Before diving into causes and some simple remedies to reduce hair fall, let me ask you a question.
What will you do in this scenario?
Last week we had a leaking pipe. I asked husband dear to fix it, which he promptly did, with black duct tape. Guess what? The leakage stopped for maybe a couple of days but again resumed. We ended up changing the pipe to fix this properly. Why couldn’t duct tape prevent the leakage?
Moral of the story
If you said it is essential to fix the leaking pipe in the first place, then okay, you already have an idea on where to get started. Duct tape did not fix the root cause, it just patched it up.
We need to fix the problem from the root to get rid of it for good.
Let’s start with some basics about the hair.
Basic structure of hair
In very simplistic terms, hair consists of follicle and hair shaft.
- Hair follicle is embedded in the skin and has blood vessels which provide blood and other nutrients to scalp
- The portion above the scalp is called hair shaft. This is the portion which grows and adds to our beauty.
When does hair fall out?
Before diving into abnormal hair fall, it is essential to understand that it is perfectly reasonable to lose around 50-100 hair daily. Each hair follows a cycle:
- Anagen: This is the growing phase of hair when hair grows around 6 inches a year. This phase lasts about 2-6 years
- Catagen: This is a transitioning phase and can last approximately 2-3 weeks.
- Telogen: This is the resting phase. The hair follicle is completely grown and is resting. This phase lasts around 100 days.
Once the telogen phase is completed, the hair will fall out. So anytime, it is common to lose up to 100 hairs a day, this is regular hair fall.
However, if you are losing more than 100 hair or you are not growing back lost hair, then it is termed as hair loss.
Typically when hair follicle is healthy, it will nourish and promote healthy hair. With age, and due to any of the multitude of issues, hair follicle starts shrinking, making hair thinner. If not rectified, then ultimately, hair follicle will deactivate and won’t be unable to nourish and promote new hair. When this happens, fallen hair does not grow back. This causes hair thinning and baldness.
Difference between hair loss and hair breakage
You will find multiple ads everywhere claiming they can reduce hair fall in X number of days. Be it in the form of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, or even pills. I used to fall victim to this ad gimmick and bought I don’t know how many bottles of shampoo and conditioner thinking this is the solution to all my hair problems.
Over time, on reading the fine print, I realized most of them claim to reduce breakage and not hair loss. So comes this section, what is the difference between hair breakage and loss?
Hair breakage is when hair breaks from between, could be while combing, brushing, or simply tugging. This generally results in uneven hair length. Since hair breaks in the middle, some strands may be longer than others.
Hair loss or fall is when hair comes out from the root. The entire hair strand comes out, and at times, the bulb may still be attached to the hair. This is a bit more tricky to identify and fix the root cause.
What causes hair fall?
Apart from natural reasons, hair fall may happen due to multiple reasons. Some of the most common ones are:
- Medical conditions and certain medications
- A hormonal change like pregnancy
- Radiation therapy including chemotherapy for cancer
- Nutrition deficiency
Apart from the above causes, some of our lifestyle choices may make hair even more vulnerable. Some of these are:
- Keeping the same hairstyle, especially those involving tying hair tight, for a long time
- Using harsh or powerful hair products
- Applying heat or too many styling products
- Being too rough on your hair
Some of the common symptoms of hair fall include:
- Thinning hair from all over the crown (typically seen in female)
- Bald spot with less or no hair (male pattern hair loss)
- You lose more than 100 hair while combing or brushing in due course of day
Tests for hair fall
If you are suffering from abnormal hair fall, it is recommended to visit your doctor. My dermatologist had done the following tests when I visited her last time (which was some time ago).
- Blood test: she had suggested some blood tests like Thyroid, Vitamin D. I will cover this in more detail later.
- Pull test: she pulled around 9 -15 strands together and checked how many strands come out. Well, it was alarming to see the number of strands in her hand
- Light microscopy to examine hair and scalp for any infections
- Scalp biopsy: some strands of hair with bulb is taken to examine
Typical treatment for hair fall
Some of the most common treatments referred by doctors are:
- Minoxidil is the general treatment referred by most of the doctors. At time this is referred even without ordering blood tests. Even though Minoxidil may help in controlling the hair fall for some time, it is very common to see reoccurrence once medication is stopped.
- Hair transplantation surgery, this involves taking a patch of skin with follicles and implanting them in scalp
Even though these treatments may work for some time, the rate of reoccurrence is fairly high. Transplant surgeries are generally pretty expensive and not really reliable to succeed. Plus these treatments may have side effects, from messing with hormones, decreased libido, or even posing more significant health risks.
Instead of spending money, time and efforts in these treatments, include below simple remedies to reduce hair fall in your routine. You can combine them with or without the doctor’s medication.
7 Simple Remedies to reduce hair fall
These are some of the simple remedies to reduce hair fall. I will list out 7 remedies along with a bonus tip which have helped me to reduce my hair fall.
1 Medical Tests
I can’t emphasize the importance of this one enough.
If the hair is falling, remember it might be an indication that something is not right in the body. Even though it is crowning jewelry for women and is considered a sign of beauty, the bottom line is, hair is supplementary. It is not essential for the functioning or for life. More often than not, hair is an indicator of internal health. Healthy hair denotes, good health.
Say, the body has only limited resources, and it needs to distribute them between vital organs and hair. Where do you think these nutrients would go?
Yes, nutrients are first absorbed to ensure smooth functioning of heart, brain, respiratory and other vital systems than for hair or nails.
That’s why it is prevalent to see hair fall in case of deficiencies. You are not getting enough nutrition.
Go for some medical tests to identify what really could be causing the issue.
Some of the typical blood tests to do to identify the root cause of hair fall are:
1. Thyroid: thyroid disorder, typically hypothyroid, causes hair fall and has become very common these days
2. Iron: Iron is required for the formulation of haemoglobin. And haemoglobin carries oxygen for the repair and growth of cells, including those responsible for hair growth.
So, less iron means less oxygen to cells and lesser growth.
3. Vitamin D: Vitamin d also plays a vital role in the repair of growth cells.
4. Vitamin B12: Another vitamin highly important for healthy hair.
Even though old, this article has mentioned a lot of tests to do in detail: blood tests.
2. Nutritious Diet
Have a proper and balances diet to ensure you are receiving optimum nutrients. Since hair is made up of keratin, a type of protein, a protein-rich diet aids in combating hair fall and promotes hair growth.
It is crucial to have a balanced diet as excess of anything is harmful. Make sure to include leafy vegetables, whole grains, fruits, dry fruits, along with protein
If you are unable to get enough nutrients from diet, it is better to go for some quality supplements to cover the deficit. Some of the critical nutrients to target are biotin, vitamin D, vitamin B12, folic acid, zinc along with essential amino acids.
You should go for a specific deficiency supplement instead of general multivitamin, which has little portion of all the nutrients. For example, if deficient in Vitamin D, take vitamin D supplement for some time, then move on to another lack. Once you have hit the optimum range for all the deficiencies, then you can continue with a multivitamin supplement.
Keep in mind that not all supplements are created equal, research and then go for quality supplement to make up for the missing nutrients.
4. Use right hair products
It is vital to use the right hair products based on our hair type. If your hair is dry, you would want products which do not strip moisture from hair. For oily hair, you would want to use a combination of gentle and clarifying shampoo to maintain clean and healthy hair.
For any hair types, it is much better to use sulfate-free, gentle shampoo. See why I switched to sulfate-free shampoo.
I have also composed a list of around 30 sulfate-free shampoo and conditioners to give you various options available.
Exercise plays a vital role in overall health. When we exercise, we sweat. When we sweat through the scalp, the follicle gets unclogged, which ensures more nutrients and oxygen reaches hair. This will boost hair growth and control hair fall.
Minaz from Hair buddha has written a detailed article on the benefits of exercise for hair.
6. Use natural herbs
Some herbs are touted to support hair growth and reduce hair fall. You can use these in powder, gel or juice form to promote hair growth.
How to use these herbs calls for a separate post of its own. Here I will only mention some herbs which are beneficial to hair.
Some of these are:
- Aloe vera gel
- Amla or Indian Gooseberry
- Saw Palmetto
- Fenugreek (Methi)
- Onion juice
- Green Tea
- Curry leaves
- Essential oils, like rosemary, cedarwood, eucalyptus
7. Be gentle to yourself and your hair
Along with the gentle hair products, we must remain kind to ourselves. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others, especially with models boasting about healthy hair in TV/ magazines.
You never know what the actual state of their health and hair is. The amount of effort gone into making them commercial ready is often not displayed to the consumers.
Keep your finger busy, don’t pull/tag/curl your finger. When idle or in thought, it is a common practice to tug or rake a hand through hair. Even though this provides an outlet for frustration, it harms hair. So, keep your hands busy and don’t pull/tug/rake your hair too much.
Practice meditation to reduce stress and calm your mind. Being at peace helps to enjoy a stress-free life along with bringing health benefits.
Avoid or don’t use chemicals, or too much heat to daily style your hair. I have created a list of best hair wash practices to guide you on how to wash and take care of your hair.
7.5 Additionally tip
As a bonus, I have another half advice. This is half as this more of an extension of point 7 above.
Stop giving too much importance to hair. If your body does not consider it important enough over other vital organs, it is not important. Trust your body, it knows best.
But apart from vanity, pay attention and see if your body is trying to tell you something. Hair fall a part of the bigger picture and if you are just focusing on the duct tape treatment, ie, controlling hair fall with transplant or OTC medications, it won’t work for long. Instead, focus on evaluating the medical fitness and fixing any issues.
In the scenario where everything is normal and it’s your genes which are causing the issue, then be at peace. You can’t change your genes or heredity.
Try to change what you can and accept what you can’t. Your personality is not only about hair, its way beyond that. Be happy.
One note, don’t make too many changes at ones. It will become difficult for you to figure out what is working and what’s not. Instead, make one change at a time, evaluate whether ho it is then incorporate one other change.
Hair fall can be triggered by a lot of factors. You can include following simple remedies to control hair fall.
First and foremost, get the medical tests to eliminate any underlying medical situation.
Focus on having a nutritious and balanced, protein-rich diet.
Use quality supplements to make up for any deficiencies in diet.
Make exercise a part of the regular routine. Along with scalp, this has the added bonus of overall well being.
Use the right products preferably gentle ones to ensure they are not too harsh on your hair.
Include herbs to boost your hair growth and aid in controlling hair fall.
Be gentle to yourself and your hair. You are unique and you don’t have to compare yourself with anyone else.
Give these remedies a try and share your experience and your hair journey in comments.