Hair loss is, understandably, a sensitive topic for many: our hair is inextricably tied to our image and thus to how we see - and value - ourselves. But it's a phenomenon experienced by so many at different points of our lives, and whether it's just day-to-day shedding or a condition that requires specialist attention, it's well overdue that we discuss this unfairly taboo topic more openly. Thankfully, preventing hair loss can sometimes come down to fixing the basics; and while the causes of hair loss vary on a case-by-case basis, there are practical tips anyone can implement to address and remedy hair shedding. Read on for our expert-approved guide to optimising your hair health.

Hair Growth Cycle

Did you know the average person sheds 50 – 100 hairs per day? Hair goes through three different cycles – growth, resting, and shedding – but the phases aren’t uniform across all hair follicles. Different hair follicles will go through individual phases, so some hair follicles may be at a growth level and others at a resting or shedding period. So don’t panic if you notice some hair loss – it’s perfectly normal.

Food that boosts hair health and growth

How to prevent hair loss may first start with your diet. The building block for hair is a protein called keratin. Studies show that incorporating protein-rich foods can boost hair health and reduce breakage. Proteins deliver the essential nutrients for hair to remain firmly anchored in hair follicles and increase the quality of keratin, resulting in more luminous locks. Foods that contain protein include lean meats, poultry, fish and seafood, dairy products, nuts, and peas. According to Dr Eric Rudnik, fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon are good sources of protein and contain essential fatty acids that also boost hair health.

In a clinical trial, participants who consumed more raw vegetables, herbs, and leafy greens experienced significant hair loss reduction. Improvement was correlated with the frequency of consumption, with people eating these types of food more than three times a week recording the most visible results. Leafy greens contain vitamin A, iron, beta carotene, folate, and vitamin C, and deficiency in these nutrients can trigger hair loss, so consider upping the kale, spinach, collards, and basil in your diet.

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Know what you’re deficient in

While hair supplements are often touted in ‘how to prevent hair loss’ articles, it’s important to understand what your body is actually lacking. Sometimes you may be overloading on vitamins your body is already abundant in, which can make things worse. Instead of diving head first into the trendiest supplement, take a blood test to identify the vitamins you actually need.

Vitamins that play an essential role in growth and retention process include vitamins A, B, C, and D, iron, selenium, and zinc. It’s important to note that our body doesn’t naturally produce zinc and selenium, so you may need to supplement or incorporate foods rich in these nutrients. Nuts and seeds such as almonds, chia seeds, and flaxseed are rich in zinc and selenium.

How you treat your hair matters

There’s a misconception that washing your hair every day causes hair loss, but Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist (a health professional that specialises in hair), says washing your hair daily may protect you against hair loss by keeping the scalp clean. Often buildup from products and pollution can contribute to blocking hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. The key is to use a mild shampoo, as harsh products can lead to increased breakage. “Frequent shampooing washes old, bacteria-laden oil off your hair. This stops too much oil from building up, and collecting dirt and dust,” Anabel says. While it may appear that hair sheds more frequently during shampooing, Anabel explains that it’s not the actual process that caused the hair loss: “Shampooing simply dislodges hairs that have already become detached from the follicle’s base and are ready to come out.”

Beyond shampooing your hair, there are some everyday tips on how to prevent hair loss.

  • Use the lowest heat setting when blow drying your hair to prevent hair damage. Consider air drying your hair or using a microfibre towel to speed up the drying process.
  • Limit factors that put pressure or force on your hair follicles. This includes tugging your hair when brushing and styling or wearing hair styles that are tightly pulled back (ponytails, buns, cornrows, plaits etc.).
  • Brushing your hair regularly (but not too frequently) actually helps distribute healthy oils throughout your locks, improving overall hair health.
  • Over usage of dry shampoos can lead to scalp inflammation. According to dermatologist, Dr Corey Hartman, an inflamed scalp can not anchor hair well, leading to increased hair loss.
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Medical solutions

If you have significant hair shedding, contact a medical professional to identify how to prevent hair loss. Minoxidil  is considered a baseline defence as it prolongs the growth phase of the hair cycle. Another treatment is Phenylephrine, which contracts hair follicles, increasing the capacity for hair to remain anchored. According to Dr. Jeff Rappaport, a dermatologic surgeon, combining medial treatments such as Minoxidil with PRP offers the most visible improvements.

PRP is considered a ‘go-to’ treatment when doctors are asked about how to prevent hair loss. Your own blood is drawn, then it is spun in a centrifuge that separates the platelets (filled with growth factors that stimulate cell renewal) from the rest of the blood and injected into the area of concern. PRP is said to aid hair growth by activating dormant hair follicles, boosting blood supply, and thickening the hair shaft. However, the results are not immediate, as it takes time for the growth factors to affect your hair cycle and isn’t suitable for bald patches. “You still need to have some hair. I tell most patients to allow four months to see a difference. If it hasn’t helped by four months, it probably isn’t going to help you,” Dr. David Berman, a plastic surgeon said.

Story by Kristina Zhou. Holding shot via @emilydidonato

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