Have you noticed increased shedding on your hairbrush or floor lately? It may be more pronounced when you’re showering or just a subtle change when you part or do your hair. Alopecia is the partial (hair thinning) or complete (baldness) absence of hair from anywhere on the body where it normally grows; the condition can heighten personal insecurities about your health and appearance as it is very publicly on display. While alopecia can affect diverse areas such as the brow or genitals, most of us focus (understandably) on the scalp. Afterall, a full head of hair to style as we please is universally appealing. It can also act as a symbol of robust health, gender identity, and sexuality for both women and men alike.
What’s In-Style vs. In-Season
When it comes to hair, we often want what we don’t have! It may have become routine for you to spend money for someone to “fix” your hair problems and get instant results, be it a cut, colour, or perm — or even wax or laser hair removal at the other end of the spectrum. Expensive treatments such as hair transplants, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, anti-hair-loss drugs, hormone replacement therapy, and even targeted hair supplements do not always have to be a normal progression to manage society’s obsession with maintaining what’s growing or not. When you look at nature, the family dog or deciduous trees, it is completely natural to observe (and not have a negative reaction) to shedding throughout the year.
Watch my Facebook Live Video to learn more about the four parts of the hair growth cycle: 1) rest (telogen), 2) release (exogen), 3) regeneration (anagen), and 4) degeneration, when blood supply is cut off (catagen) AND seasonal hair patterns.
It is worth investigating the many factors that can contribute to undesirable hair changes to better understand when it’s due to pathology (versus seasonality). These include stress, aging, hormones (hypothyroidism, excess testosterone and cortisol, low estrogen and progesterone, PCOS), nutritional deficiencies (protein, iron, vit D, vit B12, collagen, silica), genetics, inflammation, infections, autoimmunity (Alopecia areata), and climate. While your doctor can help you definitively rule in and address a majority of these underlying causes, the focus of this article (and accompanying video) is to assist you in identifying normal hair loss and nourishing your body to minimize the impact of Mother Nature’s changes.
Hair Cycle Haven or Havoc
Hair is protective; yet, non-essential. Telogen, roughly a three month period where hair sits snugly in the follicle, often coincides with early summer. This peak in inactivity results in a high density of hair in July as it serves to protect your scalp from the Sun’s damaging rays during the hottest months. The release period (exogen) occurs during late summer – early fall (aptly named) as shedding makes way for a thicker head of warm hair for the winter. Then, in late winter more shedding occurs in preparation for a fresh crop during the height of spring (also, aptly named). Dry and physically harsh year-round conditions like excess Sun exposure, indoor heating, electric styling tools, and seasonal headwear can also damage your hair and contribute to hair loss.
You will likely have to address all the applicable cause(s) in your case for best results. The example of male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia), the most common type of hair loss, illustrates the need for a multi-factorial approach as the condition is determined by genes and hormones, namely the inflammatory effect of DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a testosterone breakdown product (metabolite), that can decrease the productivity of hair follicles. As hair follicles shrink and weaken, shorter and finer hair emerges; without intervention they can shrivel or even die resulting in no
hair. However, as long as the follicle remains alive, the possibility of regrowth, a dynamic return to anagen, remains. Thankfully, exogen occurs independently of telogen / anagen, and each follicle is on its own timeline with upwards of 90% of strands in anagen, in a given moment, on a healthy scalp.
Blood Health and Hair Health
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, it is important to nourish Blood and support circulation to treat hair loss. Often herbs will be used to nourish and hydrate the roots (follicles), specifically where hair is fragile and breaks off easily. Further, signs of Coldness (Yang deficiency) such as a weak pulse, cold intolerance, or poor circulation in fingers and toes, which may be due to Qi deficiency (as Qi moves Blood) should be addressed. This approach tends to work better on menstruating women who are more prone to Blood and iron deficiency in general.
DIY Hair Treatment with Essential Oils (EO)
Goal: Gentle stimulation with a hairbrush / comb and scalp massage while
washing or applying therapeutic oils or a hair mask promotes circulation and
unblocks clogged follicles.
1) Dilute pure essential oils (e.g., cedarwood, chamomile, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, etc.) with a virgin carrier oil (e.g., amla, avocado, castor, coconut, grapeseed, hemp, jojoba, olive, safflower etc.) in a ratio of 2-6 drops of EO : 2 tbsp carrier oil
2) Massage mixture into your scalp
3) Leave for 5-10 min. (or even overnight with hair wrapped up)
4) Shampoo; if hair is too oily after, rinse with a mild acidic substance such as diluted apple cider vinegar or lime juice after shampooing. Condition as needed.
BONUS: Dr. Vanessa’s Turn Back Time Hair Treatment Recipe
● Amla oil can be found in South Asian supermarkets or online
● You must dilute EO to avoid skin irritation (with the exception of tea tree and lavender); it’s a good idea to do a patch test first
● Rosemary EO promotes wound healing and is a skin cell regenerator; both rosemary and peppermint EO increase peripheral circulation and promote blood flow to the scalp
Due to the hair cycle and seasons, conservatively expect six to twelve months to see
reliable results for increased confidence whether what you’re doing is working. If there’s no change, determine if there’s a seasonal component and revisit other possible causes.