Dr Lisa Chan on How to Avoid Hair Loss
Unless their name is Dwayne Johnson or Vin Diesel, baldness is few people’s idea of a good look. Dr Lisa Chan suggests several ways of keeping a full head of hair.
Having a luxurious head of hair signifies youth and good health, and signs of hair loss can be distressing for many of my patients.
The normal rate of hair loss is about 50-100 hairs a day, which are then replaced by new hair. When the rate of replacement is insufficient to keep up with loss, thinning and bald spots may appear. Also known as alopecia, hair loss can be due to ageing, genetics, medications, immune-system disorders, infections, stress or hormonal imbalances.
The most common type of hair loss involves a gradual thinning of hair at the top of the head. In men, this is often first seen over the hairline, while women tend to notice a broadening of the hair parting. Men are more likely to go bald than women. Hair loss can also occur as circular or patchy bald sports. In occasional cases after severe emotional or physical stress, loosening of the hair can cause it to fall out in clumps.
Given society’s high expectations of appearance, hair loss can be very upsetting and directly impact the quality of life. Some people may choose to camouflage it with a hairstyle that adds more volume or make use of hats, wigs or headscarves. Others may opt for medical treatment, which can help to slow down hair loss or even reverse it.
Options for treatment will depend on the actual cause of the hair loss. Examination of the scalp and hair base can help to rule out infections such as ringworm, while blood tests can be done to determine whether immune or hormonal imbalances such as lupus, diabetes or thyroid dysfunction are behind the hair loss.
In such cases, treatment of the underlying condition can usually reverse the loss. However, loosened hair due to shock is usually temporary and may not require immediate treatments.
In cases of hereditary hair loss due to ageing, medications such as minoxidil, spironolactone, finasteride, iron, biotin, omega-3 and folic acid supplements may be prescribed. Hair loss takes time to recover, and medications may need to be used daily for up to a year before results are seen. If the medications work, they must be taken indefinitely to maintain their effects. Some medications have side effects and are unsafe for use while pregnant or breastfeeding, so make sure to speak with your doctor if you’re planning to conceive.
Low-level lasers and platelet-rich plasma therapy have also been studied, and hair transplantation may also be considered in more severe cases. Lifestyle changes, such as getting adequate rest and nutrition, avoiding hairstyles that cause excessive traction on the hair, reducing ultraviolet light exposure and quitting smoking, can also help to maintain a healthy, shiny head of hair.