When it comes to our hair-growing abilities (or inabilities,) one of the main factors is genetics. A predisposition for conditions such as pattern-baldness or alopecia areata can obviously have a significant impact on your life1 however there are some good and bad habits which can contribute to the hair that you do have to work with. And even though I should know better with the career path I chose, here are some of my past and present challenges with my own hair:
Everyone is super busy these days so I’m sure that you can appreciate that sometimes, (translation: always,) I feel pressed for time. My coping mechanism was to cut the time I spent in front of the mirror every morning by pulling my hair into the same bun on top of my head, often when it was still wet, putting me at risk for traction alopecia.
Traction alopecia occurs when there is enough pressure put on the hair follicle to pull out the hair strand prematurely2. Repeated instances can affect the ability of the hair to grow back and extreme cases can lead to permanent hair loss. Very tight hairstyles such as braids and ponytails can result in traction alopecia. In my case, having wet hair made it heavier and more prone to breakage and pulling.
When my hair dresser gave me a very stern lecture, I did learn to change my habits. I now have a few quick and easy hairstyles that I alternate between so that I avoid putting pressure in the same spots every day. I have also replaced my use of hair elastics which were causing a lot of damage with some gentler accessories such as soft headbands and various smooth plastic clips.
In the past, I have tried some lightening treatments which led to some very noticeable damage. Going forwards, I just decided to avoid the use of permanent dye altogether. For those who really enjoy experimenting with colour, there are some options to keep damage to a minimum. Researchers recommend waiting a minimum of six weeks between harsh chemical treatments such as dyes or straighteners/relaxers3. A second option is to choose a non-permanent dye. Permanent dyes are designed to penetrate the outer layer of the hair strand, the hair cuticle, which can be damaged in the process4. A non-permanent dye will need to be applied more frequently and generally provides less colour options, however it will be designed to coat the hair strand, thus avoiding possible penetration damage.
Spring is pretty much the worst time of the year for my vacuum. Although not directly within my control, I definitely experience seasonally-related shedding5–8 and springtime is the most noticeable for me.
Hair growth normally follows a cycle where at any given moment in time there will be follicles actively growing, resting or shedding. During seasonally-related shedding, many of the follicles become synchronized, meaning more hair than usual is shed at the same time, however those follicles also return to the growth cycle so there is no concern for hair loss9.
With three females in my household who prefer Rapunzel-inspired hair styles, (and I am by far the worst offender,) we make sure all of the drains have hair traps and wait it out. The shedding usually stops by the time my grass allergies kick in and all the hair seems to have grown back in time for the fall shed making this one more annoying than a problem.
Very similar to the spring shed, just maybe a slightly milder version.
This one seems to be a result of my sedentary lifestyle. While I’m sitting at my desk thinking my hardest I will often literally put my hands on my head, (maybe I’m subconsciously trying to encourage my thoughts or something?). This can lead to some mild scratching/pulling and damage.
Dandruff as well as the presence of microorganisms including yeast can also potentially lead to an itchy scalp. There are a plethora of products and shampoos targeted at reducing dandruff and likewise shampoos containing anti-microbial ingredients such as ketoconazole or salicylic acid can help to reduce microbe populations. Reducing the amount of styling products you use could also be beneficial.
Now that I am aware of the habit though I’m thinking that I can just cut it out. I will let you know when that happens.
- Santos Z, Avci P, Hamblin MR. Drug discovery for alopecia: gone today, hair tomorrow. Expert Opin Drug Discov. 2015 Mar;10(3):269–92.
- Khumalo NP, Jessop S, Gumedze F, Ehrlich R. Determinants of marginal traction alopecia in African girls and women. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008 Sep;59(3):432–8.
- Ahn HJ, Lee W-S. An ultrastuctural study of hair fiber damage and restoration following treatment with permanent hair dye. Int J Dermatol. 2002 Feb;41(2):88–92.
- Marsh J, Gray J, Tosti A. Root-to-Tip Hair Health. In: Healthy Hair [Internet]. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2015 [cited 2016 Feb 29]. p. 29–44. Available from: http://link.springer.com/10.1007/978-3-319-18386-2_2
- Ebling FJG. The Hormonal Control of Hair Growth. In: Orfanos CE, Happle R, editors. Hair and Hair Diseases [Internet]. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg; 1990 [cited 2016 Mar 14]. p. 267–99. Available from: http://www.springerlink.com/index/10.1007/978-3-642-74612-3_12
- Messenger AG. The control of hair growth: an overview. J Invest Dermatol. 1993 Jul;101(1 Suppl):4S – 9S.
- Courtois M, Loussouarn G, Hourseau S, Grollier JF. Periodicity in the growth and shedding of hair. Br J Dermatol. 1996 Jan;134(1):47–54.
- Wehr TA, Duncan WC, Sher L, Aeschbach D, Schwartz PJ, Turner EH, et al. A circadian signal of change of season in patients with seasonal affective disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2001 Dec;58(12):1108–14.
- Headington JT. Telogen Effluvium: New Concepts and Review. Arch Dermatol. 1993 Mar 1;129(3):356.