It may seem surprising, but your hair and scalp can tell you a lot about your overall physical, mental, and emotional health. While we may not see the effects of poor health immediately, your hair can provide a general picture of how healthy you are on the inside. Here is a look at some of the most common hair and scalp issues people deal with and what they may mean for your health.
What Your Hair & Scalp Can Say About Your Health
Posted on by Alejandro Buttari
If you have a dusting of white flakes on your shoulders, you are not alone. Most people will encounter dandruff at some point during their lives, and some deal with it long-term. Doctors speculate that several things can cause dandruff:
- An overgrowth of fungus (called Malassezia)
- Oily skin
- Cold, dry weather
Dandruff is not contagious, but it can be bothersome because it may become itchy. Similarly, many people also find it to be embarrassing. However, it is essential to know that dandruff is not contagious.
Treatment: Make sure to stay hydrated and use a shampoo that offers the right amount of moisture for your scalp. Some people with oily scalps may need to wash more frequently to curb oil production, whereas others may need less frequent washing to prevent drying out their skin. Anti-dandruff shampoos can be highly effective at curbing flaking, but it can take some trial and error with different shampoos before finding one that works for you.
Yes, there are different kinds of dandruff. Seborrheic dermatitis causes yellow dandruff. Flaking turns an oily, yellow color because it is from an overproduction of sebum (or oil). Essentially, seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory condition that results when too much oil sits on the skin. Aside from having a naturally oily scalp, there are several plausible causes of seborrheic dermatitis, including:
- Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease
- Immunodeficiencies like HIV
Treatment: Just like white dandruff, you can manage yellow dandruff with anti-dandruff shampoos. However, some people with difficult-to-treat dermatitis may require a topical steroid prescribed by their dermatologist.
We shed hair every day. While it is hard to estimate, most adults lose between 50 and 100 hairs per day. Although this may seem like a lot, it really isn’t when you consider that the average head of hair has over 100,000 follicles at any one time.
When you shed more than your average amount of hair, it can be a cause for alarm. One of the most common reasons for excessive shedding is telogen effluvium, which occurs after experiencing a significant stressor, such as divorce, loss, illness, trauma, or surgery. People with this condition typically lose their hair three months after the stressful event because of how the hair growth cycle works. Fortunately, if you have telogen effluvium, it is reversible once you overcome the stressor and your hair growth cycle normalizes.
Treatment: Shedding is normal. However, too much shedding can be a sign of severe emotional or physical distress. If you are shedding excessively, try to reduce your stress levels, eat a well-balanced diet, and give your hair time to regrow. If you do not see regrowth within a few months, it is helpful to use a hair regrowth product line to give your follicles a boost.
It is undoubtedly alarming when you experience bald patches on your scalp. Several conditions cause balding, including:
- Alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease where your immune system mistakenly attacks your hair follicles)
- Fungal infection
- Your genetics
Genes largely determine how our hair grows and changes throughout our life. If you have family members who also have hair loss, your balding may likely be the result of a genetic condition called androgenic alopecia, which is common in both men and women.
Treatment: If you have balding or bald patches, it is important to see your dermatologist for a thorough evaluation. Treatment depends on what is causing the balding. For example, if you have alopecia areata, you may need to have a steroid medication. Similarly, if you have a fungal infection like ringworm, you may need treatment with an antifungal medication.
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Male-Pattern Hair Loss
Androgenic alopecia is sometimes referred to as male- or female-pattern hair loss. It runs in families and is often the result of increased sensitivity to DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in the hair follicles. Signs of male-pattern hair loss include:
- Receding hairline
- Thinning or balding on the crown
- A hairline in the shape of a ‘V’ that is the result of temple thinning
Treatment: Because this type of hair loss is often the result of your genetics, it can be challenging to manage. One of the best ways to control hair loss is to take early action to reduce the amount you lose. Thus, the moment you start to notice thinning, you will want to start using a hair regrowth product that contains Nanoxidil 5%. Nanoxidil is the most effective treatment for restoring hair to your head without unpleasant side effects like scalp inflammation and irritation.
Female-Pattern Hair Loss
Like male-pattern hair loss, women can also lose hair in a specific pattern. Unlike men, however, women experience different patterns of hair loss. Signs of female-pattern hair loss include:
- A widening part line
- Thinning at the temples
- General thinning all over the head
- Hair that becomes more delicate, fine, and breakable
Along with genetics, changes in hormones may also cause hair thinning in women.
Treatment: Women with thinning should see their doctor to have their hormone levels evaluated. Unless hormonal imbalance is at play, women generally can treat female-pattern hair loss with hair regrowth products containing Nanoxidil.
Combat Pattern Hair Loss
People who gray before age 40 have premature graying. Often, going gray early on in life is the result of your genetics. However, it can also be a sign of health issues, including thyroid disease, anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency, and vitiligo.
Treatment: There is no treatment for early graying. However, treating underlying causes like thyroid disease can prevent further graying. Many people choose to dye their hair to cover up gray strands. Generally, dying is okay, but it can lead to scalp irritation and sensitivity, making your hair more brittle and prone to breakage
Things That Can Compromise Your Hair and Scalp Health
Now that we have looked at some of the most common hair and scalp conditions, let’s look at what factors can worsen your hair and scalp health (and even your overall health).
Over styling - Too much pulling on your hair strands can lead to a condition called traction alopecia. In this condition, your hair starts to thin and even balds in areas where your hair is pulled too tight. People who frequently wear tight ponytails or cornrows may have traction alopecia. Similarly, heat damage from hot styling tools can place stress on your hair and scalp.
Medication - One less-known side effect of some medicines is hair loss. If you are taking a new medication and notice your hair is thinning, talk with your doctor if this is an expected symptom to rule out other causes of hair loss. If there are other options, your doctor may be able to put you on a different medication.
Sun damage - Excessive sun exposure can damage your hair follicles and your scalp. Wearing a hat when you are outside is an effective way of reducing harm and preventing skin cancer.
Poor nutrition - Surprisingly, many Americans do not get enough of the right nutrients for hair growth in their diet. Thus, it is not uncommon for people to experience some hair thinning because of poor nutrition. Eating plenty of wholesome foods and taking a hair supplement can help reduce hair fallout.