How does health affect hair thickness?
Hair thickness and health can be closely related – hair and skin can be indicators of an individual’s vitality. Hair contributes to our appearance, substantially and loss of it or poor appearance can have psychological effects.
Diet and hair thickness – the biological ageing process of hair could be slowed down because the quality and quantity are affected by our nutritional status. The hair follicles have a lot of cellular activity and have a huge turnover rate which is dependent on nutrient supply, uptake and transport. Therefore, hair follicles require:
- B5 gives hair flexibility, strength and shine
- B12 helps prevent hair loss
- B1, B2, Niacin, and Pantothenic acid help to keep hair follicles healthy
- Folic acid deficiency can lead to decreased hair follicle cell division and growth
- Biotin helps reduce hair loss
- Vitamin E can help keep the cell membranes of hair follicles healthy
Hair is over 99% protein and so needs a good supply of amino acids and proteins to ensure good health. Thus, a dietary deficiency could be a cause of hair loss, particularly in women. Plus, the need for protein and certain vitamins and minerals can put vegetarians at a greater risk as they may lack certain nutrients required to keep hair healthy.
Alpoecia is the name for a health condition that causes hair loss – alopecia is a form of hair loss which can be temporary, although distressing. There are different types of alopecia as shown below:
Permanent or Temporary
|Alopecia Areata (AA)
||The immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles leading to hair loss
||Genes and hormones
||Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the main hormone responsible which causes a change to the hair follicles. Hair follicles become smaller until they eventually shrink and stop producing hair.
||A rare group of disorders which destroy hair follicles.
||Hair follicles are usually replaced with scar tissue.
||Permanent once damage has occurred.
|Telogen and Anagen Effluvium
||When shredding occurs at either one of these stages that a hair follicle goes through. Telogen effluvium is often caused by trauma or stress. Anagen effluvium by chemotherapy, radiation, infection or drugs.
||Hair shreds but usually resolves itself.
||Excessive pulling or tension on hair shafts.
||Hair loss is caused by hair pulling often seen in women of East-Indian and Afro-Caribbean origin.
||Can lead to permanent hair loss.
Smoking and hair thickness – smoking has been shown to be related to hair loss. Smoking can make androgenetic alopecia worse. Plus, smoking and alcohol consumption can accelerate age-related signs including hair loss.
Thyroid problems and hair loss – hair loss can be a symptom of both an overactive and underactive thyroid. The hair loss is uniform and affects the whole scalp. However, it usually begins to resolve itself after treatment for the thyroid disorder is begun.
Stress and hair loss – emotional stress or anxiety can cause hair loss. It usually takes around 3 months from the stressful event for your hair to fall out. However, the hair loss is temporary if there is no underlying medical cause. So, it should only last for as long as you are going through the stressful situation.
Cancer treatment and hair loss – cancer drugs can affect your hair causing thinning or loss. Chemotherapy is the cancer drug most likely to cause hair loss. This is because chemotherapy isn’t usually a targeted therapy so will attack healthy cells, too. The cells are usually the ones which replicate rapidly such as hair and stomach, hence hair loss and sickness.