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Our hair is one of the most prominent features in our appearance. We spend long hours caring for it by brushing, washing, using hair masks and arranging it in elaborate hairdos. The way our hair looks even affects our moods and how we feel – we feel good when it looks well-groomed and at its best and embarrassed when we have a bad hair day and it looks listless or lacks luster.
The hair on our head is composed of thousands of hairs; a healthy head has 70,000 – 120,000 strands of hair, which have a life cycle consisting of three phases:
The anagen phase – the hair growth phase. The hair on the scalp spends two to six years in the anagen phase. The duration of this phase has the greatest impact on the final length of the hair – the longer the anagen phase, the longer the final length of the hair.
The catagen phase – the regression phase of the hair cycle. This phase continues for approximately three weeks, during which hair growth stops.
The telogen phase - the resting phase of the hair. By the onset of this phase, the hair has reached its full length and remains in place; however, the hair growing beneath it will slowly push it out to the hair follicle opening. The telogen phase continues for about three months, and ends when the hair, which has completed its growth, falls and a new strand of hair appears in its place.
While the average person loses approximately fifty to one hundred hairs a day during the routine acts of washing and brushing their hair, some people have greater hair loss, which significantly thins the hair and brings about the appearance of paths, temple hair loss and a receding hairline.
What causes hair loss?
There are a variety of reasons for accelerated hair loss, which cause thinning and even baldness:
Poor nutrition and extreme diets – unbalanced nutrition, alongside unchecked changed in the daily menu result a deficiency in vitamins, minerals and in other essential nutrients. This deficiency impairs the appearance of the skin, nails and hair, which lose their natural luster and flexibility and sustain damage to their growth.
A high frequency of external treatments – a large percent of the treatments designed to change the hair’s appearance are likely to harm it. Chemically straightening the hair, repeatedly dying it, blow-drying, hair extensions and unrestrained use of chemical substances are prone to result in dry and brittle hair, the loss of its natural flexibility and increased hair loss. In addition, extended traction (pulling) of the hair by means of pony tails or braids, weakens the hair follicle and increases the rate of hair loss.
Extended exposure to sunlight – the UV radiation harms three areas of the hair: the lipid layer, which covers the surface of the hair and protects it, the intercellular substance, which protects the hair from external damage and the innermost layer containing the keratin chains, which are the primary component of the hair.
The result is a decline in the amount of melanin, which give the hair its unique color, brittle and vulnerable hair, and an elevated level of split ends.
Tension and stress – it is a well-known fact that tension and stress cause a wide variety of physical problems and impair the proper function of essential systems in the body. Moreover, they may also lead to hair loss and baldness. Tension causes a decrease in the blood flow rate and as a result, a deficient supply of essential nutrients to the hair. The accumulated deficiency causes a loss of flexibility, fading color and luster, a deceleration of the hair’s growth rate and even hair loss.
Medicines – one of the side effects of many of the medicines currently on the market is increased hair thinning and loss: contraceptive pills, cortisone, antipsychotic medicines such as lithium, acne pills such as Raccutane (Isotretinoin), Coumadin (Warfarin) and nystatins (against high cholesterol) and even certain types of antibiotics.
Dysfunction of the thyroid gland – the thyroid, which is in charge of the metabolism in the body, affects the production of proteins and increases the amount of oxygen in the various tissues. When the thyroid’s function is compromised, the hair does not receive the nutrients it requires, which may result in increased hair loss.
How Can I Protect My Hair?
There are a number of ways we can help our hair stay healthy and reduce hair loss:
A balanced diet – proper, varied nutrition provides the hair follicles with the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy hair. It is crucial to eat foods containing vitamins essential to the hair and scalp.
Avocado – contains fat soluble vitamin E, which serves as an antioxidant and helps in maintaining a healthy scalp.
Flax seeds/ omega 3 rich fish – studies have shown that omega 3 assists in reducing dandruff and itching of the scalp and increases hair health.
Green tea – the antioxidants abundant in green tea help the body neutralize toxins in the blood. Bloods which does not contain a high concentration of toxins flows better, which helps it reach the scalp area and provide essential nutrients to the hair roots.
Medicinal plants and essential oils – there are a number of plants which are known to strengthen the hair and remove waste:
The nettle and the equisetum are the recommended medicinal herbs for treating hair loss. Their function is most effective in combination with medicinal plants which help in detoxifying the body such as: thistle, dandelion, schisandra and turmeric and with medicinal plants which stimulate blood flow such as Ginkgo biloba. In addition, there are several essential oils which help prevent hair loss such as rosemary, lavender, cinnamon, cedar, geranium and salvia Sclarea. Whether one choses medicinal plants or essential oils, it is important to consult with a specialist to tailor them to your personal needs.
Physical activity – exercising improves blood flow and detoxification processes. Doing exercises such as shoulder stands, or lying on the mattress and lifting the legs straight up, causes increased blood flow to the scalp and assists in the growth of stronger and healthier hair.
Using natural shampoo – synthetic shampoo may contain chemical substances such as SLS which do not contribute to physical health in general and hair health in particular. Natural shampoo containing medicinal plant extracts, vitamins and minerals, proteins and antioxidants, which are essential to hair health and protect the hair and the scalp, are preferable.