Have you got a healthy head of hair?
Consultant Trichologist, Sally-Ann Tarver MIT.FTTS, reveals what your hair and scalp tells you about your health.
Your hair is considered to be a barometer of your health and hair issues are often the first symptom of a medical or nutritional problem.
This is because your hair is not life sustaining and is the least important function or structure for your body to support.
A qualiﬁed and experienced Trichologist will look at all aspects of your health to ﬁnd out why your body is not supporting your hair as it should be. In women, this can be due to a variety of factors:
You may have a deficiency, such as iron, B12 or vitamin D, which can have an impact on your hair and scalp health. These deficiencies are relatively common and often the first sign is a slight increase in hair shedding often unnoticeable to the sufferer until noticeable hair thinning occurs.
People with darker skin or those who are very sensitive to the sun (who avoid it) are susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. Where B12 deficiency is concerned, it is not just people who suffer from the autoimmune condition pernicious anaemia, vegetarians, vegans and type II diabetics are also susceptible to low Vitamin B12.
Heavy periods & Post-natal
Women who suffer with heavy periods or have had children are highly susceptible to hair loss due to sub optimum iron stores. Many will visit their GP for blood tests only to be told ‘everything is normal'.
A woman with Serum Ferritin levels of between 10-30 would be classed as ‘normal, no further action'. They would not be considered clinically anaemic but may experience a higher than normal loss of hair or daily hair shedding. Moderate hair shedding over a period of months or years will eventually result in thin hair.
An incident prior to the onset of shedding
A short-term heavy hair shedding is often related to an ‘incident' two to three months prior to the onset of shedding. This is normally fairly simple for the Trichologist to pinpoint. Rapid weight loss, surgery, acute illness or stress, a fever, an accident or shock are all well known to cause this type of shedding.
The amount of hair lost will be reflective on how severe the ‘incident' or illness was. Over my years in practice, I have seen patients attend appointments with carrier bags half full of hair lost over the course of a week or so.
Sudden hair loss can be rather dramatic and very upsetting. This type of acute hair loss is usually due to one of these types of incident two to three months before:
Rapid weight loss
If a person loses weight rapidly, either purposely through crash dieting diet or accidently through ill health, the body will reduce its support for its hair in favour of essential body systems. The result of this is often hair loss and weakened, brittle hair.
Hormonal influences also impact hair loss and growth. The thyroid gland if unbalanced can cause hair issues whether over-active or under-active. In the particular cause of an underactive thyroid, hair changes can begin way before most GPs would even consider contemplating treating their patient with prescription medication.
Hair becomes drier, can appear to change texture or gradually thin. The scalp can also become dry, itchy and slightly flaky.
A dry scalp can also be caused by dehydration. Unfortunately, at the sight of minor scalp flakes, many people will automatically reach for a medicated or dandruff shampoo which, in some cases can make matters worse.
Observe the skin of other areas of the body. If your legs are dry and the backs of your hands are dry or appear excessively aged, it is likely that scalp flakes are also the result of dehydration and require moisturising and hydration (by drinking water!) rather than medicating.
Sally-Ann Tarver MIT.FTTS is Consultant Trichologist at The Cotswold Trichology Centre & for Theradome GB.