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Losing Your Locks: Understanding and Coping with Hair Loss

By: Ivan Olegario, MD, MDevComLosing Your Locks: Understanding and Coping with Hair Loss

Hair has been called a person’s crowning glory because it is one of the most obvious and distinguishable features of our head. In fact, the hair industry, including salons and hair care products, is  a multi-billion industry. Thus, hair loss, which is usually gradual, can be distressing.

Know the problem

The first step in coping with hair loss is to find out its cause and hopefully, address it. The most common causes of hair loss are:

  • Family history (heredity)
  • Hormonal changes
  • Medical conditions
  • Medications

The first one, heredity, is something we can do little about. This is usually a problem more obvious in men and is termed pattern baldness. While men experience a progressively receding hairline, women usually experience a mere thinning of hair. If you notice a pattern of your father/mother/grandfather/grandmother experiencing hair loss, your hair loss could be due to heredity. We will discuss later how to cope with hereditary hair loss.

Hormonal changes can cause hair loss. These include an overactive thyroid gland, or hormonal changes during pregnancy, childbirth or menopause. Correction of hormonal changes usually resolve the problem, so visit a doctor if you suspect that your hair loss could be hormonal.

Medications may also cause hair loss. These include medications used to treat cancer, arthritis, heart problems, high blood pressure and depression. Birth control pills and high doses of vitamin A may also cause hair loss. If you are taking these medications, ask your doctor if there are alternative medicines that cause less hair loss.

If you do not have any of the first three conditions, then again see your doctor, because hair loss could be a symptom of a disease condition, such as thyroid disease (as mentioned), malnutrition, protein deficiency, anemia, infections (including scalp infections), or other diseases that stress out the body. Usually, treatment of these conditions will cause the return of hair growth.

Other causes of hair loss include excessive tension when tying the hair, and harsh hair and scalp treatments in certain individuals.

Patchy hair loss

Patchy hair loss deserves special mention here because it requires the special attention of a qualified dermatologist. Losing hair in patches could be due to a condition called alopecia areata. Here, the body’s immune system attacks the hair roots, causing hair to fall in patches. Scalp infections can also cause a similar patchy pattern. Both diseases can be treated, so see your derma ASAP.

Mane management

If your hair loss persists despite treatment of any underlying medical condition, or if you have hereditary hair loss, here are some tips to cope:

  • Minoxidil. This is an over-the-counter medicine that can be applied to the scalp to stop hairs from getting thinner and stimulate hair growth on the top of the scalp.
  • Laser devices. Some laser-emitting devices in brushes, combs, and other hand-held devices claim to stimulate hair growth. This hair growth-stimulating claim has NOT been verified. However, they can make your hair appear healthier, so it is worth a shot to beautify whatever hair is left.
  • Hair transplant and scalp surgery. There are many ways of doing hair transplant and scalp surgery. A dermatologist or hair transplant specialist can discuss the available options with you. Always check the credentials of the doctor and clinic performing hair transplant or other procedures on your scalp.

Sadly, there seems to be very little evidence that herbal treatments work.

Style it up

Changing your hairstyle may be one of the best ways to cope with hair loss. Forget about the “comb over” style. You aren’t fooling anybody. Many guys would embrace baldness and intentionally sport a sexy clean shaven look. But if a bald head is not your thing, try these hair styles instead:

1.    The Buzz Cut – It’s like your clean shave but you retain a short stubble all over your head.

2.    The Faux Hawk or Mohawk – Short and thin on the sides, long on top and styled to have a peak at the top. The difference between the faux hawk and the Mohawk is how much hair is retained on the sides, and how high the cut is. The Mohawk is more drastic, with a thinner and higher shave.

3.    Short Slicked Back – Like the faux hawk, this cut is thin on the sides. But instead of styling the top into a peak, style it slicked backwards.

4.    Short and Messy – This style requires growing your hair a bit long (around 4 inches, and then styling it with wax for a bedhead (just-got-out-of-bed) look.

5.    Military/Crew cut – This clean-cut actually looks good on most guys but will work well on receding hairlines and thinning hair, as the attention is drawn on the clean-cut rather than on the hairline. The downside of this cut is the frequent maintenance every two to three weeks.

For women with thinning hair, the key is to add volume to your hair. Here are some hair styling tips:

1.    Go for layered styles – layers easily add volume.

2.    Keep the ends choppy – the uneven ends hide evidence of hair thinning and give an illusion of volume

3.    Bob cut – the bob cut allows you to style the hair with some wax for volume, without looking like you are wearing a veil or a helmet.

4.    Add waves – like layers, waves add instant volume.

5.    Have fun with bangs/fringes – try sweeping your bangs to the side. This draws attention to your adventurous hairstyle rather than on the thinning hair.

The key to coping with hair loss is partnering up with your doctor, your dermatologist, and your hair stylist. With these three professionals behind you, you can be confident with your crowning glory.

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