Losing your hair? Don’t panic. There’s a lot you can do to restore your crowning glory.
Hair loss can be caused by a number of factors, including hormonal changes, medical conditions, trauma / extreme stress, or the use of certain medications. For many of us, hair loss is also hereditary.
If you’re losing your hair for no apparent reason, or very suddenly, the first step should be a visit to your GP or dermatologist. If the hair loss is caused by disease, e.g. an underactive or overactive thyroid, it is important to get the correct treatment.
Gradual thinning of the hair could also be the result of a nutrient imbalance, which means that using an over-the-counter supplement could help remedy the problem.
Supplements for hair loss
The following nutrient supplements have been shown to help prevent or treat hair loss in people with deficiencies:
- Iron deficiency is very common (especially among women of childbearing age) and a well-known cause of hair loss.
- While there’s an established link between zinc deficiency and hair loss, it’s important not to over-supplement with this mineral, which can be toxic in high quantities.
- Niacin (vitamin B3) deficiency – this may go hand in hand with alcoholism. Hair loss is one symptom; others include diarrhoea, skin problems and dementia.
Other nutrient deficiencies that have been linked to hair loss include deficiencies of the fatty acids, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid and biotin. A lack of dietary protein can also lead to hair loss. Interestingly, one of the most common issues associated with veganism, and the exclusion of animal protein, is hair loss.
Note, however, that certain supplements (including selenium, vitamin A and vitamin E supplements) may actually cause hair loss – one more reason to check in with your doctor first.
Medications that could help
If you’re worried about hair loss, ask your pharmacist about minoxidil. This is a medication that’s available without a prescription (at a 2% dosage). It can make a difference in stabilising and improving your hair growth when used every day.
A prescription medication called finasteride can also help to slow down hair loss in men. Finasteride blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the hair follicles. As the main cause of male-pattern baldness, DHT causes a shortening of the growth phase and thinning of the hair.
Other medications that could help treat hair loss include dutasteride (for men) and oral contraceptives (for women).
Practical tips to prevent hair loss
Note that hair loss can also result from certain hairstyles and treatments. Care for your hair and prevent hair loss with these simple, practical steps:
- Don’t pull your hair tight into a ponytail or bun.
- Only wash your hair 2-3 times a week.
- Gently comb your hair.
- Avoid using a hair straightener / flat iron.
- Don’t use hot-oil treatments, as these can cause inflammation of the hair follicles and subsequent hair loss.
A simple home remedy
Other research studies have shown that the sulphur in onion juice could stimulate hair growth in people with alopecia areata (patchy hair loss). Half of the study participants applied onion juice to their scalp twice a day; the rest used tap water. After two weeks, 74% of the participants who used onion juice had regrown some hair, compared with 13% of the participants who used water.
By Carine Visagie
The Content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.