The Challenge of Thinning Hair
Our hair is such an emblematic substance - isn't it? We associate it with beauty, health, vigour and fashion. The current fashion is mostly for shoulder length hair for women in their thirties and forties which looks wonderful with thick lustrous locks but not so good if the hair is quite fine and wispy. Hair undergoes gradual changes in both colour and texture as we age. Losing melanin impacts on the colour gradually turning it grey. This can start as early as age thirty, and in rare cases even younger, so that by the age of fifty the vast majority of women will have significant amounts of grey mixed with their natural colour. The texture may also change, becoming more wiry and in in some cases it may lose volume.
Going grey is a tricky subject for many women, but hair thinning and hair loss is even more difficult to cope with because it strikes at the heart of our femininity.
I come from a family with a lot of baldness, mostly on the male side(my brother and father both went bald in their twenties) and I also have an aunt who has worn a wig for as long as I can remember. I lost significant amounts of hair when I was menopausal and remember the panic I felt. A consultation with a trichologist reassured me that my hair loss was part of a normal cycle (see below) and would recover eventually. This week I thought I'd give you some ideas about how and why hair might begin to become less abundant with age and ways to protect your hair from undue harm.
Causes of Hair Loss in Older Women
Hair is actually dead protein (keratin) and its condition is a good barometer of general health
The body doesn't prioritise our hair when there are extra stresses, so poor condition can be a sign of various deficits caused by things like an inadequate diet, health issues, medication including chemo and radiotherapy and stressful life events. It can also suffer at our own hands if we treat it too roughly. The two main causes of hair loss in older females are Telogen Effluvium and Androgenetic Alopecia.
Telogen Effluvium literally means 'the outflow of hair from the follicles during their resting (telogen) stage'
It is the most common reason for you noticing a much greater than usual amount of hair clogging up the plug hole when you wash it. A normal head of hair contains around 150,000 individual strands which are produced by our hair follicles on average every three years. After this time they fall out and, after a brief rest of a couple of months, the follicle will start to produce new hair. This is a continuous cycle, so you would normally expect to lose around 100 hairs every day. If something happens to shock our system this normal cycle gets disrupted and more follicles get pushed into the telogen phase and we may start to shed around 300 hairs a day.
Typically this will happen after a major life event such as a period of severe stress, physical trauma, surgery or extreme weight loss
It's also common after childbirth and the menopause. This kind of loss is also associated with iron deficiency (anaemia) and thyroid problems,so it's a good idea to talk to your doctor if you are really worried, as you may need treatment for an underlying health issue. The most dramatic loss of hair is probably during chemotherapy when you may lose all your hair for a few months. For many women this can be one of the very worst aspects of an already traumatic situation. Happily Telogen Effluvium is temporary because the hair follicles are still able to produce hair so, once the crisis has passed, usually within six months or so, new hair will slowly start to grow back.
If your hair is thinning from behind the hairline to the crown then you will need to seek medical help as early as possible as you may have 'female pattern baldness.' The thinning may happen over a very long period but usually starts with a widening at the parting as the volume of hair decreases. There are therapies available including both drug and topical treatments such as Minoxidil but all the literature stresses the need for early diagnosis and treatment as the follicles start to produce much thinner hair and may eventually stop producing hair altogether. Be Kind to Your Hair! Whether you have thinning hair or not, we all need to treat our hair with great love and care as it's very easy to damage.
My Top Tips to Maintain Healthy Hair
1. When you wash your hair concentrate on the scalp rather than the hair for the first shampooing. You are getting rid of the build up of styling products, sebum and dirt on the scalp. Then gently massage the scalp which will stimulate blood flow to the follicles. Do the same with the second shampoo and then wash the actual hair. Rinse for twice as long as you have spent washing it.
2. Use a conditioner to smooth the hair so that any tangles can be released without yanking. Use a wide toothed comb for this rather than a bristled brush which might literally tear the hair out by the roots. Wet hair is much more vulnerable to breakage than dry hair.
3. Limit heat exposure by using lower settings on hairdryers and avoid curling tongs or straighteners which can make hair dry and brittle. If your hair is thin and fine in texture, it's best to have it cut in a short, loose style. Pulling longer hair back into a ponytail or chignon will stress the roots.
4. I use a volumising spray on the roots when I blow dry it to give it extra oomph. When it's dry I finish with a light spritz of hairspray (Kerastase Laque Noir) so that I don't have to touch my hair again until bedtime!
Note: Following the hair concerns I wrote about in this blog, I decided to do what I do best and create my own range of products! See below for my line of volume boosting, nourishing haircare products for mature hair...