Hair today, gone tomorrow: top reasons for hair loss

"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair," said Khalil Gibran. Cascading, lustrous locks have long inspired great poets and lovers alike. In circa 2011, however, smitten admirers are increasingly at a loss because, well, there's not much to comment on. Our most visible asset is rapidly diminishing. And it's not just the women. The modern Indian man now spends more time patting and primping in the hope of making the best of what little is left. Hello Salman Khan!

The shift in lifestyle and changes in the environment are eroding our once-proud manes, and has many of us running to the nearest hair loss clinic or homeopath. The big hair panic has been a marketing bonanza for shampoo manufacturers and cosmetic giants, each promising a magic cure to your woes.

Losing 50 to 100 strands of hair a day is normal since a percentage of your hair is in the growth phase at any given moment — transitional phase, or a resting phase. Suhasini Shinde, MD, a dermatologist at Vivekananda Institute, Faridabad, says: “On the day you shampoo, you tend to lose more hair, and therefore it then becomes imperative that you are not rushing to shampoo your hair everyday. And while there’s no scientifically proven study to validate what I am saying, I personally feel that clear shampoos, that is, colourless shampoos have less toxins and are much better for your hair.”

Ironing, re-bonding, hair extensions and colouring make you look good, but not for long. Getty Images

According to Niti Munjal, nutritionist with, hair loss has become a global problem and while we are noticing it more here now, it’s not country or region-specific. Increase in pollution levels, consumption of processed food, and unhealthy lifestyle choices that completely mess with your body clock have aided the epidemic.

Worried about losing your locks, well, here are the top most cited reasons for hair loss.

Obsession with hair: Ironing, re-bonding, hair extensions and colouring make you look good, but not for long. Excessive use of hair treatments, like bleaching, and perming, hair extensions and products like hair irons, blow dryers, and curling irons can make hair dry and brittle. All these diminish your hair's natural oils, which will replenish themselves only when you stop experimenting with your crop.

Excessive weight loss: When you lose a lot of weight, chances are you will also lose nutrients and proteins that are important. Iron and protein are the two most common nutritional supplements that help stop hair loss. Hair growth requires protein and when your body is not getting enough it will supply it to other, more necessary parts. It is critical to include protein in your diet in the form of chicken, meat, eggs, all pulses, and beans.

Illness and medicines: “I have noticed most patients that come to me for treatment come after a severe bout of illness. Once they are off their medication, and have added the right amount of nutrients to their diet and the right kind of exercise, it can make a huge difference. Shirshasan, works wonders for you hair. If you are fit enough to do it, I would recommend that you add it to your routine everyday,” says Manjula Bhatt, yoga instructor and nutritionist.

In case of medicines, those that contain hormones, such as birth control pills, are common triggers of hair loss. Nancy Das, 28, says, "I was on birth control pills for Poly Cystic Ovary Disorder. While my PCOD was under control my hair was wacked out. I had severe hair loss. Now I am consulting a new gynaecologist who's told me to stay off the pills which has really helped my hair."

Stress and lifestyle: You may be dealing with a divorce, rough patch in a relationship, or a high pressure job, or perhaps one or the other all at once. And you're likely to wear your problems quite literally around your head.

According to latest studies, women enduring emotional stress are more likely to suffer severe hair loss than men. Study author, Dr Brahman Guyron, chairman of the department of plastic surgery at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, said, “Most likely, stress is the aspect; a troubling divorce appears to lead to hair loss among women.”

For men, the study found that excessive smoking and drinking, overexposure to sun, cancer history and having a ‘couch potato’ lifestyle contributed to thinning locks among men. Men who didn’t exercise and had high blood pressure also had higher risk of coronal hair loss.

But all those who are happily married face a lower overall risk for hair loss. A happy alliance may not bring back lost hair but lower stress levels help you keep what you have.

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The water you use and consume: A 2009 report claimed that desalinated water was responsible for frequent complaints of hair loss among people who resided in Middle Eastern cities like Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Experts felt that while hard desalinated water became hazardous to hair because its PPM (particles per million) increased manifold when it was channeled for distribution through pipelines. PPM refers to Total Dissolved Solids — including various kinds of minerals like calcium, magnesium, nitrate, potassium, and sodium, that are present in water.

Other elements that may affect your water are selenium and mercury. Selenium may get into the water through petroleum refineries and mine discharge especially in the water supply of people who reside near industrial area, while the main source of mercury is seafood. If your pipes are old, your water line is at a higher risk of being affected with lead poisoning. Ask your RWA or municipal authorities to check the same at regular intervals.

Your Ayurvedic body type: Ayurveda treats ailments according to the three doshas (balance between body-mind constitution): Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth). An Ayurvedic practitioner will approach diagnosis by using all five senses to decide your dosha. Dr Smriti Singh of Ultimate Life Clinic claims that Kapha people don’t suffer from excessive hair loss and often have a really good head of hair. People with an excess of Pitta dosha are prone to hair loss and graying early.

According to Singh, lower serratin levels (serratin checks your haemoglobin and plays a huge role in multiplication of follicles), excessive heat in the body, and insomnia also can affect hair loss.

Ayurveda recommends drinking aloe vera juice, washing your hair with boiled neem leaves, going in for regular head massages, eating as much raw and natural products as possible, exercising, and drinking loads of water. Sesame needs in the morning are known to work. But above all else Ayurveda, requires the patience often lacking nowadays with the easy option of surgery, transplant, or even extensions.

But for those looking for a natural cure, traditional medicine that dates back to 500 BC may have answers to your 21st century problems.


Published Date: Sep 24, 2011 18:32 PM | Updated Date: Sep 24, 2011 18:36 PM