Post by Chantelle

Dandruff. Hair loss. Gray hair. Brittle hair.  Should any of these seemingly common conditions be cause for concern? Nearly everyone who has hair has been affected by one or more of these conditions at some point in their life. Let’s take a closer look at what your hair’s trying to tell you.

White flakes on your shoulder, but it’s not snowing out. Sounds like dandruff to me. This is a very common occurrence; in fact, 1 in 5 Americans are affected by dandruff, according to a recent nationwide consensus. Dead skin cells on your scalp naturally flake off, to allow new cells to take their place. This is a completely routine and permanent process. It usually goes unnoticed, however, when skin cell renewal speeds up, it can become quite noticeable, as the cells begin to form clumps and are seen as different size flakes falling from the head. Why does this happen? Doctors aren’t really sure. A potential reason could be an overgrowth of too much of a yeast called Pityrosporum Ovale, which is commonly found on our scalps but in excess can potentially cause more skin renewal, which causes more skin shedding (Yeast makes things grow, as any basic baking course can demonstrate).  Still, that kind of dandruff isn’t too harmful. That’s the white flakes. What about yellow, clumpy, oily flakes? That kind of dandruff is called Seborrhoeic Dermatitis. It can also be mistaken as Psoriasis, or a sign of a Fungal Infection. These are more serious conditions that should be ruled out by a dermatologist. It can be related to hormones, fungus, or neurological problems. If your dandruff gets more severe or starts to affect other parts of your body, it can be a symptom of a serious disease. To be clear, dandruff is not contagious. You can’t get it by sharing towels or brushes. It can be a seasonal condition, as skin in general tends to get drier in the colder winter months, which can cause itching, which in turn, can cause dandruff.

How do you treat this mostly harmless condition? You’ll want to get a shampoo designed specifically for scalp health. If your dandruff is caused by the Pityrosporum fungus, an anti-fungal treatment shampoo containing Ketoconzale can work really well. Most dandruff shampoos contain one or more of the following active ingredients: Zinc, Tar, Selenium Sulfide, or Salicylic Acid. If you remember one of my previous posts I talked about how certain ingredients in our cosmetics are harmful for our health. Tar is one of them!

  • Coal tar reduces inflammation and itching and is absorbed into skin cells, where it’s thought to interfere with DNA replication and slow down cell division, reducing skin thickening.
  • May also make the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation, so people who use coal tar shampoos or skin creams should be very careful about sun exposure. 
  • Coal tar medications, which contain much lower concentrations of the tar, generally aren’t considered to be dangerous (although they are somewhat controversial, since we don’t know the exact composition of the tar or exactly how the medications work) 

Read ingredients carefully, do your homework, talk to a dermatologist and find out what your scalp actually needs. There are some excellent natural remedies for this condition. Aveda has it’s own Scalp Benefits line designed for scalp/ skin problems, and the active ingredient is Burdock Root:

  • Its detoxifying effect, and increased blood circulation to the epidermal tissues helps to destroy fungus, and bacterial cultures present under your skin
  • Burdock also has ample amounts of vitamin C. This nutrient is potent skin cleanser that helps to restore scaly skin and for managing skin ulcers.
  • It directly affects the sebaceous glands on your skin, enhances proper flow of sebum, and therefore, protects your skin from harsh environmental conditions

See, not just a bunch of Hoopla! Natural ingredients can be an amazing alternative to potentially carcinogenic choices out there.

How about Hair Loss? It’s an (understandably) huge concern for many people. Some of my clients always ask me if it looks like they’re losing too much hair. My answer to them, is the only one who would really know, is themselves. Here’s the real deal when it comes to hair loss. Most people will lose on average 100 hairs a day, sometimes up to 200. This is healthy! That sounds like a lot though, right? Well, on average, a head of hair has somewhere between 100,000- 250,000 strands of hair. So if that number is broken down, the hair that normally falls out, only accounts for about 0.01%- 0.03% of your entire hair count. (Forgive my math skills, I’m a cutter, not a mathematician). Hair grows in 3 stages. Anagen phase, which affects 85-90% of your hair at any given time, is the growth phase. That stage can last from 2- 6 years. So, most of the time, most of your hair is in the growing stage. The Catagen phase is the transitional phase. It’s actually more of a renewal stage. It lasts about 2 weeks, and during that time the hair follicle shrinks and the papilla detaches and stops nourishing the hair strand, which causes it to shrink to 1/16 of it’s size, which would explain why some of your hairs are much shorter then others, all over your head. And the other stage, the Telogen phase, is known as the resting stage. Hairs can stay in this phase from 1-4 months. 10-15% of your hairs are in this phase of growth RIGHT NOW. Once the Telogen phase is complete, the Anagen phase begins again. That’s when the hair strand falls out, and the whole process starts all over again. This is normal shedding (Yes, even humans shed!).

Sometimes though, this system can get disrupted. Any major shock to your body; Surgery, birth, crash diets, severe stress, thyroid issues, and even some medications, can force hair into the Telogen phase. And of course, since that phase lasts from 1-4 months, even after 1 month hair can start falling out and thinning. This is called Telogen Effluvium, and women who just gave birth especially notice it, as hair seems to be coming out by the handful. This is in most cases temporary, and hair starts growing back right away. Of course, the longer your hair is, the more you’ll notice how much your missing and how much is falling out. If you notice extreme hair loss like this, take a look at any changes in medication or diet and if those are not the case, talk to a doctor. It could be a thyroid issue. It’s always better to rule that out before grabbing a bottle of hair loss treatment. Everything that happens externally to your body is a sign of an internal happening.

Some people might notice a bald patch or two, that occurs seemingly overnight. This could be Alopecia Areata, which is an immune system condition where your body attacks your own hair follicles, causing them to fall out.  This can happen in an isolated area or can affect the whole body. Hair can grow back, but usually people want treatments to help speed up the process. If that happens, see a doctor!

Male and Female pattern baldness is a much different type of hair loss. For males, it can start at the temples and the crown, leaving the dreaded horseshoe shape for you to play with. If the recessions at the temples are looking deeper then they used to, be aware that there are some methods or treatments that can help slow down or stop it from getting worse. These treatments can be on the pricier side of normal shampoo and conditioner, but heck, if it works, why not? The key to getting these treatments to work though, is CONSISTENCY! Some of them need to be used up to twice a day, and require a very rigid and strict routine for results to be noticeable. Is it worth it? If it was me, I’d say yes. Of course, some guys look GREAT without hair, and can pull off baldness quite well (Jason Stathom anyone?). It’s entirely individual. However, some advice when it comes to hair treatment shampoos and conditioners. Be aware of what’s in the ingredient list and how it affects your body! Minoxidil started as a tablet to control blood pressure, and had a side effect of growing hair back! However, in doses higher then 2% for women, it could cause facial hair growth. It may also be enhanced with certain additives, such as Azelaic Acid, Finasteride, (which helps reduce the male hormone DHT in the scalp, that is the hormone responsible for some mens hair loss, and should not be taken by women, not even touched by women actually, as it can have an adverse effect on the sexual organ of an unborn male child. In men, this can also have an effect on sexual functions. Scary!) Nicotinate, and Progesterone (A female hormone, also used to neutralize DHT). That should raise some red flags. Some of these treatments affect hormones, and it is definitely advisable to really look into that when considering these options. A more natural solution may be the herb Saw-Palmetto, the theory being that Finasteride treats benign prostrate enlargement, and both hair loss and prostatic disease are related to DHT, and Saw-Palmetto has the same effects as Finasteride in that regard. Worth a try in my books. Aveda also now carries a line called Invati, which is a shampoo, conditioner and treatment, to be used twice a day, to help stop hair from falling out. It can also help speed up hair growth. Of course, check with us at the salon to see if it’s the appropriate response to the hair loss you may be experiencing.

Brittle, breaking hair can be caused by sun damaged hair, poor nutrition, or over styling. The sun is a powerful beast, and can eat through color and weaken the hair over time. Use a sun protection hair product when you know you’ll be out in it for a while (it can also help prevent sunburns to the scalp, which are very painful, and end up looking like a very dark brown (scabby) dandruff). Don’t forget the foods you eat plays a very important part in maintaining healthy, luscious locks. Protein, Iron, Omega 3 fatty acids, Zinc and Vitamin A (Foods like spinach or carrots are rich in Vitamin A). I’ve told you all this before, but it’s just so important! However, too much Vitamin A can promote hair loss. It is also toxic to the rest of the body. Be aware of what needs to be taken along with Vitamin A. Very low calorie diets can lack sufficient nutrients and stunt hair growth, or leave it limp and lifeless looking. It can also cause hair to fall out. Using high heat styling tools, such as a 450 Degree flat iron ( My god ladies! That’s hot enough to cook meat! And your putting that on your delicate, fine strands of already overly processed, colored hair? And you DON’T think you should be giving it extra protein treatment?! Come to me, I’ll set you straight) can literally FRY your hair. If you don’t believe me, take a look at that YouTube video floating around of the 12 year old girl who burns off an entire chunk of her hair in seconds. Yes, it’s hilarious. Go watch it right now. Over washing, or washing everyday, and then turning a burning hot blow dryer onto your hair, will also make it dry and brittle and damaged and break. Traction Alopecia can also damage follicles. What is that? It’s when you pull your hair too tight into a style, be it braids, cornrows, ponytails, or even hair extensions and hairpieces (including hats, boys!), as extra weight on the hair can cause breakage or tearing. Be careful! OK, I’m done yelling.

Gray hair! It will happen to almost all of us. What does it mean? Well, chances are, it’s probably just genetic. It usually isn’t a sign of anything. Hair goes gray when color producing cells stop producing pigment. That can happen from a physical trauma, or natural ageing.  Sometimes, it can be linked to a B-12 deficiency, anemia, thyroid issues or vitiligo. That is rarely the case for the majority of us though. Luckily, we have the technology to cover it up, and some of us even have the style savvy and guts to wear it proud.

I hope this answers some of your burning curiosities about any potentially concerning hair issues. Please don’t be afraid to ask me questions on Facebook, or even come by the salon and discuss any other hair issues you may be having! I’m always more then happy to help.


*Note: The above is meant for general information purposes only and does not constitute advice or diagnosis.  Always consult a physician for any medical issues you may be experiencing.