21 January 2010
The hair is a very sexual part of the body: a secondary sexual organ --- the only part of your body that you can always flaunt. So it stands to reason that if you start to lose it, your confidence takes a big knock.
Female hair loss is a hugely underestimated problem. Increasingly younger women are losing their hair, but no one talks about it. It is one of the big beauty taboos.
Some facts about hair loss:
1.An estimated 50 per cent of women suffer from hair loss at some point.
2.Increased hair shedding can be caused by illness, high fever, chemotherapy, low iron levels, nutritional deficiencies or excesses, stress, or having a baby.
3.Some hair loss can be due to prolonged tension --- tight ponytails, braiding, extensions or weaves.
4.Hair loss can be influenced by the presence of androgens (male hormones), for example, in the case of PCOS.
Something about diet:
We think that we are being healthy by filling ourselves with vegetables and fruit, but we tend to forget all about the building block of nutrition --- protein.
Lots of young women are in a hurry, so just eat cereal and fruit. That is not a great breakfast. That first meal of the day is the most important for your hair and you need first-class protein --- fish, fowl, meat, eggs, cottage cheese --- to keep it strong. Then more protein for lunch, with vegetables. The evening meal is the least important, hair-wise, so eat whatever you fancy.
Some scalp problems:
Contrary to popular belief, dandruff (pityriasis capitis) is not dry scalp. Most dandruff is oily so there is no point in putting on oil and rubbing it in, to cure your dry scalp – it will only make the oily flakes oilier – and stickier. Pityriasis capitis affects most people at some time in their life, often temporarily and fluctuating. Research indicates that it is stimulated by a micro-organism normally present on everyone’s scalp as part of the skin’s normal flora - so you can’t catch it as you already have it.
The skin’s secretions control the organism, keeping it at a certain level. Adverse changes in the secretions, however, enable the micro-organism to flourish, causing the scalp to produce skin flakes faster – dandruff flakes. The extra rapidity of skin production and an increase in sebum, cause the flakes to become oily and stick to the scalp. Reasons for adverse changes in skin secretions can be stress, hormone changes in both sexes, diet, cosmetic products and poor hygiene.
Dandruff is simple to clear by using an effective shampoo and leave in scalp tonic for flaky and itchy scalps. However, it may re-occur if left untreated.
Most experts now agree that this condition and pityriasis capitis (dandruff) are related disorders. Seborrhoeic dermatitis occurs when the skin becomes inflamed, and even more sebum is produced making larger stickier flakes. The condition is seen mostly in those areas of the skin where there are relatively more sebaceous glands, ie: scalp and face (particularly along the eyebrows and skin folds adjacent to the nose, upper chest and back. The cause of seborrhoeic dermatitis is unknown although there is often a family history of the problem. Like dandruff, it is not contagious
Frequent shampooing with flaky/itchy scalp products is essential. Initially the use of Philip Kingsley scalp mask would also be beneficial to reduce the build-up of flaking on the scalp. It is a recurring complaint and ongoing treatment with the shampoo and tonic, either solely or in conjunction with another shampoo chosen for the hair type is essential to control the condition. A reduction of dairy food intake may also be helpful.
The terms ‘eczema’ and ‘dermatitis’ tend to be used synonymously, describing inflammatory changes in the skin. The principal signs are inflammation and scaling caused by abnormal production of cells in the upper layers of the epidermis, which may be loose and thin or thick, and may be accompanied by weeping. Mild to severe itching often accompanies the condition. Fissures or splits in the skin may occur.
Allergic or ‘contact’ eczema (or dermatitis) occurs when the skin comes into contact with chemicals – natural or synthetic – that provoke an allergic response. There are numerous substances with which we come into contact in our everyday life that are capable of sensitising the skin so that eczema occurs. Why some people develop an allergy and others do not is unknown.
An allergic reaction to permanent hair dye occurs in a small percentage of people. A reaction can occur at any time; even someone who has used the same product repeatedly for many years could experience ‘dye dermatitis’. The severity of a dye allergy ranges from mild inflammation and itching to intense symptoms including burning, blistering and swelling of the eyes and face. Fatalities, which are extremely rare, have been recorded due to anaphylactic shock.
All hair dye manufacturers recommend that a patch test is carried out prior to every application of dye.
Treating and managing saclp eczema requires medication to soften and remove the plaques of scaling, and to calm the inflammation. In our clinics we specialise in the treatment and ongoing management of this condition.
Psoriasis is a chronic and recurrent skin condition often occurring in families. In its most frequent form there are dry, well-defined lesions of silvery scales of various sizes with underlying bleeding points. The scalp is very frequently involved in psoriasis and is recognised as a classical site for the condition. In children and young adults it is sometimes the first affected area, and in many people remains the only one. Diagnosis can be helped by looking for patches primarily on the elbows and knees – the nails can also be involved. The exact cause is unknown but the thick scaling is due to a very rapid accumulation of skin cells. Emotional stress often initiates or exacerbates an outbreak. Although it can be very severe on the scalp, and result in dry and brittle hair, it rarely causes hair loss.
Treating and managing scalp psoriasis requires medication to soften and remove the plaques of scaling, and to calm the inflammation. In our clinics we specialise in the treatment and ongoing management of this condition.
This scalp condition has the appearance of an adult ‘cradle cap’, with the formation of patches of asbestos like scale crusts, overlapping like tiles on a roof. The scales stick to the scalp and are attached in layers around the shafts of the hairs, binding them down in tufts. This ‘strangulation’ causes temporary hair loss. As the plaques of scaling are removed, however the hair re-grows when effectively treated. There may be accompanying inflammation and irritation, and it may appear in association with eczema, psoriasis or lichen simplex. The distinctive clinical appearance makes diagnosis relatively easy though it is sometimes confused with psoriasis, even by experienced dermatologists.
Pityriasis amiantacea is most common in women aged 35 to 50, but may be seen in both adults and children of either sex. Correct treatment undertaken at our clinics to remove the scaling and prevent it reforming is extremely effective and long lasting. In many cases there is no recurrence.
Pustules on the scalp, which are quite common, are formed at the opening of the hair follicle. These may be bacterial, or non-infectious and inflammatory, and lead to folliculitis which can be treated with antiseptic creams or if necessary antibiotics. However there are more destructive types of folliculitis leading to scarring alopecia, and these must be correctly diagnosed and require medical treatment.
Lice, usually known as nits, are common among young school children, and are generally caught through direct head to head contact. The visible nits (eggs) are often empty shells. The most common areas of infestation are around the ears and the nape of the neck, and itching is an accompanying symptom. Girls are more frequently infested than boys, due to the length of their hair and physical contact. Contrary to popular belief, the condition is not due to dirt. However, poor hygiene can be a factor in the infestation multiplying more rapidly. Neither do lice ‘prefer’ clean hair – they are indiscriminate.
The colour of a female louse varies from greyish to brown, varying with the skin colour of its host and how much blood it has sucked. The female is larger than the male (about 3-4mm long), it lays 7-10 eggs a day and lives for about 4 weeks. The eggs take 6-8 days to hatch as ‘nymphs’ and are fully grown in another 8-9 days. Lice only live for a few hours on clothes, hats, seats etc so it would be unlikely, though not impossible, to pick them up in this way.
There are effective treatment products available, and the nits can be removed with a special ‘nit comb’. The use of conditioner to help with this process is recommended, and combing regularly in this way helps to reduce infestation and protect against recurrence.