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Everything you need to know about your hair

Longevity logo Longevity 29-01-2019 Editor LL
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Because its primary function is protection, hair is a good indicator of changes in the body. It naturally goes through three stages: growing (anagen), resting (catagen) and falling (telogen, which makes room for new hair). Over time, the follicles and papilla degenerate.

As we age, blood vessels are constricted by stressful conditions, preventing nutrition from reaching the hair roots; this results in hair loss. Stress, hormones and pollution are all contributors.

Why does age affect hair texture?

Dr Elma Titus, a trichologist at Trichology Centre in Cape Town, explains that factors such as chemotherapy, trauma, a big operation, beginning or discontinuing medication, and long-term chemical/mechanical damage will cause premature hair loss. Hairs complete the anagen-catagen-telogen cycle too quickly, and new hairs have a finer and curlier texture.

And, Titus points out: “Hair texture changes if it does not get essential nourishment from within.”

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How to treat hair texture change

Titus recommends including amino acids, which are found in protein, in your diet. A lack of protein produces less energy for cell production – including the cells involved in hair formation. She says: “Breakfast is the most important meal for your hair, as [the] energy levels [to your follicles are the lowest] in the morning.”

What causes balding?

Balding is more common in men than women. Testosterone in men is metabolised into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which influences the follicle and root. Titus explains male pattern thinning (MPT): “With each new cycle, the affected hairs do not grow as long, and become finer in diameter. Eventually, very fine hairs remain.” In women, the ovaries and adrenal glands produce androgens. An increase in androgens can trigger genetic hair thinning in women. 

Treatment therapies for thinning hair

• Topical ointment;

• Minoxidil;

Fenasteride;

Meso therapy;

• Stem cell treatment;

• Light therapy, laser, infrared;

• Platelet-rich plasma (PRP); and

• Scalp peels.

Titus recommends having blood tests to check for anaemia, as iron affects follicle function. Iron is one of the most important minerals for hair, along with zinc, copper, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins D, B12 and B6. She recommends stress control and a well-balanced nutritional supplement containing essential minerals and vitamins. 

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Hair-thinning reduction techniques

• Eat protein;

• Drink water;

• Exercise;

• Consider the side-effects of medications;

• Run blood tests yearly;

• Shampoo once or twice weekly;

• Massage your scalp regularly;

• Leave chemical processes to the professionals; and

• Use shampoo for your hair type.

Always stimulate your scalp with intense treatments from time to time, to increase blood flow to the root. Most importantly, take care – what works for your friend may not work for you.

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