It’s official. Men are inching towards baldness as early as in their 20s, and that’s a leap from our fathers’ generation that hoped to walk into their 40s with a full crop of hair.
Losing hair is far from being a modern concern, but premature balding, say trichologists is turning out to be more of a trend than rarity. And the way we live our lives has more to do with it than genes or plain bad luck.
Swedish hair specialist Dr Fred Zuli and Italian scientist Dr Falvio Ferrari, who were in Mumbai for a discussion on hair growth technology, put it down to four enemies: stress, vices, pollution and poor nutrition.
While it’s normal to lose between 50 and 100 strands of hair a day, serious hair loss — medically termed alopecia — is a sign that something is wrong with our body, says trichologist Dr Apoorva Shah. “As a reaction to an incident of extreme mental or physical stress, the body typically sheds hair after a gap of three months. For instance, if you are down with food poisoning, the mal-absorption of nutrients during this period can lead to hair loss in the next few months. So, it’s important to jog your memory to pinpoint the cause.”
Dr Ferrari squarely puts the blame on stress. “While genetics plays a key role in balding, a stressful lifestyle can play havoc. Simple lifestyle changes such as, getting seven hours of sleep, having a glass of water every hour (strands are made up of minerals, which only water can replenish) and eating protein-rich foods at regular intervals can bring about an 80 per cent change.”
“Nutrition is vital for hair growth. No other part of the human body grows at the rate of half an inch per month, except bone marrow, so you must feed it,” says Dr Shah.
Eat well, see it grow
The relationship between food and hair is simple. Hair is made up of a protein called keratin. So, it’s essential that you include sufficient protein in your diet. A low-protein diet forces your body to save the available protein for other purposes, like rebuilding cells, thus depriving hair of it. Dr Shah says spinach, almonds, walnuts, paneer, tofu and milk are hair-happy foods. Green tea is effective because it blocks out Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone that causes hair loss.
Rapunzels are dead
Men are not alone. Women are also losing more hair than they did in the past, because a stressful lifestyle isn’t the domain of men alone. Stress is driving their bodies to produce more androgens (male hormones), thereby upping the secretion of the hair loss-causing chemical DHT, says
Ferrari. With women, excessive styling and colouring is also to blame. “Heat and chemicals weaken the hair, leading to easy breakage,” adds Dr Zuli. Dr Shah says the indiscriminate use of oral contraceptives that can cause hormonal imbalance in the long run should be checked.
To moisturise the scalp, he advises oiling it with coconut or almond oil three nights a week, and washing it off the next morning. Trimming split ends every eight weeks helps, too.
Smoking away your mane
Here’s one more reason to quit smoking. The carbon monoxide that you inhale, prevents the blood from transporting oxygen and key nutrients to hair follicles. Nicotine narrows the blood vessels, further stalling fresh hair growth.
While moderate drinkers can hold on to their hair, regular guzzlers are at risk. Alcohol is known to suck the body of its iron supply, impeding absorption of zinc. Booze also causes dehydration, stopping the body from absorbing vital nutrients. Since hair is almost one-fourth water, excessive alcohol will invariably leave it brittle.