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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 18 August, 2019
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Hair health 101: we asked two experts about the reasons and remedies for female hair loss

Two experts share their advice.

IT’S THE TIME of year when we hear an increasing number of our friends talking about shedding.

Yes, while we may be basking in the glory of impressive weather this week, we’re just over the hump of a chilly winter which is when hair loss seems to be at its worst.

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According to experts this is incredibly natural, we know this, but that doesn’t stop us from worrying that something else could be at work.

Last year, after some fairly significant changes in my life, I noticed that I was losing a lot more hair than normal. No longer was I just pulling out strands after a shower or brushing, but constantly throughout the day, peeling hair dozens of strands from every item of clothing.

I didn’t want to brush my hair because I knew I would be left pulling chunks of it out of my brush. My locks became thinner, curls hung looser and overall, I felt paranoid about something I’d never really paid  much attention to.  

After going to my GP, I learned that I was experiencing stress hair loss. She explained to me that normally our hair works at roughly an 80/20 growth to loss ratio, but in times of stress that can change to a 30/70 ratio.

She advised I work on my diet, increase the amount of exercise I was getting in and focus on mindfulness. Eventually, my hair loss was not so noticeable and eventually returned to the levels I was used to.

But since then, I’ve become increasingly aware of it and of friends who worry they too are losing their hair.

And instead of speculating on the cause or trying to self-diagnose (Web MD is the enemy!), I asked the experts.

First up is the turn of Managing Director of New Hair Revolution and Instagram hair guru, Sabrina Hill.

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Over 30,000 people tune into Sabrina’s Instagram stories on the daily to gain just a little bit of hair wisdom which she dishes out by the bucket-load.

In her experience, when it comes to hair loss, there are four main causes.

Pregnancy

This is so incredibly common and yet so many women are so unaware of it. During pregnancy hair goes into a resting phase, giving most women luscious locks. This is due to the increase in hormones.

However, after pregnancy when levels normalise, women can expect extra shedding which can cause a panic. But this is a normal part of post pregnancy and the hair does grow back usually within 6 to 12 months.

Stress

For some women, this is the body’s reaction to dealing with stress. I’ve seen it so many times when there is illness or a tragic event that women experience hair loss. The way to treat this is to by treating the problem.

I find eating a balanced diet and looking after yourself with holistic therapy can really help. To speed up growth, I’d advise taking the supplement Zinc.

Anaemia

The first thing I ask a client to do when they complain of hair loss is to get their bloods checked, as sudden hair loss can be commonly caused by low iron levels.

Boosting your intake of iron rich foods and supplements can really help stimulate growth again.

Traction Alopecia

I see this all too often particularly in young women who constantly wear their hair up in a hun bun or tight ponytail. This is the type of hair loss that worries me the most as it can lead to permanent damage and bald patches. The hair on the hairline, in particular, can be very fragile, especially when highlighted or coloured.

Wearing your hair much looser can certainly help a lot. I’d also advise applying Olaplex No 3 to these areas as a treatment. It can reconstruct the disulphide bonds of hair which will help these areas grow again.

But what do medical experts have to say on the issue. 

Next is the turn of Dr Doireann O’Leary to share her expertise on the issue.

51359124_2290308747911423_8162869190187428428_n Source: Dr Doireann O'Leary/Instagram

This Cork-based GP has built up quite the online following thanks to her informative stories on issues like IBS, fertility and sexual health. 

She too says there are many causes of hair loss and therefore many ways to treat it. 

There are many causes of thinning hair and/or hair loss. Hair loss may occur due to disorders of hair cycling, inflammatory conditions that damage hair follicles, or inherited or acquired abnormalities in the hair shafts.

Causes range from hair practices (tight ponytails/braids- anything that puts prolonged traction on the hair follicle), to diet, to stress and autoimmune conditions (when your immune system “attacks” your own body).

Periods of major psychological stress can certainly cause thinning hair or hair loss, as can extreme weight loss. A long-standing iron deficiency and an under active thyroid can also be the root cause.

Skin conditions like psoriasis, dermatitis and fungal infections of the scalp must also be considered. 

Some medicines can result in thinning hair or hair loss so it’s always useful to review any over-the-counter or prescription medicines you’re taking.

Your GP will be able to make an assessment of your hair loss and consider the cause based on the pattern of hair loss.

In Alopecia Areata (autoimmune condition) the hair loss occurs in patches, whereas in female pattern hair loss thinning tends to be at the front and crown.

Whether or not the hair will grow back depends on the underlying cause. Your GP will do some blood tests to rule out reversible causes like an under active thyroid or low iron level but oftentimes referral to a dermatologist for further inspection and assessment is required.

They then can look at the hair under a microscope to reach a formal diagnosis and start treatment where necessary. If you’re worried at all about your hair make an appointment with your GP who can help.

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