Male hair loss is a common phenomenon and for many, a relatively easy fix. The Vin Diesels and Jason Stathams of the world shave their heads to mask a receding hairline or bald spot, and somehow it actually boosts their sex appeal. But what about women? What do we do when our hairlines start to recede or worse yet our hair starts to fall out? Because I hate to say it, but for many ladies it will.
Almost as common in women as in men, but less talked about due to social stigma, hair thinning and hair loss will affect one third of the female population in America this year; roughly 50 million women (Harvard Medical School). Stressful life events (pregnancy), medical conditions or treatments (cancer or chemotherapy), or malnutrition can cause periods of hair loss, but an overall hair thinning known as “miniaturization” and hair loss “alopecia” happen to many women due to natural aging (Bernstein Medical). I reached out to Lucinda Ellery, founder of the Lucinda Ellery Hair Loss Consultancy with practices in London, Los Angeles and New York, to discuss why this happens, how lifestyle plays a role, and preventative measures.
“When we hit our thirties,” says Lucinda, “the amount of human growth hormone in our bodies begins to dissipate. And how this manifests in regards to our hair is each single follicle starts to shrink. The hair follicles producing healthy hairs begin to produce thinner, shorter and more brittle hairs with weaker shafts. This gives an overall thinning effect. Hair also loses the luster and shine it once had when we were younger. This shift is definitely linked to our genetics and hormonal shifts that happen as we age.”
One hormone that plays a critical role is Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). With the help of an enzyme found in the hair follicles’ oil glands, testosterone is converted into DHT aka “your hair’s worst enemy.” DHT binds to receptors in the scalp follicles causing them to shrink and/or fall out (American Hair Loss Association). As we age, Lucinda says, testosterone levels in women tend to rise resulting in more DHT and less hair. Luckily, brands are coming out with products to address this nightmare. Alterna Haircare’s Caviar Clinical line of products, as one example, defends against DHT by preventing it from building up, along with excess sebum and other residues known to clog follicles and exacerbate hair thinning or loss.
“I often tell people you must massage your scalp to promote healthy hair. Massaging the scalp and making sure it shifts and moves allows oxygen to get to the hair follicles.”
While this all may sound dismal and unavoidable, in addition to products, Lucinda says diet and lifestyle can make a huge difference. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals is suggested by the Brit, as well as laying off harsh styling treatments. “Dying the hair can contribute to hair fining. If you regularly put coloring chemicals on the hair root and let it soak into the follicle it’s bound to do damage,” she explains. “And not just dying, but styling can make a difference, too. I met twins thirty-five years ago, sisters actually; one was a client and the other was not. They were both perming their hair to give their fine hair more volume. My client, at my behest, stopped perming her hair, while the other continued. I happened to meet both sisters ten years later. The sister who continued to perm her hair, her hair had gotten thinner and shorter, while the other’s got thicker and longer.”
You may not be perming or coloring, but frequency of hair washing can also play a role in hair health. Though not for the reasons you may be thinking. “There are some schools of thought that frequent washing isn’t good for your hair,” says Lucinda, “But I don’t subscribe to it. Hair washing is very personal based on your specific hair type. If you feel you need to wash your hair more frequently due to your sebaceous glands being more active, or the fact that you have thin hair which can become oily much faster than thick or curly hair, then I think you’re wiser to wash it because it will make you feel better. And there is a correlation between feelings and happiness. If you think you look better, you are much calmer and much less stressed. And I feel that is much better for you and your stress levels, than not washing it because you’re afraid of losing it. You can keep your hair in a better place by how you take care of it, how you feed it internally with the food you eat and mentally how you feed it. It’s just as important to reduce stress levels, which play a big role in hair thinning.”
“You have to give things time to work. If you are going to try supplements or products it’s very important to give it time.”
“Additionally, I often tell people you must massage your scalp to promote healthy hair. Massaging the scalp and making sure it shifts and moves allows oxygen to get to the hair follicles,” says Lucinda. A much buzzed about proponent of this tip is clean hair care brand, Gloss Moderne, founded by South Korean born and Orange County raised, Kuen Rameson. Made without harmful toxins, parabens, phthalates, sulfates (which can harm hair health), gluten and cruelty-free, the brand’s High-Gloss Masque is meant to be massaged into the scalp and hair strands for five minutes before rinsing for a hydrated scalp and mega-shine strands.
But like anything in life, whether you make diet, lifestyle or product changes to regain fuller hair or prevent thinning, Lucinda says the trick is patience. “We have to remember that it’s never going to be one size fits all. You have to give things time to work. If you are going to try supplements or products it’s very important to give it time. I tell patients when you do a trial give it at least one week for every living year. So, if you’re thirty years old, give it thirty weeks to see the maximum results.”
Scalp & Hair Care
I’ve recently been obsessed with Alterna Haircare Caviar Clinical Daily Root & Scalp Stimulator and their more concentrated weekly treatment Caviar Clinical Weekly Intensive Boosting Treatment. Both work to prevent DHT build-up, excess sebum and residues that can clog scalp pores exacerbating hair thinning or hair loss. And if you want to go the full mile, definitely invest in the Caviar Clinical Daily Detoxifying Shampoo .
Like Lucinda says, oxygenating the scalp is key to hair health. So next time you’re in the shower grab Gloss Moderne High-Gloss Masque and massage into scalp, hair roots and ends for softer, shinier, healthier strands.
Or go for my current favorite hair serum, CAKE by Reverie, that supports natural hair growth, calms frizz and fly-aways, hydrates the scalp, controls oil production for those with oily hair, and makes hair thicker (Um, yes and yes). Read the full review here.
*Want more? Read my full hair thinning story here and see before and after pics.
Written by Amy Chang, founder + editor; Main image source: reverie; Product photography by author