Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

By Shantini Suntharajah

Men aren’t the only ones who struggle with hair loss – women do too. If you’re worried you might be in danger of losing your crowning glory, here’s a guide that will help demystify the problem.

Everyone experiences hair loss everyday and it’s usually nothing to be worried about.

In fact, it’s perfectly normal to lose about 50 to 100 strands each day. On the days you wash your hair, even more hair will fall – up to 250 strands. Those with healthy hair don’t even notice this seemingly alarming daily loss because the hair grows back like clockwork.

Hair loss only becomes a problem when this regular, efficient cycle of hair loss and growth is interrupted, which is exactly what happens to those suffering from alopecia.

The word alopecia is a general term used to describe many different variants of the condition such as alopecia areata, which refers to patchy hair loss and usually results in bald spots on the head. There’s also a more universal form known as alopecia totalis, which means there is a total loss of scalp hair even though mechanisms for hair follicle growth are still in place. Alopecia takes on its most severe form with alopecia universalis when hairs across the whole body, including eyebrow hairs and lashes, fall away.


The Alarm Bells

How do you know if the hair that ends up on your hairbrush or in the shower drain everyday is within the healthy 50 to 100 range? Actually, you don’t. It’s impossible to guess the number of strands by just looking at them and if you’re like most people, you don’t have the time (or the inclination) to count each one!

The better, more efficient, option is to forget about the hair you lose and concentrate on the hair you have.  Be aware of any changes like a hair part that is gradually becoming wider or more of your scalp showing when you pull your hair back into a ponytail.

Check your scalp regularly for bald patches. Typically patches that indicate alopecia are either round or oval in shape and they’re completely hairless and smooth. You should also look for tiny, short hairs around the margin of the patch, known as ‘exclamation-mark hairs.’  These fine hairs are tapered at the base and all it takes is a gentle tug to release them from their roots.

Sometimes, alopecia causes intense itching on the scalp, especially just before a significant amount of hair falls although hair loss can occur with no irritation at all. Some people also report redness on the surface of their scalps.

There are a number of other fairly telling visual cues that point to a possible case of alopecia. Take a quick glance at your pillow when you wake up each morning to see if there are an unusually high number of strands there. You might also notice large amounts of hair on your hairbrush even when you brush really, really gently.


Causes Behind The Losses

Alopecia can be caused by many factors and sometimes the culprit is part of who you are. For both men and women, hair loss is often hereditary and your genetic code can be the root cause behind the condition

While you can’t do much to restructure your genes, there are plenty of other triggers that you can control such as stress. Alopecia is known to appear in those who live with high levels of tension and pressure. Sudden traumas like a death in the family or an accident can also trigger hair loss and so can extreme weight loss over a short period of time.

Too much manipulation can cause clumps of strands to come away in your hands so do take the trouble to treat your hair as gently as possible.  Blow dryers, flat irons, hairbrushes with harsh bristles, chemicals in dyes and sprays should not be used with abandon.

Medical conditions such as thyroid disorders, anemia, autoimmune diseases, polycystic ovary syndrome and skin conditions such as psoriasis have been known to cause alopecia. Pregnancy and menopause are also known triggers. However, despite popular belief, alopecia doesn’t just happen to older people. It’s fairly widespread among those in their 20s and 30s and sometimes, even rears its ugly head among teenagers.

Fortunately, excessive hair fall due to these external factors is generally temporary although you should visit a doctor if you perceive an ongoing problem.


Dealing With Alopecia

The effects of alopecia can be traumatic enough for a man but for a woman, the loss of her crowning glory is catastrophic.  The good news is many forms of alopecia are reversible.

The first thing to do is to admit there’s a problem. Alopecia like any other condition is better treated by a medical expert as early as possible and every day that goes by without medical attention only serves to worsen the issue. Remember: the more hair you lose, the lower your chances for complete re-growth. This means you should see a medical practitioner as soon as you suspect something is amiss. Sometimes, even tell tale signs show up a little too late. A wide part, for instance, only occurs when nearly half your hair is already gone!

Alopecia certainly inspires feelings of frustration or even fear but many people have also said that it led to improved self-confidence and heightened inner peace once they accepted the fact that their self-image stretched far beyond physical appearances. They were also more aware of stress levels and took extra better care of themselves.

In many cases, these new lifestyle habits put them on the path to a better life – and beautiful hair.


 Celebs Who’ve Lost It

Celebrities may appear to have perfectly-coiffed hair dos but sometimes, there are secrets behind those tresses! It appears that many celebrities suffer from a reversible form of alopecia called traction alopecia.


The hottest member of the Black Eyed Peas struggled with thinning hair. According to published reports, the singer became concerned when she noticed a widening part and was diagnosed with traction alopecia. Experts believe Fergie’s hair loss was due to the constant pulling and tugging which occurs when elaborate hair extensions are put in place.

Naomi Campbell

Photos of the short-tempered supermodel showing shocking bald patches emerged a few years ago. A horrifying, hairless section of scalp was visible on one side of Naomi’s head. Like Fergie, Naomi is believed to have experienced temporary hair loss due to hair extensions, which pull on natural hair. Experts say it generally takes between 3 months and a year for hair to grow back.

Victoria Beckham

Mrs. David Beckham has a permanent pout on her face and it might be because of her hair loss. Victoria has previously admitted to using complicated extensions to accentuate her natural hair. Apparently, the ex Spice Girl has dealt with temporary hair loss due to the wear and tear on her hair follicles.

Britney Spears

Britney went voluntarily bald during her public meltdown a number of years back and it may not have been the first time she’s been hairless! Years of chemical treatments and extensions seem to have led to traction alopecia. Experts also believe that in Britney’s case, stress, diets and medication have played huge roles in her hair loss.

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