“Hair loss is distressing for both men and women. For women, beautiful hair is a symbol of femininity and many women feel their sexual appeal is taken away from them when their hair thins. An estimated 1 in 4 women will suffer hair loss at some point in their lives and over 50% of men will see significant hair changes by the time they reach middle age which can affect confidence and cause unwanted stress” says Trichologist Sally-Ann Tarver, Director of The Cotswold Trichology Centre and Theradome GB. The causes of hair loss are not always the same for women as men, therefore the steps to better hair may also vary. The following are key suggestions for achieving better hair and their relevance to men or women.
Nutritional Deficiencies, Thyroid Imbalance & Blood Tests
Unexplained hair loss can be an initial symptom of health changes. Therefore the first step should be to test for some of the most common reasons; Ferritin, vitamin B12, vitamin D and Thyroid imbalance can be blood tested and the results compared with optimum levels.
Heavy periods, vegetarianism or regular blood donation can lead to low serum Ferritin, the protein that stores iron in the body. Low iron is one of the most common mineral deficiencies in young women with hair thinning. However, low Zinc is more common in men.
Vitamin B12 and D are relatively common deficiencies in diffuse hair loss sufferers. Reasonable dietary B12 can only be obtained from animal sources which is why the deficiency is common in Vegetarians. Once considered rare, pernicious anaemia (the autoimmune form of B12 deficiency) is treated with injections. Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise as 85% is made via our skin during sun exposure. Over recent times we have become educated on sun exposure; to cover up, seek shade and use high SPF to prevent burning, hence the increase in deficiency rates.
Thyroid conditions, particularly hypothyroidism can cause thinning hair and is common in postmenopausal women. The condition also causes hair to become dry, lead to brittle nails, weight gain and tiredness. Hypothyroidism is monitored and treated by your GP; it is a fine balance to get the level right before hair will improve.
Relevance to Women: Very relevant for all women.
Relevance to Men: These imbalances less commonly cause hair loss in men but are still worth ruling out, particularly if you are vegetarian, suffer nerve related symptoms, are tired or see little daylight.
Assess Your Diet & Lifestyle
Hair is considered a barometer of health so no surprises poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle contribute to its decline. Keratin, the sulphur containing protein that hair is made of relies on dietary protein for its composition. Thus a low protein will result in finer weaker hair and in more extreme cases colour changes or lightening. Optimum dietary protein is dependent on size, age, gender and activity level. The easiest way to calculate your needs is via an online calculator but be mindful, most calculate combined total dietary protein rather than complete protein – which is more essential and useful to hair growth.
Relevance to Women: Women tend to have lower protein diets and skip meals due to busy lives. Dieting should not affect hair growth if weight loss comes by healthy eating. However, severe calorie restriction over a long period of time often causes a proportion of hair follicles to shut down in an attempt to conserve energy. Hair needs energy to grow, just like any other part of the human body.
Relevance to Men: Although diet is less relevant in male hair loss it can still be a factor in the acceleration of male pattern baldness. Men tend to be relatively good with protein due to the caveman instinct but poorer with “five a day”, particularly men who cook for themselves.
Get Expert Advice
If you’ve noticed that your hair is thinning or your scalp is more visible, don’t ignore it – seek advice. A Trichologist can help determine the cause and set you on the right track to regaining your hair or at least help make suggestions to slow down the decline. Often there are multiple factors involved, a Trichologist should be able to look at the whole picture and suggest a plan of action.
Relevance to Women: Women’s hair loss tends to be more complicated than men’s, which makes self diagnosis difficult.
Relevance to Men: Men’s hair loss tends to be easier to diagnose but an expert can advise which treatments will be most beneficial dependent on your current hair state.
What if Hair Loss is Not A Diet Or Lifestyle Problem?
If you think your hair loss is more of a hereditary problem, then supplements, diet and lifestyle changes will be of little help. There are a number of treatments on the market for hereditary hair loss or Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA). Prescription medication for AGA in men is widely used but carry a small risk of side effects. Topical treatments such as certain lotions and foams work by increasing nitric oxide in the scalp to cause Vasodilation (increased blood flow), thereby stimulating hair growth. Laser phototherapy (LPT) has recently found favour in the fight against hereditary hair loss and also increases nitric oxide. LPT’s light energy stimulates hair growth, as well as improving hair shaft quality with little risk of side effects.
Until recently laser phototherapy was expensive and time consuming with laser clinics being the only option for treatment. A number of home-use lasers are available on the market with Theradome’s 80 laser helmet coming closest to a clinic strength treatment. (www.theradomeforhairloss.co.uk
Relevance to Women: Prescription medications are not available for long- term use in Female AGA. Topical treatments and lasers can be used together or separately. However many women find laser therapy more user friendly as no product is applied to the hair. It appears to be relatively effective in post-menopausal women particularly in the absence of any other underlying factors.
Relevance to Men: It is important to be reasonable about expectations from hair loss treatments. The effective treatment of AGA in men is really determined by age and speed of thinning. A man in his 30’s or older who notices the early signs of hair thinning should see a benefit in using either topical treatment, lasers or a combination of the two. If younger and hair is rapidly disappearing, it would be wise to begin prescription medication and a combination of topical treatment, laser therapy or all three for the best chance of stopping the loss and re-growing hair. It is essential to treat early as once hair growth potential is exhausted the only option is surgery!
About Sally-Ann Tarver
Sally-Ann Tarver is a leading Trichologist with more than 20 years experience at the cutting edge of diagnosis, treatment and advice on all aspects of hair loss and scalp problems. Sally-Ann Tarver MIT.FTTS, established The Cotswold Trichology Centre in 1998, which is one of the UK’s leading Trichology clinics for adults and children.
She originally qualified as a Trichologist from The Institute of Trichologists in 1997. After which she became a Licentiate of the Trichological Society (LTTS) in 2000 and after three years experience in a full time practice she became a full member of the Institute (MIT) in 2001. She has also practiced in Harley Street London, served as the President of The Trichological Society from 2008-2010 and awarded a Fellowship (FTTS) in 2014 for her outstanding commitment and contribution to Trichology.
Now, Sally-Ann uses her many years of experience and learning to understand the complexity of hair and scalp disease to advise her patients on Alopecia Areata, Alopecia Totalis, male baldness, female hair loss, sudden hair loss, itchy flaky scalp conditions, hair damage and condition issues. In conjunction with expert advice on hair loss and scalp problems, she also offers a wig supply and fitting service.
For more information, please visit www.cots-tri.co.uk and www.theradomeforhairloss.co.uk