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Benjamin Franklin – speaking about fires – once stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” a truth that can be applied to many circumstances. But what about hair loss? Certainly, it is wiser and more cost effective to consider ways to prevent hair loss before investing in hair loss treatments after the fact. Certain hair loss conditions can’t always be solved at the local hair loss clinic, so prevention is key.
A review of Hollywood actresses who have lost their hair reveals something: stress can be the cause of hair loss. This has affected everyone from Jada Pinkett Smith to Tyra Banks, Viola Davis, and Jesy Nelson. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, MD writes on MayoClinic.org that three different types of hair loss conditions – alopecia areata, trichotillomania, and telogen effluvium – can be prompted by stress.
But the reasons women lose their hair, as do about half of women in their lifetimes, can also include genetics (androgenetic alopecia, suffered by actress Ricki Lake), post-partum hormonal changes (actress Christina Milian had this after giving birth to her second child), and aging (ask your grandmother’s friends).
Is post-partum hair loss preventable?
Because there are so many causes of hair loss in women it is not possible to prescribe a specific preventive measure. Obviously, such things as having children and getting older have broader implications, to put it mildly, but recognizing how those things can lead to thinning hair at least helps people to anticipate it.
For example, stress as a cause clearly affects not just Hollywood actresses but also accountants in the Midwest and schoolteachers in the Northeast. Self-care in the form of therapy, therapeutic exercise (walking seems to be the best approach) and getting to the heart of what causes the stress and making changes (change jobs? carve out “me time?”) are at least a good start.
For the woman who is bearing children, the thing to watch for is the thinning that sometimes occurs after giving birth. The moms-focused website Mother.ly points out that hormonal changes in the second trimester actually improve hair and skin quality during the pregnancy. But post-partum, those hormone levels drop to normal, which combined with the stress of motherhood (sleep loss, nutritional deficiencies, etc.) can lead to hair loss. Most of it is temporary, fortunately.
What about the most common form of hair loss, androgenic alopecia?
Given this is in the genes, individuals fighting the female version of male pattern baldness have their work cut out for them. Early prevention is always going to be more effective than waiting until later, and it’s important for women to recognize the “pattern” of the hair loss is an overall thinning, not the horseshoe shape from a receding hair line that men typically experience.
The most common preventative approach for women – once the loss is identified and the cause is clear – is to use minoxidil (Rogaine and other brands). Under a physician’s care – in part to determine the cause of the hair loss – women can use either a 2% or 5% solution, the latter of these being stronger. The results are not usually a full restoration of thick hair, and it takes several months to begin showing benefits. Side effects can include excessive hair growth on the face, and hair growth that is different in color and texture. Also, cessation of use results in a return of hair loss.
In all cases, the strength of hair, skin, and nails is dependent or enhanced with a healthy diet (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish, lean meats) and exercise (anything to get the blood circulating).