A full head of hair has long been associated with beauty and youth. Hair is the fastest growing natural tissue in the human body. Everyone is born with a fixed number of hair follicles. Hair grows from the base of the follicle at a rate of roughly a centimeter a month. This continues for 3 years, after this time the hair remains dormant for about 3 months. It then grows again, this cycle repeats throughout your life unless you encounter any number of possible hair loss conditions. Outside of medical conditions, the speed of your hair growth is affected by genetics, nutrition, and hormones.
Hair loss is a nightmare scenario for a large percentage of men with male pattern baldness being the most common type of loss affecting 70% of men. A smaller percentage of women are also afflicted by the condition known as female pattern baldness which affects 40% of women. Scientifically the name of this condition is androgenic alopecia. The cause and severity of this condition is mostly genetically related, though factors such as stress can also bring upon hair loss. Though people lose hair at varying degrees, some form of thinning and lose is an inevitable sign of aging.
Male pattern baldness is caused In large part to the male hormone DHT. Genetically the x or female chromosome is responsible for hair loss. This means that as a male you receive the x chromosome from your mother. Since women carry 2 x chromosomes, this means that there is a 50/50 chance of you inheriting either one of those x chromosomes. Essentially a good indicator is to look at your mother’s father, if he has male pattern baldness then she has at least 1 copy of the gene in her chromosome. Even though this is the most likely indicator there are other factors to take into account genetically, and lifestyle choices also seem to play a part. The onset usually begins in your late 20s to early 30s, and by your late 30s most men will experience some degree of hair loss. It usually starts out with a receding hair line, followed by thinning of the hair.
Female pattern baldness is a lot less understood. To get this condition you must inherit 2 x chromosomes with the condition. The condition is less extreme than male, and usually just results in thinning of the hair, rather than complete loss as in males. Menopause seems to enhance this condition, though usually only the top of your head thins unlike male pattern baldness where you can be left completely bald.
Other hair loss conditions
- Alopecia areata is a skin disease that causes hair loss. It creates a circles on your scalp that can multiply and grow.
- Traction alopecia is very common, and preventable. This condition is caused by pulling of the hair, often happening when people posse’s hair styles that cause your hair to be tight, such as cornrows. The constant pulling leaves the hair follicles damaged, and cause bald spots.
- Alocepia totalis is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack all the hair follicles on your body, leaving you completely hairless.
- Cicatricial alocpecia is the rarest form of hair loss. This condition causes scaring to occur in place of skin follicles, causing permanent damage. Red bald patches will replace the follicles, and can run across the whole head.
- Telogen effluvium is the second most common type of hair loss it appears as shedding or thinning of the scalp. This can be brought about by stress, or hormonal imbalances, but is usually not permanent.
There is a lot we still don’t understand about hair loss. Medication such chemotherapy, or for conditions like HIV/Aids can also cause hair loss. Nutritional deficiency, like a lack of iron will also result in thinning of the hair. Nutrition, and lifestyle factors are thought to play a role, though it’s understanding is still in its infancy. Healthy hair can be a sign of good nutrition and health.
The problem with measuring the effects of nutrition on hair, is how slow the process often takes, and the difficulty in measuring specific components of it. Crash dieting can actually accentuate hair loss, so it’s best to strike a healthy lifestyle instead. Protein, whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and fats should make up the major component of your diet. The important foods to avoid are processed carbs, and sugar. Nutritionally you should be trying to get all of your nutrients from food, it’s not always easy however. If you’re going to use supplements, then omega-3 fish oil is probably the supplement you’ll want most. Not only will it help you grow luscious hair, but it also has tons of other benefits.
Foods for hair
- Nuts contain selenium which helps keep your scalp healthy
- Legumes contain protein, zinc, and biotins. A lack of biotins leads to brittle hair
- Dark leafy greens contain vitamins A and C which help the natural production of sebum
- Carrots are also a great, and tasty source of Vitamin A
- Yogurt has calcium which helps keep your hair strong
- Fish has omega-3 and iron making it the perfect choice for meat eaters
- Eggs contain protein, and b12 making it perfect for those unable to eat meat
- Poultry also contains proteins, iron, and b12
- Wholegrain breakfast cereals are often fortified with vitamin B, zinc, and Iron
The genetic components of hair loss are out of our control, but taking care of both our mind and body can certainly help not just alleviating hair loss but also leave us with healthy hair. Virgin coconut oil can be put on after your shower to nourish your hair with its rich fatty acid, and vitamin content, leaving it silky smooth. Argan oil is another excellent choice, it is extremely beneficial for hair and scalp health, it’s rich in all manner of nutrients and fatty acids. Not only that but it’s also a dry oil so it won’t leave your hair feeling oily. Whatever your choice, making sure you take care of your hair will help it live a long and luscious life.