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Fit & Proper: Don’t let stress and pollutants make you lose hair

Anand Kumar, a 27-year-old IT executive, has seen a marked increase in his hair fall. Every morning, he finds a lot of hair on his pillow, more so since he took up additional responsibilities at his workplace. After nearly two months of persistent hair fall, Kumar has noticed that his hair has considerably thinned and is afraid that it might never re-grow. But the doctor says there’s hope.

Stress has become an integral part of one’s lifestyle, and it is only rising. One of the most visible consequences of such high stress levels and unhealthy sleep patterns is hair fall. There are three categories of hair fall, for which, depending on the severity of hair loss, different treatment plans are available. The first category is alopecia areata, where the hair loss happens in patches. In severe cases, this could affect eyebrows and the beard. The second category is telogen effluvium, where a patient has weak hair roots and even a gentle tug can cause the hair to break. In such cases, hair fall becomes more pronounced during hair wash and combing.

The third category is when one suffers from a diffused thinning of hair, all over the scalp. This stage usually occurs when the telogen effluvium stage has been in force for six consecutive weeks, or more. A large number of women tend to suffer from this.

Hair growth has two phases – anagen, or the growing phase, and telogen, or the resting phase. It is normal for one to lose about 500 to 100 strands of hair every day; as long as there is sufficient re-growth one doesn’t notice any thinning. The first step to arrest rapid hair loss is to treat the immunological imbalance that is causing it. Biotin and zinc are two important nutrients that can help nourish hair. There is also a wide variety of steroidal and non-steroidal lotions that can help stimulate hair growth. Another option is photo-therapy, where a low-intensity laser is used on the scalp to awaken the hair follicles and improve blood circulation. This can then move the hair follicles back into the anagen phase.

Added to this, patients must also treat dandruff, though they must consult a doctor for the anti-dandruff shampoo that would suit them best. Anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal lotions can also help in keeping the scalp healthy and ensure that the hair roots don’t become weak.

QUICK TIPS

  • What you eat is important: Make sure your diet includes all healthy nutrients, especially biotin and zinc. Proteins also help keep hair healthy. If you are trying to lose weight, focus on vitamin and protein supplements.
     
  • Hard water is a strict no: If you live in an area that has hard water, use RO-purified water, at least to wash your hair.
     
  • Manage stress: Any form of relaxing exercise, even a casual 20-minute stroll, can help reduce stress and arrest hair fall.
     
  • Comb, not brush: Brushing can pull out hair too easily. Use a broad-toothed comb instead.
     
  • Oil attracts pollutants: Pollution and dust in the air can lead to an excess amount of carbon on the skin and scalp. Don’t use oil on the scalp after shampooing your hair. Instead, you can oil your hair before shampooing for nourishment. Washing hair two to three times a week is usually sufficient to keep the scalp clean. But those who have an oily scalp and need to wash their hair daily must use only very mild and neutral shampoo like the kind meant for babies.

R K Joshi
Senior consultant and coordinator (Dermatology), Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi

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