Reasons Why We Lose Our Hair

A few Causes of Hair Loss

Hello Good people, I hope you’ve all been enjoying the world cup recently. It looks like Germany came out on top as far as football is concerned, but If there was a hairdressing world tournament, who would come out number one? We all know the Americans can work it but I think the UK is catching up!

Talking to both the ladies and the gents, I want to discuss the major reasons why we lose hair; there are so many but here are some of the top 4.

When reading this, remember that the average person has around 120,000-150,000 hairs on their head and they lose about 100 strands a day, so don’t worry if you find strands of hair on your brush.

1- Genetics

Sometimes it’s our genes that determine hormonal balance or the lack thereof. You may have heard of the term DHT, which stands for dihydrotestosterone, it’s derived from testosterone using the enzymes 5-alpha reductase.

Hair loss caused by DHT is called androgenic alopecia and is part of the natural ageing process. This hormone causes the hair to become more fine by causing the hair follicles to shrink. Though its part of ageing it can occur much earlier in-life, because of genetics. Men have more of these types of hormones called androgens which including the main offender DHT than woman, and they also have more of the reducing enzymes hence androgenic alopecia in ladies is much less severe than in men.

2- Diet & Nutrition

                                             

The hot-stuff when it comes to hair growth is biotin otherwise know as vitamin H or vitamin B7. It is particularly abundant in eggs, liver and leafy green vegetables. Its a co-enzyme needed for the production of fatty-acids and constructive metabolism of some amino acids such as those important in hair and nail structure.

A severe deficiency of biotin has been known to cause hair loss and well as conjunctivitis and dermatitis whilst a mild deficiency can be indicated by neurological and psychological symptoms such as depression and tingling of fingers. Iron, folic acid, protein and zinc are also nutrients that can affect hair growth if in short supply.

3. Ageing

Again, the action of DHT is part of the natural ageing process. DHT causes hair follicles to shrink causing hair to appear thinner. Also, as people get into old age their rate of hair growth slows down.

4. Stress And Trauma

Stress increases the levels of testosterone in the scalp which is converted into DHT, the effects of which we have already discussed. Here are some alopecias that can result from stress

Trichotillomania– This is the obsessive urge to pull out hair from the eyebrows, scalp or other areas. Now it could be just a bad habit but its more likely a coping mechanism or its symptomatic to a mental health issue.

Alopecia areata– This can be stress induced. It’s when the body’s immune system starts attacking the hair follicles causing hair loss all over the body

Trichotillomania

Telogen Efluvium– To cut a long story short, the hair has a growth cycle ending with a ‘resting phase’ which is when the hair shed. Usually we lose 100 strands a day to this process, which is less that 1% each day- High stress can push a higher proportion of the hair into the resting phase causing unusually high amounts of shedding.

So that’s enough for today but keep watching because I plan to discuss more common reasons for hair loss including pregnancy, menopause, braiding and relaxing.

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The Dangers Of Hair Relaxers

As much as we fall in-love with relaxers, also known as the ‘creamy crack’, too much of a good thing is no good at all- this how they repay us! Let’s talk about our relationship with the creamy crack- my intention is to tell the truth as it stands, not to scare anybody. This blog is intended to make you more well-informed and therefore effective individuals- this is a must read!

Sodium Hydroxide

The main ingredient in ‘lye’ hair relaxer is ‘sodium hydroxide’ which is a strong alkali. It’s the same ingredient that is used in drain cleaners to dissolve blockages. The picture above shows a coke can dissolving in a solution of sodium hydroxide so unless your scalp is more chemical resistant than an aluminium can, sodium hydroxide can be dangerous. The following is a brief explanation of the risks of sodium hydroxide.

Scalp burns: The alkali will basically eat at the epidermal layer of the scalp and possibly even part of the dermis layer (middle layer.) This creates the look or a burn or a lesion in the skin and lesions can lead to infection.

Follicle damage: Hair follicles are the true root of the hair, they are embedded in the dermis layer of the skin and so if the chemical penetrates to a certain degree it can end up damaging the hair follicle. A damaged follicle means hair that will never grow again. Take a look at the picture above on the left. Due to improper use of the relaxer, the teenager has damaged her follicles such that in some places hair cannot grow.

Uterine Fibroids: Scientists followed more than 23,000 pre-menopausal Black American women from 1997 to 2009 and found that the two- to three-times higher rate of fibroids among black women may be linked to chemical exposure through scalp lesions and burns resulting from relaxers. (blackdoctor.com)

A uterine fibroid is a benign tumour in the smooth muscle (involuntary muscle) on the uterus. These fibroids can lead to excessive menstrual bleeding and even infertility.

Early Puberty: Three hundred African American, African Caribbean, Hispanic, and White women in New York City were studied. The women’s first menstrual period varied anywhere from age 8 to age 19, but African Americans, who were more likely to use straightening and relaxers hair oils, also reached menarche earlier than other racial/ethnic groups. (blackdoctor.com)

Dandruff: Relaxers can cause extreme dryness of scalp and can strip the hair of its natural oil, this can lead to more severe dandruff and can exasperate psoriasis

Damaged cuticles/weakened hair structure: The active ingredient that is the hydroxide ion (OH-) in the relaxer works by breaking down the chemical bonds of the hair shaft thus disrupting the elliptical shape of the protein and allowing the reconstruction of the bonds such that the hair stand is straighter, rather than tightly curled. Reapplication means further processing of the protein, it doesn’t take long before the structural integrity is reduced such that the hair is brittle and porous.

 

Whilst there seems to be causal link between hair relaxers and uterine fibroids, it does not unequivocally prove that they are linked. It could be a higher genetic pre-disposition and the issue of early puberty may be linked to diet. However, given the variables it seems likely that the two are linked. Remember that all this is here to make you well informed, not to encourage some sort of hatred. When used correctly and occasionally (very occasionally), relaxers can be a great temporary solution.

‘No Lye Relaxers’

‘No-lye relaxers’ have an alternative of sodium hydroxide as the active ingredient so that’s either potassium hydroxide, lithium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide or guanidine hydroxide.The pH level is higher in a lye than a no-lye relaxer; approximately 12-14 for lye and 9-11 for no-lye (the natural pH of your hair is around 4-5.) The pH scale is a meausure of acidity and alkalinity from 1-14, 1 being very acidic, 14 being very alkali and 7 being neutral (water.)

This means that a no-lye relaxer is slightly milder and does not cause as much scalp irritation as lye-relaxers. However the dangers of lye relaxers apply in the same way to no-lye relaxers. A pH of 9-11 is still significantly higher than what your hair should be (4-5.) Calcium hydroxide has been known to make the hair more dry because of calcium build-up in the hair and if you leave it too long it can still do just as much damage.

 

I personally believe that hair relaxing is a temporary solution. You may be sitting there thinking, ‘what alternative do I really have then?’ Well, if you keep watching I will tell you exactly how you can stay naturally straight (or mostly naturally straight) without putting your health at risk each time. You can have it all!

To be continued…