Every day, humans shed about 100 hairs from our head, but women can lose even more than that. Here’s why and how you can get it shinier and healthier.
Your scalp has around 100,000 hair follicles, and every three years each of those follicles goes through a cycle of hair growth, with the hair resting and falling out, followed by growth of new hair.
Sometimes that pattern is disturbed, and either the hair doesn’t grow or it becomes finer, so women get thinning hair, hair loss and patches of baldness. Just over half of women suffer some hair loss and thinning as they age. In most cases it’s not noticeable, but for about 20 per cent of women the loss is more obvious and distressing.
“About 50 per cent of women in their 40s suffer some thinning. And now women are experiencing this problem in their 20s and 30s,” says trichologist David Salinger.
From sugar to diabetes and crash dieting, we look at six reasons behind female hair loss and thinning and what can help.
THE SUGAR EFFECT
“The amount of sugar in our diet is having an effect on our hair, and hidden sugars are part of the problem,” says David. Sugar causes inflammation and leads to white blood cells attacking the cells that produce hair. “When a woman has a normal level of insulin, it facilitates the conversion of testosterone back to estrogen,” says trichologist Anthony Pearce. Female hormones promote hair growth while male hormones, like testosterone, can aggravate hair loss.
Reduce sugar intake by reading food labels carefully, and if sugar is one of the first three ingredients listed, choose an alternative product, as the sugar content will be too high. Choose products with 15 g of sugar or less per 100 g.
“If you are 10 to 30 kg overweight, that will bring metabolic disturbance and hair loss,” says Anthony. Similarly, losing weight with a diet that cuts out key food groups is also a factor in thinning hair. Hair is made of protein, so not getting enough protein can affect hair growth. Similarly, iron and zinc deficiency can be linked to hair loss.
“With crash diets, you may see temporary hair loss because your hair is always three months behind the rest of your body,” says Salinger.
Follow the Health Promotion Board’s “My Healthy Plate” guide to ensure you get enough protein and minerals for healthy hair growth.
Excessive sugar can lead to insulin resistance – Finnish studies found women with high sugar diets and insulin resistance had a higher risk of hair loss.
3 Nourishing Shampoos To Feed Your Hair
Replenish lost nutrients and boost volume with these hair savers
1. This gentle formula features a patented strengthening technology and volumising polymers, to infuse limp and fine tresses with essential protein from deep within.
John Frieda Luxurious Volume Core Restore Shampoo, $15.90 (250 ml).
2. Formulated for women with thinning hair, this botanical shampoo contains tomato stem cell to intensely hydrate and condition hair, as well as sweet almond fruit extract for a shine boost.
PHS Hairscience FEM Fortify Shampoo, $39 (200 ml).
3. This luxurious sulphate-free shampoo by the renowed Italian hairstylist works to prolong the growing phase of your hair’s life cycle, and is rich in natural extracts for stronger tresses.
Rossano Ferretti Vita Rejuvenating Shampoo, $80 (200 ml).
“Some birth control pills can trigger hair thinning because they have a male hormone influence,” explains David. Diane-35, Yaz and Yasmin have a weaker male hormone effect than some Pills. If you are taking the Pill and feel it is affecting your hair, speak to your GP about alternative birth control.
Our body releases a natural substance called nerve growth factor when we are stressed. This causes the nerves around the hair follicle to become agitated and inflamed and leads to diffuse hair loss.
“Stress also increases cortisone, a hormone released by the adrenal gland. It has a similar effect to male hormones and so leads to thinning,” says David.
“And with extreme stress women can develop alopecia areata – circular patches of baldness that crop up quite quickly, within a week of two.”
Last year, scientists at Columbia University Medical Centre in the US found 75 per cent of patients with moderate to severe alopecia areata saw hair regrowth improve after they were treated with a drug called ruxolitinib. The drug identifies the immune cells that cause the inflammation that damages the hair follicles.
3 Scalp-Nurturing Elixirs To Try
From soothing inflamed scalps to giving a nutritive boost
1. Packed with toning and anti-inflammatory orange and lavender essential oils, this scalp treatment generates a soothing warm sensation when massaged into the scalp to encourage microcirculation.
René Furterer COMPLEXE 5 Regenerating Plant Extract, $80.60 (50 ml).
2. Soothe a stressed scalp and hydrate dry, ageing hair with this pre-shampoo treatment that contains only eight ingredients of 99 per cent natural origin, including organic lavender essential oil.
L’Oréal Botanicals Fresh Care Lavender Pre-shampoo Oil, $23.90 (150 ml).
3. This fortifying serum contains a high concentration of active ingredients that work to invigorate the scalp and thus boost the growth of stronger, radiant hair right from the roots.
Phytodensia Plumping Serum, $65 (30 ml).
PERIMENOPAUSE AND MENOPAUSE
Scarring alopecia is a common problem after menopause, mostly occurring along the front hair line and front sides of the scalp. Caused by a loss of female hormones it leads to white blood cells attacking and scarring hair follicles. Hormone replacement therapy can help. “Eyebrows can be affected too. You can’t see scars on the scalp, but you see a little redness or a small scale around the follicle,” says David. A specialist may also prescribe an amino acid called tyrosine or recommend steroids to treat scarring alopecia. For those experiencing fluctuating hormones, doctors may also recommend minoxidil, an over-the-counter drug.
There’s not a lot you can do about your genetics, but knowing if you are more prone to thinning hair or hair loss can encourage you to act when you notice your hair is changing.
“Genetics are a major factor and for a woman to have genetic thinning, she will inherit the genes from both parents,” says David. “And it can be that both parents have wonderful hair but their daughter gets genetic thinning.”
The good news is that advances are being made in treating hair loss and thinning. The latest aesthetic clinics use cutting-edge laser or stem cell treatments to stimulate the scalp and fortify hair from a cellular level. These are typically minimally- or non-invasive, with little to no downtime.
3 Trichologist-Approved Treatments To Curb Hair Loss
Get to the root of the problem at the hands of hair experts
1. Hair Restoration Program at Radium Medical Aesthetics. This minimally-invasive treatment is a combination of laser and PDRN therapy. The former delivers hair regrowth actives deep into the scalp and stimulate hair follicles, while the latter works to repair and strengthen the scalp. At $3,588 for 10 sessions; call 6837 0507 to enquire.
2. Miracle Stem Cell Solution at PHS Hairscience. Best enjoyed with the Oxy Infusion treatment for maximum efficacy, this advanced formula addresses five hair loss variants, including alopecia areata, to revive hair follicles and maximise the hair growth phase. At $392 (for box of six vials and application); call 6692 0662 to enquire.
3. Hair Filler Treatment at Svenson. For stress-related thinning or very severe hair loss, this non-invasive treatment slowly releases active ingredients right into hair roots to decongest follicles, boost microcirculation and block the formation of harmful DHT which causes hair fall. At $300, call 1800 7777 333 to make an appointment.