If you’re reading this, living somewhere in the UAE, and not facing some sort of hair-related issue — take it from us, you’re a rarity. And if we’re not wrong, nothing you do seems to work. You might be following a diet full of fruits of vegetables, washing your hair regularly, and getting your exercise, but every time you shampoo your hair and dry it later, chances are there’s more strands than you care coming off.
Popular opinion has long been torn over what works for hair loss &here. Everything’s floating around from expert nutritional advice to cutting-edge hair loss products, and no one seems to know what will really work for them. We cut through the informational noise surrounding hair loss problems and filter out expert advice for you, but it takes two sides of the debate:
Nature and Nurture is Key
According to Dr Ziakas, it’s genes that primarily cause hair loss. “The mercury and iron in our water here doesn’t help; however, genetics is the primary reason. It is estimated that 60 per cent of men in the Middle East will suffer from hair loss at some point in their life,” he says.
While 95 per cent of men suffer from early baldness thanks to their genes, women usually lose hair due to health problems, hormonal balances, and excessive diets. And, says Dr Ziakas, the best solutions are medical options and surgical treatments, along with proper hair care. “Wash your hair &three times a week, but use a shower filter to help remove the impurities in the water,” the doctor suggests. “Proper hair care should be applied in one’s daily routine.”
On an average, there are more than 150,000 hair follicles on a human scalp, and you can shed 50-100 strands per day. “Male pattern baldness is, especially, a well-established act of nature, and not nurture,” points out Dr Ziakas. “Baldness is a complex polygenic trait, with up to five genes involved that determines the specifics of male pattern hair loss. Other causes include stress, scalp infections (bacterial, fungal), poor nutrition, hormonal imbalance (very rare), injury and high fever drugs (medicines).”
As with hair loss in men, female genetic hair loss largely stems from a complex stew of genes, hormones and age. Other causes of hair loss in women can include physical and emotional stress, diet, thyroid infection, fungal infection and/or medicinal treatments. Whether you do nothing else for your hair, the doctor suggests three must-dos: “Hygiene, exercise, and regular brushing will pay rich dividends.” Using off-the-shelf or pharmacy-sold products to counter hair loss — like medicated shampoos, serums, masks, etc — are somewhat effective, but not as a permanent solution. “Usually, they have an effect only on the outer layer of the follicle, so they make the hair look healthier without really changing its lifetime. Only two pharmaceutical products have proven their effectiveness so far — Minoxidil and Finasteride.”
But for some, hair loss and eventual baldness are a foregone and inescapable fact. “At Direct Hair Implantation (DHI) Clinic, when we have patients whose hair has started thinning in their early 20s itself, medical treatments are the first option suggested.” The type of hair loss, diffuse (over the entire scalp) or patterned (mostly on front and top of scalp) has important implications for treatment. “Women with diffuse hair loss are generally best treated medically, whereas women with patterned hair loss may be good candidates for hair transplant surgery.”
However, Dr. Ziakas does not completely discount the effects of good nutrition on our hair health. “Having well balanced diets and avoiding excessively oily food are important. Moderation is everything.”
Finally, as to why some people who eat poorly and take very little care of their hair still have great hair — it again boils down to one thing. “It’s all in the genes! Like your looks, type of hair and quality is passed down from generation to generation.”
Nutrition is the Answer
If your tresses look too stressed, it’s time to revamp your health style! According to Rashi, “Remember that your hair is not vital to survival, so your body will spend essential nutrients on it only if there is plenty to spare and share in your body. That’s one reason why hair health is a perfect parameter to judge if you are meeting your nutritional requirements.”
The root cause of any hair issue, be it dandruff, dry or oily hair can be either external or internal, she says. External reasons include: excessive use of hair sprays and gels, improper use of hair-colouring products, excessive use of hair curlers or curling irons, cold weather, dry indoor heating, infrequent shampooing of the hair, or inadequate rinsing of the scalp. Another common reason is “getting stressed constantly for trivial issues often leads to a hormone imbalance, which is a leading cause of dandruff,” Rashi points out.
Internal reasons are generally diet- related, and the most harmful for hair. “Excessive consumption of sugar from obvious sources like sweets, cupcakes etc, some less obvious sources like white bread, pasta, and over-consumption of rice, leads to dandruff and dry hair. Sugar in excess robs away our body’s Vitamin B reserves, which are extremely essential for those long shiny locks.”
The constant exposure of body cells to unhealthy fats i.e. trans and saturated fat in packaged foods that contain hydrogenated oils (check the ingredient list for this), junk food like fries and commercially baked goods, cause oily scalps which, in turn, leads to dandruff on your scalp.
Lack of zinc and essential fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6 causes poor hair health and manifest as either dry, oily scalp or dandruff, depending on your genetic predisposition, according to Rashi. “Dehydration and vitamin deficiency are two of the major reasons for excessive hair fall and dry hair.”
Rashi suggests the following diet overhaul, for good, healthy tresses:
Add 1 portion of protein rich unsalted nuts as a snack, to get some healthy unsaturated fat (8-10 walnuts, almonds or brazil nuts make 1 portion) This prevents those dry, frizzy hair days!
Increase your intake of B vitamins to counteract inefficient carbohydrates coming in from all the times you give into your cookie cravings. Add a whole lot of asparagus, broccoli, spinach and lean white meats like fish and chicken to your diet.
A daily dose of dietary sulphur from 1 whole egg is a sure shot way of getting soft, strong, healthy hair.
Keeping yourself hydrated all day, with 2.5 to 3 litres of water, is the best and easiest way to see a quick improvement from symptoms of dandruff and oily scalp.
Swap your evening sweet dessert with apricots or dates (for vitamins), or toss in some zinc-rich pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds into your yoghurt to avoid having an oily, itchy scalp.
“Lastly, there is no one magic pill/shampoo/nutrient that can give you great hair. Nutrients always work in synchronicity. So if you’re looking to seriously improve the way your hair looks and feels, do all of the above!” signs off Rashi.