All About Hair Loss: Causes and what you can do to manage it

Hair loss is a sensitive topic for many women. We often feel that it’s a condition reserved for men, or women beyond a certain age, if at all. But hair fall can actually begin any time after puberty, and is more common than you think!

Female-pattern baldness is also more difficult to spot, since it occurs around the part of your hair, rather than a receding hairline or thinning crown that men experience. Some hair fall is also normal as hair naturally renews itself, with figures varying from the loss of 50 to 300 strands daily.

You can experience excessive hair loss as a result of dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, alopecia, and scalp infections. Medical conditions like thyroiditis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and even pregnancy can also make hair fall out faster. Medications such as for cancer, depression, and contraceptives can also cause some form of hair loss. In these cases, seek professional advice from your doctor.

Prevention is better than cure

If you’re not sick or taking any medication, the hair fall you experience is probably linked to aging and genetics. As a general rule, hair fall can be lessened by keeping hair healthy, hydrated, and away from physical stressors. Brittle, dry hair is more prone to tangling, and thus more prone to falling out. Chemicals such as ammonium in hair dyes, bleaches, perms, and straightening treatments can dry out and weaken the hair shaft. Even small things like heat from  styling and washing in hot water can dry out the hair and make it more prone to breaking or falling off. Very long hair can also make the individual hair shafts more prone to tangling and breaking off.

Just like in makeup brushes, investing in a good hairbrush can markedly improve hair fall rates. Well-designed bristles promote blood circulation to the scalp by massaging without injury. It should be able to remove tangles gently, without pulling at your scalp or causing the strands to break. Liz swears by how the Wet Brush has noticeably lessened her hair fall!

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Fake it!

When hair fall isn’t obvious yet, you can use little hacks to cover it. Since female-pattern baldness usually starts at the part, simply switch it up to cover the thinning areas. “Messy” hairstyles like curls or waves can add volume, while sleek and tight hairstyles might expose sparse areas.

You can even create the appearance of volume by using hairline makeup. Innisfree Real Hair Make Up Jelly Concealer (P494 at Althea) is cushion-like makeup that you apply on the hair part and hairline. You can also try Hairfix Miracle Hair Fiber (P269 at Watsons) which comes with a hair spray to set the color. Eyebrow powder also works since it’s meant to work with hair and often comes in hair-complimentary shades.

Attacking the problem at the “root” (heh) is most sensible, but for general support in hair loss due to age, diet, overall health, and stress, there are different treatments to match any budget.

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Near free: Plants are your friends

When hair is brittle and dry, it tends to fall faster. Nourishing the scalp and strands can help keep existing hair attached to the scalp for longer.

Using aloe vera and coconut oil as hair treatments is a beauty hack all Pinays know by heart, and they are both cheap, accessible, and very moisturizing! Simply massage on the scalp and through the strands, allowing it to soak for 10 minutes before washing off. Easy as that! You can get aloe vera sap by squeezing it out directly from the leaf, while coconut oil is extracted by boiling off the water from coconut milk. For those disinclined to DIY, you can get coconut oil for cheap in the grocery. I found a 265ml bottle for just P190!

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Gugo is another popular option. The bark is soaked in water and gently scrubbed to create a lightly sudsy “shampoo” that is believed to make hair grow thicker. This may be harder to find outside of public markets so pick up Zenutrients’ ready-made formulas instead. The Zenutrients Gugo Hair Strengthening Shampoo just P249 for 250ml, and has a matching conditioner at P260 for 200ml (both from zenutrients.com.ph).

While these plants help in fighting hair fall, it is important to note that they do not promote new hair growth. Aloe and coconut oil only nourish what is already there and keep it from prematurely falling off. Gugo might have gotten its natural shampoo reputation because it contains saponin, which lathers in water. There is simply no medical evidence linking new hair growth to anything in aloe vera, coconut oil, nor gugo.

Image via @MinoxidilRegroe on Twitter

Image via @MinoxidilRegroe on Twitter

Midrange: Drugs that work

A good shampoo and conditioner that works well with your body chemistry can do wonders in mitigating general hair loss. Scalp is still skin, and scalp care shares some similarities with facial skin care. As a first step, going SLS-free may already do a lot for your rate of hair fall. Baby shampoos are normally SLS-free, but Johnson and Johnson’s Baby No Tears actually still has them. The Mustela Gentle Baby Shampoo doesn’t, and it costs P1200 for 500ml. Another SLS-free option is a PV fave, the Himawari Volume and Repair Shampoo (P695 for 500ml at Beauty Bar).

That said, nothing works like good ole Minoxidil! This drug may be formulated in a tonic, foam, or shampoo format, and is proven to increase hair growth as long as it is continuously used for at least 4 months. You may want a quick conversation with your doctor before trying this though, because even though they are OTC products (Minoxidil Regroe is available in Mercury Drug outlets without prescription at P2,250 for 120ml) there are precautions against heart, kidney, and liver problems.

Image via the Asian Hair Restoration Center

Image via the Asian Hair Restoration Center

Sky’s the limit: Surgical options

Sometimes, hair loss has gotten so bad that there are no hair follicles to support, and no amount of nourishing nor medicating can jump-start hair growth. For these cases, hair transplant surgery (HT) is the only option. This is a surprisingly simple procedure of taking follicles from “donor dominant” areas (areas genetically resistant to hair fall) and “planting” them strategically into the scalp areas where hair loss is obvious.

There are many hospitals and clinics that offer the procedure, but I could only find the published rates of Maxim Hair Restoration, which earmarks the cost at about P120,000 to P250,000. Note that the procedure’s cost is highly dependent on the patient’s level of hair loss, plus the relevant complexity of each case. If you’re interested in this kind of treatment, it’s best to get a consult so that they can assess what needs to be done and how much you can expect to pay.

Budget concerns aside, it’s most important to identify the real cause of your hair loss so you can apply the proper treatment. For example, it’s fairly easy to just change your shampoo, but if your hair is falling due to PCOS, it will keep falling anyway. Consult with your doctor on managing your medical condition, and to help you determine the best course of action that suits both your health condition and budget.

Header image via windsordermatology.com