Thinning hair isn’t something that just happens to us in our ‘golden years’. Nor is alopecia a condition that only plagues men. Each year, millions of women of varying ages are affected by hair loss and not only on the scalp—many also suffer thinning in their eyelashes and eyebrows. In fact, 40 percent of women have visible hair loss by the time they are age 40, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
While it is considered socially acceptable for men to lose hair and even shave their scalp completely, the impact of hair loss for women goes beyond the physical appearance of patchy, thinning hair; there can be emotional ramifications as well, including depression, frustration and loss of self-confidence.
But is female pattern baldness preventable? Is it reversible? Let’s first take a high-level view of some of the primary causes of hair loss.
PRIMARY CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS
There are two primary causes of hair loss: genetic and reactive. While you can’t control your genetics, you can control reactive causes of thinning hair.
It is important to know that what you do today may not affect your hair tomorrow, but will certainly have a significant impact on the hair growth condition of your‘future self. The hair growth and loss cycle is a lengthy process, no pun intended.
Let’s take a look at the four primary stages of hair growth:
Anagen Phase – The growth phase, where derma papilla send nutrients and growth signals to the hair follicles. The longer this period, the longer hair has time to grow. As we age, the anagen growth phase declines due to increased levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and decreased levels of IGF-1 and microRNA31, resulting in inflammation, calcification and restriction of circulation.
Catagen Phase – The derma papilla begins separating from the hair follicle, signaling that the growth phase is over (triggered by an increase in microRNA22 production transmitters - these increase as we age).
Telogen Phase – The follicle goes into hibernation. This phase is shorter in children but gets longer as we age.
Exogen Phase – This is the phase whereby the derma papilla begins forming new hairs (this phase begins to weaken and slow as we age). Over time, DHT will shrink the hair follicle until hair can no longer grow.
To summarize, under normal conditions, scalp hairs live for about three years (the anagen, or growing, phase); they then enter the telogen, or resting, phase. During the three-month telogen period, the hair root shrivels up into a small "club," then the hair falls out. It is therefore normal to lose about 100 hairs every day, more of them on days when shampooing loosens the hairs that are ready to fall out. Then the cycle repeats, though with age, at a slower pace.
Normally, about 10 percent of scalp hairs are in the telogen phase. Several circumstances produce a "shock to the system" that alters the hair growth rhythm. As a result, as much as 30-40 percent of the hairs can cycle into telogen, resulting in a massive shedding, or effluvium, especially near the front of the scalp, at the end of the three-month phase.
TIPS FOR PREVENTING HAIR-LOSS
The following tips can help to prevent the systematic shocks mentioned above that cause reactive hair loss:
1. Reduce/Eliminate Stress—This is easier said than done, of course, but possible nonetheless. Stress can raise androgen (male hormone) and cortisol levels, which in turn can cause hair loss. Stress can also disrupt healthy eating patterns, causing dietary deficiencies that lead to hair loss or breakage.
2. Eat A Balanced, Nutrient-Rich Diet-Vitamin B-12, iron, biotin, collagen, complex carbohydrates and protein are all essential to healthy hair growth. Iron deficiency, or anemia, is one of the most common causes of hair loss in women, as it is essential for producing hair cell protein. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can affect the health of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your tissues. Vegans need to be aware of this, as they are lacking animal protein, a primary source of B-12.
3. Avoid Rapid Weight Loss—Losing weight too fast can cause hair loss, as it can present a shock to your system. Weather intentional or unintentional, you are likely to find excess amounts of hair falling out. Unintentional weight loss can often signal a health problem, which in turn can further the hair loss process. Therefore, keeping all your systems in check is essential to keep your locks healthy as well.
4. Don’t Over Style or Over Product—Color or other chemical processing, heat styling, alcohol or sulfate-based products can all dry, break or damage your hair from roots to ends. As we age, our hair becomes thinner, more brittle and dry, making it more susceptible to thinning. Try to go au natural more often and give your hair a break from the abuse of styling. Hair ties and clips can also strain, stretch and pull causing more stress to your follicles and strands.
5. Add Natural, Clean Hair-Growth Products to your Beauty & Wellness Regimen—There are new scientifically-backed hair growth topicals and supplements made with potent plant-based adaptogens (including my favorite new bioactive for combating hair loss, CBD) that improve and strengthen scalp hair, eyelashes and eyebrows by increasing circulation, reducing inflammation and lengthening your anagen phase by inhibiting the body’s ability to convert hormones into DHT.
Hair loss is a complicated issue with many underlying causes and therefore often requires a holistic or multi-faceted approach in order for it to be treated effectively. Until very recently, both medically prescribed and over-the-counter treatments for hair loss were nearly singular in their focus. At VEGAMOUR we approach hair loss from multiple angles with leave-in topical formulations applied directly to specific problem areas as well as with powerful nutraceuticals packed with natural bioactives, vitamins and minerals engineered for maximum bioavailability to work in tandem for visible results.
This inside-out approach to natural hair wellness helped lead us to one of our most exciting new discoveries - the impact of CBD on hair loss. When used properly, CBD not only helps grow hair by reducing inflammation and increasing blood circulation around the hair follicles when applied topically, but taken orally it’s been clinically shown to improve stress, anxiety and sleep, thereby reducing cortisol levels (excess cortisol production is known to cause both hair loss and weight gain).
THERE’S STILL TIME
Since the best way to help your clients keep their hair is to do something about it while you still have some, there’s no time like the present to be proactive with nurturing those lovely locks. However, if your clients already lost a significant amount of hair, you can still take many of the steps above to begin reversing the process as well as prevent or slow down additional hair loss. If your clients have health concerns or suspect that you may be suffering from hair loss due to more serious conditions, please persuade them to consult a doctor.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Hodgdon is the Co-Founder and CEO of VEGAMOUR, a vegan hair wellness company that uses powerful, plant-derived actives with proven clinical and visible results. The son of an engineer who grew up abroad, Hodgdon acquired a keen interest in international cultures and biodiversity and would go on to spend years both researching plant actives and creating sustainable, eco-friendly supply chains for major beauty brands around the globe. Hodgdon established a Fair Trade co-op that sustainably harvests natural bioactives, including one of the company’s staple ingredients, marula oil, while providing sustainable, eco-friendly work to over 5,000 women in southern Africa. Hodgdon also works with his own family farm in rural Vermont to produce organically grown hemp for the wellness industry. With a belief that a healthy planet is a happy planet, Hodgdon operates VEGAMOUR with mindfulness toward social impact and ethical responsibility.