Lorelei: To start, what do we mean when we say “hair loss”? For example, is hair loss always permanent, does it tend to occur all over someone’s head, etc.?
Dr. Dendy: I think when we discuss hair loss, we’re used to speaking about male pattern hair loss, knowing that men’s hair tends to thin with age, but we aren’t as used to talking about hair loss in women. There’s something called a Ludwig classification scale: grade 1 is minimal, grade 2 is moderate, and grade 3 is more diffused, or all over hair loss. Men tend to lose their hair in front, which results in a receding hairline, while women tend to have a widened central part where if your hair is split down the middle, more scalp is visible.
When we start to shed our hair, we often don’t realize we’re losing hair until we’ve lost about fifty percent of our hair density, which is quite a lot. A telltale sign that most women notice is that their ponytail isn’t as thick as it used to be.
Hair loss can look quite different on different people as there are many different types of hair loss. The good news is that often hair loss does not have to be permanent. So don’t think that all hope is lost! If you’ve lost hair you can regrow it. There are many ways to address it. In order to do that, we have to nail down what the culprits and causes of an individual’s hair loss is and how they play into that.
L: What are the causes of hair loss? What exactly leads to it?
Dr. Afiya: There are multiple causes of hair loss and there’s not a one-size-fits-all explanation that we can use across the board for everyone. However, I can list a few of the many:
- Hairstyles – tension around the hairline and edges caused by tight braids, ponytails, buns, or re-twisting hair when growing out locs
- Hair products
- Certain medications
- Nutrition – do you have any vitamin deficiencies? Such as iron and B12?
- Rapid weight loss
- Restrictive dieting
- Stress levels
- Hormone fluctuations – from events such as menopause and pregnancy
- Familial genes
L: Does weight gain impact hair loss?
Dr. Dendy: Like we’ve said before, there’s not a blanket treatment for hair loss that will suit everyone. We have to identify the cause and then address it specifically. As far as weight goes, we know weight loss has a direct impact on hair growth because your body essentially goes into starvation and it holds onto nutrients and vital minerals that are good for hair growth and saves them to help fuel vital organs such as the heart. In turn, those nutrients are taken away from non-vital organs like hair and nails. When you gain weight that’s not the case. However, if your weight gain is causing you stress, which we certainly know has a direct impact on hair loss, then in that sense we could link hair loss to weight gain.
L: What causes postpartum hair loss and can the hair you shed be grown back?
Dr. Afiya: Oftentimes during pregnancy, people grow an excess amount of hair. So postpartum hair loss may just be a shedding of the extra hair a woman grew during her pregnancy. It’s interesting, when I do someone’s hair I can often tell if they’ve just given birth, especially if they’ve been a consistent client of mine because I can see the evolution of their hair.
Dr. Dendy: Yeah, that’s a real phenomenon we see. We have various phases of hair growth. Typically when we’re pregnant, a lot of our hair cycles into the anagen, or growth, phase, so your hair is really nice most times when you’re pregnant. Then when those hormones fall, it does trigger the telogen, or falling out, phase. You’ll often get this mass shedding that occurs. It’s often quite stressful.
I have children and it didn’t happen with my first, but it definitely did after my second after I was nursing. So we see it happen and know to anticipate it but that doesn’t mean that we like it. Thankfully, there are ways to counteract that so that we stop that falling out process.
One of the comments we received during our chat was that someone felt less alone when hearing how common hair loss is, which makes us so happy. Remember, there are experts available to help you navigate your hair loss, so don’t feel alone and be sure to follow Dr. Afiya and Dr. Dendy on Instagram to keep up with all of their work. And of course, follow Prose for more expert-led conversations surrounding hair.
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