Hair loss is frightening, and dealing with it can lead to stress, panicky decisions, humiliation and depression. Barry Fletcher, a hair-care expert, factors everything from health to lifestyle to hairstyle to help determine your risk of hair loss. If you answer “yes” to two or more of these hair stripping culprit questions presented, give your hair, scalp and body an extra dose of TLC to prevent fallout.
1- Do your parents suffer from hair loss?
Men aren’t the only ones who should look to dad for their hairline future. Genetic baldness can be inherited from mom or dad and passed on to women, too.
2- Are you menopausal?
Menopause or a full hysterectomy can send the male hormone, testosterone, into overdrive, wreaking havoc on your hair. Try balancing hormones with natural estrogen in plant extract such as soy or phyto estrogen (pill supplement).
3- Do you have overactive or sluggish thyroids?
An underactive thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroxin, a hormone that influences the way our body uses food, and can lead to brittleness and excessive hair shedding. Hyperthyroidism, an overproduction of thyroxin, can also lead to shedding.
4- Have you had a baby in the last six months?
Many women attribute healthy hair during pregnancy to prenatal vitamins. However, the surge in female hormones also plays a role, but the effects are short-lived; many of these strands often fall out after hormones shift back to normal. During this time, be extra gentle to tresses and cut back on the frequency of relaxers and hair color treatments.
5- Do you constantly crave sweets?
If you always reach for candy bars, sweets and soft drinks, you may have hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which after heredity is the second most common hair loss culprit.
6- Are you sick?
Hair is a very sensitive barometer of what’s happening inside your body.
For example, severe fever can lead to alopecia, the loss of hair. Medications, such as blood coagulants, chemotherapy drug, blood pressure and heart condition pills, and some cholesterol-lowering drugs, are often behind a sudden onset of hair loss.
7- Are your nerves frazzled?
The body can usually cope adequately with short-term stress, but prolonged anxiety and stress increases cortisone levels. High levels of this hormone can cause the same problems as testosterone. Take time to exercise or soak in a relaxing bath.
8- Does your diet lack proper nutrients?
Hair cells are the most rapidly growing cells in the body and requires ample supply of nutrients, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, essential fatty acids and minerals to nurture healthy hair.
9- Do you fail to get enough iron?
Iron is necessary for the formulation of red blood cells. If the body is not able to produce enough or blood is lost from the system from menstruation or injury, anemia can occur. Anemics not only tire easily but also may suffer hair loss.
These are important questions in evaluating hair loss:
A- Was the hair loss sudden?
B- Is the hair loss localized to one area or diffused throughout the scalp?
C- Does the scalp itch or burn?
D- Is it painful or tender to the touch?
E- Are there any new medications or medical illnesses?
F- Did the loss occur after a pregnancy or surgery?
G- Did any stressful event occur prior the hair loss, i.e. death of a love one, loss of a job or divorce?
H- Is there a family history of hair loss?
I- Did it occur after chemical treatment of the hair- i.e. relaxer, hair coloring, hot comb?
J- How long have you been having your hair relaxed, permed or colored?
K- What daily hair care products or relaxers (Lye- No-Lye) are you using?
L- Did your stylist perform the chemical treatment?
Here are some causes of hair loss:
1. Hair/scalp disorders
a. allergic dermatitis
b. irritant dermatitis
c. seborrheic dermatitis
2. Traction alopecia
3. Alopecia areata
4. Hereditary (androgenetic) alopecia
5. Medical illness
a. thyroid disease
c. high fever
a. birth control pills
b. cancer fighting drugs
8. Radiation treatment
9. Child birth
10. Crash diets
What is really the cause of so many black women losing their hair? Is it those no-lye kits, braids, weaves, medication, heredity, genes, stress etc that cause hair loss? Or, should we blame it on the black women being too insatiable. Just because they have a plethora of choices with styling options, doesn’t mean they should try all of them.
Not long ago a fast food chain told its customers, “Have it your way.” The same could be said about today’s women of color and their styling choices. Unlike their neglected grandmothers and great grandmothers black women have more choices than ever before.
Monique Greenwood, former editor for Essence Magazine says it so well: “I’ve always embraced what grows out from my head, even if I haven’t always known what to do with it. My hair has been long and permed, short and natural, shoulder-length and pressed, twisted and borderline dreaded. It’s ironic that one of the greatest assets we have as Black women—the versatility of our hair—has been at the root of our drama with ourselves and with each other.”
I believe Black women’s hair loss is an issue that has not been thoroughly studied, thoroughly challenged. There’s a lot more work to be done. Now more than ever, empirical studies are necessary.
Regardless of gender or ethnicity, the sad reality is that all hair reaches it’s optimum strength and condition after a person reaches puberty and begins to thin when she hits 20s. The average person only experiences 15 years of strong, healthy hair. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “by the age 35, almost 40 percent of women demonstrate some signs of hair thinning”. But that doesn’t mean anyone should give up on the attainable goal of a lifetime of healthy hair. Any hair that grows on the head is considered good hair. Just because Black women have options, there’s no rule that says they have to exercise them all … less is best.