Alopecia can happen for a variety of reasons ranging from simple vitamin deficiencies to cancer and the related treatments. (Don’t assume you have cancer because you’re losing hair). If you read the fashion magazines though, you might have an idea of the many things that your hair can tell you. If your hair is thick or thin, shiny or dry, etc can give you an idea of your overall health.
Most of the time, unless you buy certain hair sprays, your hair will never actually look like the well glossed, long hair you see in the commercials. Don’t dismay though, you don’t have to be afraid to look in the mirror or panic. Just know what kind of risk factors to look for.
Lots of Hair Loss
You could lose up to 100 hairs a day on an average day, and when I lived with one roommate in particular, I’m pretty sure she lost 1000. It depends on the person. However, if you are actually noticing whole fistfuls of hair coming out of your head without major pulling incidents, you should be concerned. It could be a sign of something called PCOS or Polycystic ovary syndrome. PCOS essentially tels your ovaries to produce more androgens (male sex hormones), contributing to what may look like male pattern baldness.
What do you do?
Up to 1 in 15 women may struggle with this problem. For most though, eating whole, unprocessed foods, exercising for 30 minutes a day, and losing weight can balance out hormones and help you to stop the hair loss. Taking birth control may also help you to regulate your period, controlling hormones, etc. Finally, of course, make sure to use a good quality shampoo to maintain a healthy scalp.
Fine & Limp
If your once thick hair has suddenly become thin and limp (it’s different if it was always that way), it could be hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. In other words, something could be wrong with your thyroid, a tiny little butterfly shaped gland in your throat. You may be familiar with this group of diseases, because everybody and their dog likes to blame their thyroid for their problems with excess weight. Kids, it goes both ways. An overactive thyroid could make it extremely difficult to lose weight or even maintain weight, and when your heart is suddenly racing, it’s pretty scary. Likewise, when you are always cold, your heart skips beats, and you feel sluggish all the time, it’s also pretty scary. Most thyroid disorders (which are rare anyway) are mild, and a thyroid disorder severe enough to cause bulging eyes, extreme weight changes, or even hair loss are even more rare.
What do you do?
If you find your hair becoming limp and thin, don’t automatically assume you have anything. It might just be getting older, or you may just need a new shampoo. If it is combined with other symptoms though such as being tired all the time, being hot or cold all the time, strange heart rhythms, depression, etc, you should go see your doctor. Again, DO NOT automatically assume thyroid disorder, let alone pass that onto your doctor. Let them do their job. This is just a possibility.
Hair Falling Out Only in Patches
If you specifically find yourself losing dime and quarter size patches of hair, it could be classified as alopecia aratha. Experts believe that this is an autoimmune disorder. Your immune system sees healthy cells as somehow threatening and therefore attacks. It could be proceeded by something like pregnancy or some kind of serious illness. The problem for many is that even when patches grow back in, another bald patch will appear.
What do you do?
In some cases according to experts, something as simple as a cortisone shot could help. DO NOT give yourself any treatments beyond a new shampoo or conditioner including cortisone shots. It is essential that you consult with your doctor. It could be as simple as your personal response to stress, or it could be more serious. Your doctor has done years of research and work, and he or she will have a better idea than you or I what is going on with your body. He may just tell you to sign up for yoga or meditate once a day.
If you’re young and you suddenly start seeing gray or white hair, it’s probably just genetic. Some people get speckles, some get patches, and no, it is NOT true that you get a white patch of hair when you get scared. It’s usually perfectly natural. However, if you are under the age of 35 and you have a lot of gray hair, you might want to try a Vitamin B12 or folic acid supplement. Some studies have suggested you may be short. You should be able to get the right amounts of these and other essential vitamins in a basic multivitamin from your local grocery store.
What to do?
Like I said, take a multivitamin. If vitamins aren’t your think, try eating more red meat, shellfish, eggs, poultry, and milk for vitamin B12. In addition, try eating more greens, beans, and fortified grains to get a little more folic acid.
Dry, Flaky Scalp
The most obvious problem would be dandruff. It’s embarrassing, and unfortunately, we don’t have one core cause. You could definitely buy head and shoulders or another dandruff shampoo, but they aren’t meant to be used long term. Most experts recommend finding the underlying causes whether that be stress, you’re not scrubbing your scalp well enough, or numerous other issues.
What should you do?
Do a little experimenting to figure out what the underlying problem is. Try taking an omega supplement or eat more salmon and sardines to get your omega fatty acids. Try scrubbing your scalp a little more when you wash. Take a minute to relax and de-stress every day. Doing little things like this might help you with more problems than you might think.
Strands that break
Vegetarians and vegans are especially at risk if not taking care to get enough protein. Your hair is made up of a protein called keratin, and since meat has the easiest source of protein…. If you are getting plenty of protein or enough, it could be that your hair is suffering from too much styling. If you’re straightening, curling, etc your hair every day, your hair could be feeling the pain.
What should you do?
Try to get at least 68g of protein throughout the day in your diet. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, try eating more nuts, tofu, and other sources of natural protein. Get a soy protein supplement or even a rice protein blend. You can also use protein shampoos, but from what I’ve seen, the results are somewhat questionable. In addition, turn down your styling tools heat settings. Prevent damage and fortify your hair a little more at the same time, and you should be fine.