How does health affect hair thickness?
Hair thickness and health can be closely related – hair and skin can be indicators of good health. Hair loss can also have an impact on our self-esteem and mental health.
Diet and hair thickness – the biological ageing process of hair can be affected by the quality and quantity of our diet and therefore our nutritional status. The healthy growth of hair follicles is dependent on a readily available nutrient supply to the follicle. Hair follicles require the following to keep growing at a healthy rate:
- 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. A diet which lacks protein could therefore be a cause of hair loss, particularly in women. Vegetarians may be at a greater risk as they may lack certain proteins and nutrients required to keep hair healthy.
Alopecia is the name for a health condition that causes hair loss – alopecia is a form of hair loss which may be temporary or permanent, and can be distressing for the individual. There are different types of alopecia as shown below:
Permanent or Temporary
|Alopecia Areata (AA)
||The immune system attacks the hair follicles leading to hair loss
||This is thought to have both a hereditary or genetic cause occurring in combination with changes in the levels of certain hormones such as DHT.
||Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the main hormone responsible which is thought to impact the hair follicles. Hair follicles become smaller until they eventually shrink and stop producing hair.
||A rare group of disorders which destroys hair follicles due to increased levels of inflammation.
||Hair follicles are usually replaced with scar tissue.
||Permanent once damage has occurred.
|Telogen and Anagen Effluvium
||When shedding is caused by another factor at either one of these stages of the normal hair cycle. Telogen effluvium is often caused by trauma or stress. Anagen effluvium by chemotherapy, radiation, infection or drugs.
||Hair sheds but usually regrows at a later date.
||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 may be related to hair loss. Smoking can make androgenetic alopecia worse. Smoking and alcohol consumption have also been found to 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 can affect the whole scalp. It often begins to resolve after treatment has started.
Stress and hair loss – emotional stress or anxiety can cause hair loss and is usually more noticeable up to 3 months after the stressful period. In most cases the hair loss is temporary if there are no underlying medical causes.
Cancer treatment and hair loss – cancer drugs can affect your hair causing thinning or loss. Chemotherapy causes hair loss as it works by attacking any cells in the body that are multiplying or growing. As a result hair follicles, the cells of the nails and those of the skin are affected.