What steps can I take to prevent or slow hair loss?
Unfortunately, certain types of hair loss are genetic, and very little can be done to prevent them. Genetic types of hair loss include alopecia areata and female pattern hair loss.
But other types of hair loss (including generalised hair shedding) can be brought on by stress and a poor diet. Do your best to eat a balanced diet, and find ways to take care of your mental health.
For added benefit, stay up to date with your routine check-ups. Anaemia, low levels of vitamin D and abnormal thyroid hormones can all affect the health of your hair. Simple bloodwork from your primary care physician can determine if these conditions are contributing to your hair loss.
Black women in particular are prone to a type of hair loss called traction alopecia, which is caused by heat, chemicals and tight styles that pull at the hair root, including some braids, dreadlocks, extensions and weaves.
To protect your hair from traction alopecia and prevent further damage:
- Ask your stylist to create looser braids or dreadlocks.
- If you have braids, remove them after five weeks.
- If you wear a weave or hair extensions, remove them after eight weeks.
- If you have relaxed or dyed hair, make sure these treatments are applied by a professional. If you still notice breakage or hair shedding, ask your stylist about a series of protein treatments and avoid chemical treatments until the condition improves.
- Minimise (or completely avoid) heat styling, including hair dryers, flat irons and curling irons. These wear out the hair and can lead to major hair loss.
- Keep the hair moisturised, as dry, brittle hair breaks easily.
How is alopecia treated?
The treatment for hair loss depends on the cause of your condition. Sometimes your hair loss may get better on its own and no treatment is needed. If your hair loss is related to a medicine you are taking, talk to your healthcare providers. There may be other medicines you could take instead that will not cause hair loss. If your hair loss is severe, you may need one or more of the following treatments:
o Hair growing agents help promote hair growth. The medicine must be used continuously until new hair grows on the affected area.
o Steroids help decrease inflammation and damage to the hair follicle. Corticosteroids may be used to treat alopecia areata.
o Estrogen is a female hormone that is used for women with hyperandrogenism (high levels of male hormones). Estrogen can reduce the effects of male hormones on hair growth. This treatment is used in women with female pattern baldness.
o Immunologic agents affect the immune system cells that may be attacking hair follicles. This treatment is used to treat alopecia areata.
o Antibiotics or antifungals may be needed if your alopecia is caused by an infection.
- Hair transplant surgery removes hair follicles from one part of your head and puts them into the bald area. This is usually done only if your condition is severe and medicines fail to improve your hair loss. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about hair transplant surgery.
Now that we have some knowledge of this hair and scalp disorder that is becoming a bothersome condition where most persons are affected by both physically and mentally;next week we will look at the different types of Alopecia and how we can recognise, control and, or live with them.