With the weather growing cooler and winter right around the corner, many of our patients at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research have expressed concern that the change in seasons might have an adverse effect on their hair growth. Although the idea that the common forms of hair loss are somehow accelerated during the winter is a common misconception, and some research has suggested that people may actually lose the least amount of hair when the weather is cold, there may still be some cause for concern. As one of the few organs of the body that is regularly exposed to the environment, the hair can be more vulnerable than most people think and certain environmental factors that are common during the winter months can contribute to excessive drying and breakage, which can make any hair loss you may be experiencing seem more severe.
The only living portion of an individual hair strand is the bulb that lies underneath the skin’s surface, deep inside the hair’s follicle. The hair that we can see is simply a collection of amino acid strands, or polypeptides, that form a complex, interwoven pattern. Although they are technically no longer growing, these polypeptides do form side bonds with one another and the presence of these side bonds determines whether a hair strand is thick or fine. Unfortunately, heat can sometimes alter the weaker of these bonds, which is why damaging hair care practices like the use of curling irons and flat irons can affect the hair’s shape. Long exposure to the dry, heated air from a furnace or central heating unit have a similar effect, making the hair appear finer and leaving it more vulnerable to damage. Ultimately, this damage can make the ends of the hair strands appear frayed, a condition commonly known as “split ends.” This not only makes the hair more difficult to style, but can also exacerbate the symptoms of hair loss by making the hair appear even thinner than it already may be.
While it may seem that all this dryness could be fixed with a simple hot shower, this is not actually the case. Long exposure to hot water can actually strip moisture and essential oils from hair and skin, leaving the scalp and hair dry and brittle. Even though a long, hot shower may feel great on a cold morning, we recommend that you expose your hair only to warm or lukewarm water for 10 minutes or less to keep it healthy. Look for deep-conditioning treatments that are fortified with vitamin E, as these are designed to replace your hair’s natural oils, and avoid products with higher alcohol contents that can often contribute to excessive drying. Look for sulfate free shampoos and add dimethicone containing serums to coat the hair shafts. Finally, don’t forget that nutrition plays a role in healthy hair. Foods that are rich in protein and amino acids, like fish and legumes, provide the building blocks that your body needs to maintain healthy hair growth.
In order to find out more about hair loss, including the conditions that cause it and the procedures and products that can treat it, check out our hair restoration blog, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. If you fear that you or someone you love may be starting to experience hair loss, please contact The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research to schedule a hair loss consultation.