Many of our clients have questions about their hair, from what would look the best to how to best care for it. In the salon it can be embarassing to approach delicate questions about your hair with your stylist. But trust us, we can and will help with your style and your health. Below, Woman’s Day journalist Dana Sullivan answers a couple questions that we think are important.
Q: I’m losing my hair. Could I be going bald?
A: It’s normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day at any age. But the sad truth is that women’s hair (like men’s) may naturally get thinner with age. And some women do experience female-pattern hair loss—the top and front of the head is most affected. (It can start as early as your 30s, but it may worsen around menopause.) Still, you should definitely raise this issue with your doctor, especially if you’re starting to see bald spots or your hair is coming out in clumps. “There are many reasons for hair loss, including stress, thyroid conditions and infections,” says Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, a member of the American Academy of Dermatology and a clinical instructor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. Numerous medications, including antidepressants, birth control and blood pressure drugs, can also cause hair loss. Hormonal changes (for example, if you’ve recently given birth or stopped taking birth control pills) can cause your hair to thin as well, but once your hormones stabilize, your hair should return to normal in about six months.
Dieting can cause your hair to thin, especially if you’re not getting enough protein, iron and B vitamins, as they are essential for healthy hair. Dr. Badreshia-Bansal sometimes recommends a biotin (B vitamin) supplement.
If your doctor determines that so-called “normal” female-pattern hair loss is to blame, she’ll probably recommend over-the-counter minoxidil (Rogaine), a topical solution that slows down hair loss and stimulates new strands. She may also prescribe spironolactone (Aldactone), an oral medication that blocks the hormone receptors that cause hair loss.
Q: I can’t wear black because my dandruff is so bad, but “dandruff shampoo” doesn’t help. What will?
A: Try alternating products with different active ingredients, says Cynthia Bailey, MD, a California-based dermatologist. Zinc pyrithione (Selsun Salon and Head & Shoulders) has anti-yeast properties; ketoconazole (Nizoral) is an antifungal and anti-yeast; coal tar (Neutrogena T/Gel) and selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue Medicated and Head & Shoulders Clinical) slow the production of skin cells; and salicylic acid (Neutrogena T/Sal) scrubs the scalp. Dr. Bailey recommends buying two or three of these and switching every time you wash. She also recommends sudsing up first with a regular shampoo to dissolve oil and product buildup so the medicine will penetrate better. Then apply the dandruff shampoo directly to your scalp and let it sit for about 5 minutes. You should see noticeable improvement within one month. If not, see a dermatologist, since you may need a stronger prescription remedy (such as a steroid solution or foam).
If you’re looking for a more natural fix, try coating your scalp with warm mineral oil or peanut oil, then use a fine-tooth comb to loosen flakes before shampooing, says Dr. Bailey. Tea tree oil shampoos (sold in health food stores) can also be effective.
Whatever you do, make sure you shampoo as often as possible (ideally every day). “People with dandruff tend to wash their hair less frequently because they assume the condition is caused by dryness, but it’s not,” says Bruce Robinson, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. An overgrowth of yeast may be to blame, but experts say that people who have it generally have an oily scalp, which can allow dead skin cells to accumulate and flake off.
By Dana Sullivan, Woman’s Day September 2011