When people are asked to describe someone’s hair, the very first thing most remark on is the color. Our collective emphasis on one detail is so ingrained into our culture that we even ascribe distinctive personality traits based on the particular hue of a person’s tresses. This is just one of the many reasons why the process of coloring ones hair has become so widespread. Whether it be to cover up greying hair to look more youthful or to simply give oneself a new and exciting look, hair color is more popular than ever, but many have wondered whether all of the treatment with harsh chemicals might not be contributing to widespread hair loss. At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we study all forms of hair loss, ranging from common androgenetic alopecia (commonly known as genetic pattern baldness) to rare thyroid and autoimmune disorders and have investigated the role that hair color plays in the hair loss of both men and women.
Simply put, hair dye only affects the hair above the surface of the scalp, but the hair grows from the bulb, which is located underneath the skin. As a result, only in the most rare and unusual of cases can hair dye cause permanent hair loss. However there is actually a great deal more complexity to this issue. Hair dye works by reacting with the cortex, the layer of the hair strand that lies between the tough outer cuticle and the medulla, which lies in the center. However, in order to reach the cortex, a hair dye formula has to first penetrate the protective cuticle layer. This penetration can damage the cuticle, allowing moisture to escape and leaving the hair dry and brittle. When brittle hair breaks off, it can appear as though the hair is thinning overall, which can be even more noticeable in patients who are already experiencing hair loss due to other causes. While this damage is minimal when dye is used to make minor, subtle changes in shade, it can be much more extensive when bleach is used to completely strip the hair of its original color so that more drastic changes can be made. However, contrary to popular belief, highlighting ones hair with bleach alone is actually less damaging than using harsh, darker-colored dyes that actually penetrate the hair shaft. While bleach can strip the external layers of the hair shaft, making the hair more susceptible to breakage, this damage is often much more extensive when darker dyes are used. This is why we make a point of advising patients to avoid specifically damaging hair care practices when they are experiencing hair loss.
On the other hand, gentle products that achieve subtle shifts in color can sometimes actually help to make hair loss less noticeable. In most cases, the progression of hair loss involves the gradual thinning of the hair strands and, as the strands thin, the scalp underneath becomes more visible. A sharp contrast between the patient’s skin tone and hair color, such as when the patient has light skin and dark colored hair, can make even moderate thinning readily apparent. Choosing a hair color closer to the color of your scalp draws less attention to thinning hair and can even make the face look younger by softening the features. Similarly, at The Griffin Center we can provide several different non-prescription products, usually in powder form, that are designed either to adhere to the hair strand, making it appear thicker, or to darken the skin of the scalp to help conceal hair loss. Although these are only temporary solutions, at The Griffin Center we offer a variety of different surgical and non-surgical hair loss treatments and coloring products that can be tailored to suit each patient’s specific needs.
If you are experiencing hair loss or thinning, or if you have questions about any of the various hair loss treatments we perform, please feel free to contact Dr. Edmond Griffin or Dr. Ashley Curtis to schedule a hair loss consultation so that we can formulate a treatment plan custom tailored to your specific needs. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get the latest news in hair restoration and research.