Hair loss and thinning can be the result of a variety of different causes. While hair loss specialists and board-certified dermatologists Dr. Edmond Griffin and Dr. Ashley Curtis frequently discuss with patients the role that genetics, illness, and stress can play in causing hair loss and thinning, there are also several everyday beauty treatments that can not only damage the hair but also bring about temporary or even long term hair loss. Simply avoiding these damaging hair care practices can often go a long way towards keeping your hair looking full and healthy.
Many people believe that they need to shampoo their hair every day, but this is not always the case. Shampoo is an emulsifier that captures excess oil, dirt, and product residue so that it can be rinsed out, cleaning the hair. However, the hair also naturally produces an essential oil called sebum and washing the hair too frequently can strip this oil away, leaving the hair dry and more prone to breakage. Those with very fine hair, an oily scalp, or who exercise (and sweat) a great deal or who live in humid environments, usually need to shampoo daily to keep the hair clean, but people with thicker, dry, or curly hair can afford to wash less frequently. On the other hand, certain forms of hair loss, such as androgenetic alopecia, may actually be accelerated by allowing the hair to go long periods between washings, so consulting with one of our board-certified dermatologists is the best way to determine what course is best in your individual case.
After shampooing, many go on to expose their hair to high heat from blow dryers, flat irons, or curling irons. These styling aids can boil the water in the hair shaft, leaving it brittle and fragile to the point that simply brushing it causes breakage. Moreover, the process of rubbing the wet hair vigorously with a towel and then rough combing through the tangles can be extremely damaging as well. The hair’s elasticity is significantly increased while it is wet and so it can be more prone to breakage. Detangling is often best performed with fingers or with a wide toothed pick.
Several common hair care products can also cause damage to the hair. Regular use of harsh chemical treatments, including gels, dyes, relaxers, and products containing heavy paraffin and beeswax, can ultimately weigh hair down and cause it to grow weaker and break more easily. It is safest to limit the amount of hair coloring and heat that you apply to your hair and instead use high-quality sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners to allow the hair’s natural oils to provide shine and protection. Using light weight serums containing dimethicone can hydrate and protect the hair shafts from external stressors such as heat and chemicals.
Finally, tight hair styles such as braiding, ponytails, and sew-in hair pieces can place constant tension on the hair follicles, causing a condition known as traction alopecia. In this type of loss, the hair is pulled out by the roots or breaks unevenly, usually leaving behind areas of obvious thinning along the front and sides of the scalp. Traction alopecia is most commonly seen after braiding of the hair into tight braids for months at a time and can, if left untreated, eventually damage the hair follicles to the point that permanent hair loss occurs. Fortunately, simply changing the hair style and allowing the hair to relax and grow naturally is enough to stop significant, long-term thinning.
If you have additional questions about your own hair loss, or are interested in any of the hair restoration treatments we offer at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, please contact Dr. Griffin or Dr. Curtis to schedule a consultation. Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.