This condition is sometimes reversed once the trauma ceases.
On occasion, women will experience temporary hair loss after the birth of a child. While some women can experience tremendous loss in the weeks following the birth of their child, the abnormal hair loss slows as hormone levels in the body return to pre-pregnancy levels.
If, after consulting with your client, you determine that the cause of the hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, there are several options you can offer. If you are unsure of the cause of your client’s hair loss, refer him or her to a medical professional.
Toupees, wigs, and hair extensions/hair weaving are services a trained cosmetologist can offer.
Many of your clients will greatly appreciate your skills and knowledge in fitting and styling toupees and wigs. Hair extensions/ hair weaving allows you to enhance a client’s natural hair, raising his or her self-esteem while creating a look that meets their needs and standards.
In addition, there is an abundance of volumizing and thickening hair products available. Note, that these products do not permanently thicken the hair; nor do they put a stop to hair loss or cause the hair to grow. Volumizing products cover the hair and give it more body and density.
Currently, there are two effective medical treatments for hair loss. One is a drug and one is topical.
In 1998, a drug called finasteride, also known as Propecia or Proscar, became available to medical professionals in the United States. It is a daily prescription pill for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men. It increases testosterone levels in the body, which increases hair growth on the scalp. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not use Finasteride or handle crushed or broken tablets, as the drug can cause birth defects in male babies.
Minoxidil is a topical solution medically proven to regrow hair if applied to the scalp, usually twice a day. Minoxidil has been sold without a prescription since April 1996 and is available in two strengths. There are no reported adverse effects on hormones or sexual function, and it is not associated with adverse effects on blood pressure, body weight, pulse rate and EKGs.
Minoxidil works by enlarging miniaturized hair follicles and reversing the miniaturization process. This prolongs the hair’s growth phase cycle, allowing the hair to grow thicker and longer.
As previously discussed, it takes time for hair to regrow. Follicles have to go through a full cycle before they can grow hair to their maximum potential. Miniaturized follicles need to cycle to produce stronger, new hair. New growth may first appear as soft, downy, and barely visible hairs. This is an extremely encouraging sign because it shows that new regrowth is actually being stimulated.
If the client continues treatment, the soft, downy growth should change into hair of the same color and thickness as the rest of the hair on the scalp. If the client stops using the solution, the new regrowth may be lost in a few months and hair loss will begin again. Minoxidil is a treatment for loss of hair, not a cure.
Surgical options are mostly available for men. Hair plugs, hair transplants, and scalp reductions are performed by physicians. To achieve results, several surgeries are usually necessary, and the cost for these surgeries can range from $5,000 to more than $20,000.
Professional cosmetologists can offer non-medical and non-surgical hair loss solutions such as wigs, toupees and extensions to elevate clients’ self-esteem.