Let me be honest and start by saying hairfall makes me stress more, and that further worsens it. It’s a vicious circle. If you have been leaving a trail of hair everywhere you go, or losing volume in your hair, it’s time we seriously talk about hairfall. In today’s exhaustively researched post, we’re going to get through cycles of hair, causes of hairfall, prescription treatments, medical treatments of hairfall, supplements that help hair growth.
Why Did I Choose To Write About Hairfall?
If you like me, spend at least an hour on social media, you would have come across similar tips when it comes to hairfall. But I wanted to create something solid for women.
I’ve always had long hair from when I was very little. Everything was hunky-dory and I was always complimented for being the kid with waist-long hair. However, when I was 15, I went through bouts of hair shedding in Bangalore, India due to the quality of water.
In my 20s, I had low immunity and succumbed to typhoid, liver infections, viral fevers and inflammation in general, which too, triggered Telogen Effluvium. Over the past 2 years, I have had irregular periods and I was recently diagnosed with PCOS, and that endocrine imbalance also puts stress on hair fall. So, I hope you see where I’m coming from and this post helps you tackle hairfall.
Your Hair Is In One Of These 4 Stages
Between life and death, every strand of hair goes through 4 stages of a hair cycle: anagen, catagen, telogen and exogen. Every hair can be at a different stage of the growth cycle at any given time.
Anagen (Growing Phase)
The growing phase lasts 2-7 years and determines the length of our hair.
Catagen (Transition Phase)
This is the transitional stage that lasts about 10 days. The hair follicle shrinks and detaches from the dermal papilla.
Telogen (Resting Phase)
This is the resting phase which lasts around 3 months which can be torturous. About 10-15 % of hairs are in this phase. If it’s more than 10-30%, or if it lasts longer than 3 months, the telogen phase can lead to severe hair shedding.
Exogen (New Hair Phase)
This is part of the resting phase where the old hair sheds and a new hair continues to grow.
Causes Of Hairfall
I’ve enjoyed 34 years of long hair, but they haven’t been easy. When it comes to what’s causing your hair to fall, or worse, thin, here are some things to look out for.
Overall, your genes and genetics also influence your hair growth and hair shedding. So if you see a lot of receding hairlines in your family, your chances are higher. (Both my mom, and my sister have a receding hairline, by the way.) Having said that, you can take extra care of your hair to avoid this.
Hair is mostly iron and protein, so a well-balanced diet is essential. This means whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, proteins and good fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.
Inadequate blood circulation can also lead to hairfall. A gentle scalp massage, a headstand or aerobic activity can help tackle this.
Styling tools can lead to hair pulling, trauma, split-ends and breakage.
Improper shampoo routines
Harsh shampoo formulas with detergents can also cause hairfall in the long run.
Hair Scalp Health
Inflammation, product build-up, dandruff, and infections have an effect on your hair growth too. Keep a check on your scalp and contact an expert immediately if something doesn’t seem right.
Your hair is probably in the telogen phase, i.e. hair shedding. Telogen Effluvium literally means hair fall, which means your hair is in the shedding phase. When more than 50% of your hair is in the telogen phase, it could be an issue. Reasons for shedding could include chronic illnesses, hormonal disorders (thyroid, PCOD, diabetes), medications, crash dieting, physical trauma and mental stress. You must seek expert help to further identify the type of TE: chronic TE, post-pregnancy TE or acute TE) for a solution.
Quality of water
This may just be an Indian problem, but the hard water can also trigger severe hair fall. Opt for a filter or just use filtered water, please!
Monsoon can trigger hair fall and in some cases, TE. Otherwise, according to studies, hair grows faster in summers and tends to slow down during winters.
Blood Tests And Investigations For Hairfall
Normally, your doctor tells you this but I did have a list of tests I’ve gotten done and this was vetted by a dermatologist too. Here are the investigations to be done when facing severe hairfall.
- Iron/Folic Acid
- TSH or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
- Hormonal Panels if needed
Prescription & Supplements For Hairfall
- Biotin: The most common supplements for hair loss is biotin which is a vitamin, found naturally in egg yolk, milk and bananas. While there hasn’t been evidence that it helps in hair growth, it’s almost always talked about in all articles about hairfall due to biotin deficiency.
- Zinc: Studies show zinc supplements reduce hair loss caused by zinc deficiency. While it’s naturally found in pumpkin seeds, spinach and lentils, you may be deficient in zinc. Speak to your doctor about getting some tests and then opt for zinc supplements.
- Iron: Anemia is one of the biggest causes of hairfall, breakage and thinning. It’s better to get your iron levels checked, especially if you’re experiencing female-pattern hair loss (FPHL), or telogen effluvium (TE).
- Gamma-Linolenic Acid: Gamma-linolenic acid is a fatty substance found in various plant seed oils such as borage oil and evening primrose oil. Apparently, it’s excellent for hairfall and damaged hair in general as well as those with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
My Personal Experience: I used Keraglow for 3-4 months, along with Minoxidil, and it did curb my hairfall. I also know a few other women who have experienced results from having this particular supplement. I’m also on vitamin B12, D, magnesium after talking to my nutritionist and getting blood tests.
Topical Treatments For Hairfall
Minoxidil has a lot of data and studies backing up its claim for hair growth and is commonly used for FPHL or female pattern hair loss. FPHL is common when women are going through hormonal imbalances: the most common of these is PCOD/PCOS, hyperthyroidism and menopause. However, here are 3 things you should know about Minoxidil:
Minoxidil has to be used for up to 6 months to judge its efficacy. I used it for 3 months, and I did see a lot of difference. (This was done as suggested by my dermatologists’ guidance).
However, all the new hair will start falling off when you stop using it.
Apply it at night onto the roots and avoid letting it get anywhere on your face.
Finasteride is in a class of medications called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. It treats male pattern hair loss by blocking the body’s production of a male hormone in the scalp that stops hair growth. From usage to results, finasteride has had very similar effects to minoxidil.
Spironolactone can have severe side effects but counters androgen issues by inhibiting the production of testosterone in women (excessive facial hair and hair loss).
Please remember, none of these can or should be taken without talking to an expert.
Medical Treatments For Hairfall
PRP Or Platelet Rich Plasma
PRP therapy has really caught on over the past decade. A PRP treatment may sound scary, but it’s a tried and tested procedure that has documented results. (I’ve met a few individuals who’ve gotten it done, and the results have been long lasting.) Primarily, a dermatologist or a trichologist draws out your blood. That vial of blood is then spun in a centrifuge which separates it into red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. The plasma or liquid gold, as some may call it, is then injected back into scanty parts of your head. This goes on for about 4-6 sessions, and patients see an increase in hair growth. According to my research, it doesn’t have great results if you have hormonal balances like thyroid, metabolic disorders or chronic diseases. So get a few opinions before investing your time and money in PRP. Sidenote: Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy is also being used for chronic pain, injuries as well as skin treatments.
According to NCBI, mesotherapy, aka intradermal injections, have been around for as long as the 70s. Currently, the needle mesotherapy is a popular, non-invasive procedure, which positively affects the condition of the skin, subdermal tissue and hair. The effect of focus healing is also characteristic of this procedure, which increases the skin regeneration process. In a typical session of mesotherapy, you’re injected (on your scalp directly) with a cacophony of growth factors with biotin, zinc, amino acids. These promise to encourage the hair’s natural growth phase. Sidenote: While most clinics say there is little to no downtime, scarring came up a lot when I was researching this article. So if you’re considering mesotherapy for hair, make sure you reach out to an experienced doctor.
Not that popularly spoken of in India, LLLT or low light laser treatments have been tested for decades and put through clinical trials to test their results for hair growth. And there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Using LLLT on the scalp (like a cap or going for a session), provides more energy to your hair follicles, enabling them to grow. This may be very helpful if your hair has been in a Telogen phase or if you’re battling alopecia.
Contrary to popular belief, hair transplantation is a lot more complicated and time-consuming. To put it simply, it’s the process of redistributing growing/active hair follicles to the areas of the head where hair growth has stopped. FUE or Follicular Unit Extracts can be done both manually and mechanically, but it’s imperative to get an expert who can guide you through your expectations, pricing and the treatment. The surgery, yes it’s a surgery, might not be feasible if the patient has a small amount of donor hair follicles remaining. Lastly, you may 1-3 sessions to finish the whole transplant with 1-2 month intervals.
14 Things You Can Round The Year To Keep Your Hair Strong
- Make sure you do a thorough blood analysis to rule out any deficiencies that may lead to lacklustre, dull hair or even hairfall.
- Check for thyroid, insulin resistance, PCOD and PCOS: these are some of the most common issues amongst women of our generation and have a direct effect on hair.
- Use a sulphate-free shampoo, but no more than three times a week. Frequent shampooing with products that contain sulphate can dry out your hair, causing significant hair damage and breakage too.
- Eat a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals found in salmon, avocados, leafy vegetables, green juices and nuts.
- Opt for biotin and zinc supplements after talking to your dermatologist or trichologist.
- Stick to oil-shampoo-conditioning routine religiously. I don’t like oil anymore, so I use a serum or fresh aloe vera before shampooing my hair.
- Leave all hair styling tools like hair straighteners and curlers only for special events. Heat will only increase hair trauma and breakage.
- Reduce inflammation in your body by cutting out refined sugars, carbs and introducing low GI foods like quinoa, soybeans, lentils, fruits and veggies.
- Stress is one of the most significant aggravating factors for hairfall or hair thinning, so make sure you beat that stress by exercising, dancing, jogging or running.
- Make most of yoga: make sure you meditate for at least 5 minutes a day. The less stressed you are, the better for your body and your hair.
- Try to do a headstand: More and more experts are coming out and saying that many poses including a headstand help boost circulation which automatically leads to hair growth. Get stretching, mama!
- If you have coloured hair or you dye your hair frequently, opt for an Olaplex treatment to give it that strength from the inside.
- If you have a receding hairline from the front, stop tying your hair SO tight.
- Keep changing your parting every few months. You’ll avoid hair thinning this way.
My favourite Hair DIYs
1 medium-sized aloe vera leaf
I was actually never a big aloe vera fan. It’s a really celebrated ingredient in India: I would have met 100 women between the ages of 18-50 and they would always mention applying aloe vera has an effect on hair growth. I haven’t substantiated that, but for me, it was more about softness. In quarantine, I would go up to my terrace, cut an aloe vera leaf and start applying it straight on my hair. I didn’t have a reaction but do a patch test if you haven’t done this ever. Keep it on for 15-20 minutes and wash it off.
The only problem: The big blobs of aloe vera will probably clog your drain. So just apply what is naturally falling on the leaf. Or else blend it all out before you put it to your hair.
Apple Cider Vinegar
¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV has changed my life when it comes to digestion and metabolism, but I do a rinse every now and then. I take 1/4th cup of ACV and dilute it in 3/4th cups of water and do a rinse on freshly shampooed hair. There are many YouTube videos on how to do it right, here’s one.
A word of caution: When you’re doing this rinse, keep your eyes closed, because if you do get it in your eye, it’s not GOOD. At All. The second issue with an apple cider rinse is the lingering smell of vinegar. Some people use an ounce of conditioner just to get rid of that. My favourite thing to do is to apply a spritz of perfume on your brush and then just comb through.
Rice Water Rinse
1 cup fermented rice water
Rice water rinse became a viral sensation when Yao women of Huangluo Village were shown with Rapunzel-like hair.
Make sure you give it sometime before you form an opinion.
Fenugreek and Yoghurt Hair Mask
¼ cup fenugreek seeds, methi dana, soaked overnight
Yoghurt (2-3 tablespoons) or Coconut Oil
So my problem is that this hair mask is really messy if it’s not blended correctly. So, to do this hair mask, you need time and patience. The first time I tried this mask, the seeds just wouldn’t blend, and it was a mess in my bathroom. So if you want to try this mask, soak ¼ cup fenugreek seeds and soak them overnight. Add to this some yoghurt or coconut oil and blend till it’s medium-thick consistency. Wet your hair with a spray bottle before you apply it. PRO ADVICE: do this on your bathroom or at the salon. Keep it on for 30-45 minutes and rinse it off.
Egg, Honey, Olive Oil
¼ cup olive oil (can be increased to ½ cup if you have long hair)
2-4 tablespoons of honey
This used to be one of my favourite DIYs at one time just because it used to be a combination of protein and conditioning. It’s not very messy if you use an applicator bottle or a brush and keep a towel on yourself. The effects are instantaneous in terms of softness and shine.
Thanks for reading! A lot of this is from my personal experience, what I’ve learnt over the years as well as experts I’ve met professionally.
Aparna Santhanam’s Book, Let’s Talk Hair
Ishi Khosla, Nutritionist
Dr Geetika Mittal Gupta