Baldness (Alopecia)

 

A paper entitled ‘Shorn Scalps and Perceptions of Male Dominance’ revealed that bald or closely shaven men were perceived to be stronger and taller than their hairier colleagues. Despite these findings, squillions of dollars and thousands of counselling hours are spent in the pursuit of cranial hirsuitism. Perhaps it’s because hair adorns the face, the bit we show the world, or the sexual connotations bestowed by freely flowing locks, hair and it’s loss is the focus of many. If you are losing your hair, try the methods below. If all else fails take solace in baseballer Joe Garagiola’s quote, ‘I’d rather be bald on top than bald inside’.

Behind the scenes

The average scalp boasts 100,000 hairs. Each day sees the loss of approximately 100 of these hairs. The bit that we preen and perm is the shaft of the hair, protruding from the surface of the skin and made of keratin, a type of protein. Beneath the skin lies the hair root sometimes called the bulb, encased by the hair follicle. It is from within the hair follicle that the yet unheralded hair is nurtured. The follicle provides all nutrients for healthy growth as well as producing sebum, the natural oil that keeps the skin healthy and hair glossy.

Symptoms

  • Alopecia areata – where hair is lost in small, often circular patches from the scalp and beard.
  • Male pattern baldness – where hair recedes from the temples and top of the scalp.
  • Alopecia universalis – rarely, hair is lost from all parts of the body, scalp, arms, legs, pubic hair and eyebrows.

What causes it?

  • You are male. The male hormone, testosterone, is responsible for male-pattern baldness where the hair starts to recede first at the temples, and keeps receding until it’s a little shaggy thing, perching precariously low, at the back of the head, between the ears.
  • Alopecia areata, distinct round pale patches of baldness, is nearly always stress-related.
  • Medication (or ceasing medication), including oral contraceptive pill, cortisone may be the cause of your hair loss.
  • A sudden emotional or physical stress including high fever, major surgery, illness or a crash diet can cause hair loss. It may take weeks to a couple of months for the hair to fall out after such an event.
  • Chemotherapy, while not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair to fall out, it is a relatively common side-effect of treatment. Hair will grow back, but may have a different texture or colour.
  • Post-menopause many women find their hair thinning. This may be due to a relative increase in the male hormone, testosterone, after oestrogen levels have dropped.
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome may cause a male pattern hair loss due to an imbalance of hormones. Quite unfairly, hair on the scalp may reduce, while facial and other body hair increases.
  • After baby. During pregnancy women tend not to lose their allotted 100 hairs a day. Post birth, a massive moult takes place two to three months after birth where all these saved-up hairs fall out. This is perfectly normal and within a year your luxurious pelt will return.
  • Iron-deficiency anaemia is the most common nutritional reason for hair loss.
  • Ringworm of the scalp may appear as circular bare red patches very similar to alopecia areata, but this is due to this fungal infection.
  • Certain illnesses may cause hair loss including low thyroid and the auto-immune condition, Lupus Erythematosis.

What To Do

Be patient with treatment. It may take months for hair to regrow.

Diet

  • Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional cause for hair loss, followed by iodine deficiency. Foods high in iron include prunes, raisins, and dates. Dark leafy green vegetables – kale, bok choy, gai lan, spinach. Legumes – lentils, kidney beans, soy beans. Seaweed. Parsley. Black strap molasses. Molluscs – oysters, clams, mussels. Red meat – beef, lamb, kangaroo, venison, goat. Egg yolks. Foods high in iodine include – seaweed, seafood and iodised salt.
  • Circulation to the hair follicle is important for hair growth. Foods that improve circulation include ginger, chilli, pepper and garlic
  • Essential fatty acids for hair. To grow strong and healthy hair, it is important to consume plenty of good fats. Fats found in seeds, nuts, fish, avocadoes, coconut and olive oil.

Remedies

  • If hormonal imbalance is the reason for hair loss, particularly for women, then the herb vitex agnus castus may prove beneficial. If hair loss is due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, the herbs licorice and peony are an excellent combination.
  • Herbs to improve circulation to the peripheries, fingers, toes and scalp include prickly ash, ginkgo biloba, ginger, bilberry and cayenne.
  • If your hair is brittle and poor quality as well as thinning, the mineral silica will help. Take in liquid or tablet form. Eat alfalfa sprouts and drink horsetail tea.
  • If iron deficiency appears to be the problem, take an iron supplement.
  • If stress initiated the hair loss, take a B complex, as well as nervous system restorative herbs such as St John’s wort, passionflower, lemon balm and the appropriately named skullcap.

Other

  • Massaging the scalp improves circulation, bringing oxygen and nutrients to help hair growth. Plant the pads of your fingers on your scalp, press firmly as you rotate the fingers, shifting the skin over the scalp. Massage with the essential oil combination mentioned below or traditional Indian neem tree oil.
  • A combination of the following essential oils is effective for hair growth – 2 to 3 drops each of thyme, rosemary, lavender and cedar wood. Rub into the scalp at night 2 to 3 times a week. Leave, or wash out in the morning.
  • Nettle has been traditionally used as a hair tonic. Make up some nettle tea, let it cool and use as a rinse after shampooing.
  • Give up cigarettes - they restrict blood supply.
  • Inverted postures are useful exercises because placing the head lower than the rest of the body increases blood flow to the scalp. Lie for 15 minutes on a slant board, or with your legs up the wall and your bottom on a firm pillow. If you practise yoga regularly, try a ten-minute shoulder stand daily.
  • Accept it. For men who suffer from hair loss, the news is bleak … male pattern baldness is hereditary. Please, please, please do not resort to the comb-over.

Aromatherapy

Some essential oils that are helpful for hair health.

  • Rosemary – stimulating, restorative, rubifacient.
  • Juniper – tonic, rubifacient.
  • Clary sage – rejuvenating, revitalizing, and balancing.
  • Ginger – tonic, stimulating, rubifacient, anti-oxidant.
  • Bay – revitalising, hair tonic, warming. Use this blend in a stimulating head massage blend using coconut oil as a base. The hair can be wrapped in a warm towel and left for an hour – wash out after removing the towel as hair will be oily. Repeat weekly.

At a glance

Diet

  • Baldness may be due to a deficiency in iron or iodine. Iron-rich foods including red meat, dark leafy greens, dried fruit. Iodine foods include seaweed, seafood and iodised salt.
  • Foods to increase circulation to the scalp include ginger and chilli.

Remedies

  • Take an iron supplement if you are deficient in this mineral.
  • If hormones are behind the balding process, take Vitex agnus castus for men or women. If you are a woman with PCOS, take licorice and peony and treat the underlying condition.

Other

  • Massage the scalp with a combination of 2 to 3 drops of each of the following essential oils - juniper, rosemary, clary sage, bay.