Many things can cause short and long term hair loss or hair thinning. Our age, hormone changes, heredity all can lead to hair loss (alopecia). These are things that we can’t change.
But situational hair loss can be caused by stress, unhealthy diet, and hair care. One of the biggest culprits is styling. Women who style their hair by putting it in a tight ponytail or because of tight braids can suffer from traction alopecia, which can cause thinning and hair loss around the hairline and in other spots where braids are pulled too tight. If you catch it early and move to looser hairstyles and less pulling, the damage does not have to be permanent. But many women suffer permanent loss in those spots from the pulling and pressure the style puts on the hair follicles over the years.
Hair straightening is another culprit that can cause temporary or permanent alopecia. Improper use of chemical relaxers, use of relaxers in the same procedure as hair coloring, too much hot combing, and using glue to add extensions to the scalp can all cause traumatic hair loss.
There are other causes of hair loss, including an overactive or underactive thyroid, side effects of some medications and nutritional deficiencies. Often finding out the root causes of an individual’s hair loss is like being a detective. When patients come to me we do a thorough medical work up including blood tests, and even in more severe cases scalp biopsies to determine the cause and the best possible treatments.
They key to treatment is to get a diagnosis. Depending on the cause of the thinning or loss and how advanced it is, you and your dermatologist will determine the best approach to treatment. Sometimes, it is a matter of stopping the damaging styling practices, or a change in the medication that is causing the loss.
In other cases where loss is more advanced, I sometimes use a combination approach. If there is scarring on the scalp that is inhibiting new growth, we will often use cortisone injections to help break down that scarred tissue. We will also recommend using topical minoxidil, which is an over-the-counter FDA approved product that has been shown to increase hair growth. The product has to be applied twice a day, even after hair grows, or the gains are often loss. In combination with the minoxidil and the injections, I also encourage my patients to take a vitamin supplement for hair and nails that help optimize new hair growth.
How Long Does It Take
Hair re-growth does not happen overnight, especially if the problem has been going on for a while and if there is some long-term damage. When we start on a course of therapy, I tell my patients that it will take between three and six months to see any change. Also during that time period we can see if it is working at all. Patience is a virtue when trying to reverse hair loss.
While you are trying to recover from hair and scalp damage, it is important to maintain and strengthen the hair that you have. Use shampoo and conditioning products that keep the hair moisturized in order to prevent breakage. Also use products that minimize scalp damage and flaking. Hair loss is often caused by an irritation and inflammation. Using the right products will help to prevent more damage to the scalp.
Dr. Street, board certified, Mayo clinic trained dermatologist has been in private practice for nearly 20 years. She is a recognized skin care and skin cancer expert who has had numerous articles published in popular magazines, professional journals and newspapers. She is also the first Black female Mohs Surgeon in the nation. Dr. Street has also has been interviewed on radio and television, and has spoken to physicians’ groups in both the United States and abroad as a skin cancer expert. She is the founder of Doctor’s Approach Dermatology Skin Cancer Center, MedSpa and Laser Center both located in East Lansing, Michigan. She has developed a skin care line also under the name Doctor’s Approach,
For more information about Doctor’s Approach, please visit their Web site at www.DAderm.com.
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Doctor’s Approach is a full-service medical and surgical dermatology clinic with a cosmetic medical spa. Our dermatology practice has been well established and respected for over 15 years, with patients visiting from all over the Midwest region.