Hair Loss: Need a Hairy Godmother?

Although our good friend Charlie Sheen wants us all to be “Winning!?” you may not be the only one looking in the mirror thinking “Thinning?” instead.  Hair loss is a common and often very embarrassing problem among women of all ages. There are several reasons you could be losing your hair, some normal and some that may need medical attention.

Most men and women can shed up to 100 hairs per day. The life cycle of hair consists of three different phases: Anagen: This is the growth phase of the hair cycle, and hair spends the largest amount of time in this portion of the cycle. This phase may last anywhere from one month to several years. Catagen: This phase lasts approximately two weeks. During this time, the hair shaft prepares for the final stages of the cycle, or the period where the hair will enter resting phase. Telogen: This is the final stage of the hair cycle. Typically, about 10-15% of your hair will be in telogen at any given time and this usually lasts for about six weeks, but can last for up to four months.  At the end of telogen new hair will push out older hair and force it to shed if it has not done so already. These three phases repeat continuously throughout each new cycle. Sections of hair are at different stages of the hair cycle; this keeps you from shedding all your hair at once (although Natalie Portman looked lovely in V for Vendetta, many of us would be feeling more B for Bald if this happened!)

These are some common causes of hair loss:

Androgen Related Hair Loss: This type of hair loss is common in men and women. While men typically see hair loss in the front and temporal parts of the scalp, women often complain of generalized thinning, especially on top of the head and near the crown. This can occur because of imbalances in various hormones in the body, such as estrogen and testosterone. In some cases, this type of hair loss can be corrected by shifting your hormones to help get your body back into balance. Treatments like Minoxidil/Rogaine are available over the counter, but make sure to speak with a physician before starting this. Often times an underlying cause can be treated and eliminate the need to use medication.

Stress Related Hair Loss: This one is common, and applies to many of you. During stressful periods in life (grief, pregnancy….taxes- Wesley Snipes must be bald!) a larger than normal amount of hairs enter the telogen or resting phase. The hair may be in this phase for a prolonged period of time and generally three or four months after the stressful event the hair sheds. Since more follicles were in the telogen phase, a larger amount of hairs will shed before the cycle starts over and begins at the anagen, or growth phase. This is generally referred to as telogen effluvium.

Hair loss after pregnancy follows a similar principle. Women typically see the largest amount of loss around three months postpartum. During pregnancy, a rise in hormones prevents hair from shedding as quickly, and causes a larger amount of your hair to accelerate to telogen phase. After delivery, the body may take up to three or four months before recuperating from this “stress” and at this point hairs that were resting are shed to make way for new hair to grow and begin the cycle again. This is why you may feel like you’ve had a significant amount of hair loss after pregnancy, but in reality it’s more likely to be a shift in the cycle time. Within four months most women notice hair growth returns to normal.

Other causes of this can include infection, surgery, and thyroid dysfunction. It’s important to speak with your doctor because you may require further evaluation and blood testing to help your hair loss.

Alopecia Areata: This describes hair loss that usually occurs when a small area of hair on the scalp has complete hair loss. Generally this is localized to one or two patches, however it may affect the entire scalp or body. This is believed to occur because of an immune response that causes destruction of the hair shaft and alters the integrity of the hair, leading to loss of hair in an entire area of the scalp. Often times, hair will grow back within six months. In many cases, however, an injection of steroids into the area will help treat the lesion and accelerate hair growth.

Other Causes of Hair loss: If you are noticing that your hair is breaking towards the scalp or after you wear it in a pony-tail, you hair loss may be the result of excessive styling, color treatment, or pressure on the hair. Chemical dyes, highlights, and bleaching often contribute to increased breakage and women may feel they are losing their hair. Speak to your doctor or hair stylist if you color or process your hair often. Although it’s tempting to always toss our hair up into a ponytail, constant traction on the hair may contribute to breakage and weakness. You can avoid this by letting your hair dry naturally and leaving it down a few times per week.

Healthy hair usually signifies a healthy lifestyle. If you’re suffering from thinning, breakage, or bald patches you should speak to your doctor. Hair loss could be the first sign that something more serious or an underlying disease process is going untreated in your body. A health professional can provide you with a thorough evaluation of your health through a history, blood work, and analysis of your diet and lifestyle. Don’t wait!

Check out tomorrow’s review for a great supplement to help with hair growth!

Adult Acne: When Bad Skin Happens to Good People

There are a few things that we would all love to re-live from our younger years – half day’s at school, recess, and of course, dancing like a fly girl in the living room (ahhh, if only we all turned into J. Lo…). But one thing that we would all love to forget is teenage acne. If bad skin isn’t a thing of the past for you, don’t stress.

Adult acne is a common problem among women. There are several theories on what causes acne, what aggravates it, and of course, what cures it. Hundreds of research studies have been conducted on the subject and there is varying data. Although the exact cause of acne can vary amongst individuals, on a cellular level, typically acne is caused by a combination of inflammation, follicular obstruction, and accumulation of sebum. Sebum is produced from the sebaceous glands on the skin. It is an oily material that helps protect the outer layer and also gives skin its oily or waxy-looking appearance. Although somewhat protective, this material can also create a good environment for bacteria to grow, leaving skin congested. Congestion can then lead to whiteheads and blackheads that form large areas of acne. There is other physiology involved, but we all know how interested in detailed science most of you are!

What factors can trigger acne? Over treating you skin can do more harm than good. Using soaps, astringents, and harsh exfoliators can take sebum away from the skin’s surface and also cause trauma to the skin, which could lead to inflammation and worsening acne. Many people also dehydrate their “oily” skin, sometimes creating more breakouts and increasing inflammation. If you wash your face with a cleanser and your eyes are stinging like you just got sprayed with Mace, it’s probably too harsh for you.

Stress is a topic that really deserves its own article. Clinically, high stress has been linked to acne exacerbations and poor diet. If you’re under a lot of stress and getting very little sleep your skin may retaliate. Alleviate stress whenever you can, and recognize that when your stress calms down, your skin may also.

Your period might not be a question mark anymore, but if it’s accompanied by acne, it’s probably equally unwelcome. Acne flares (and sometimes temper flares) during the premenstrual time are common among women. If you struggle with this type of acne, you should speak to your doctor about options to regulate your hormones and improve your skin. In addition to treatment, be sure to try to avoid rubbing or picking at your skin, as scars can take several months to resolve. Clinically, darker scarring typically occurs in individuals with darker complexions.

 Consider these other tips to help your skin look better:

Eat Well: Diet can make a bigger difference with your acne than you might imagine. “You are what you eat” is an old but unfortunately somewhat true statement. Some studies suggest that consumption of milk may play a role in acne exacerbations, but there have only been minimal randomized control trials to test this theory. Having said that, many women often note that decreasing their dairy intake has reduced their breakouts, so if you’re consuming a significant amount of milk and cheese, consider cutting back. Whether it’s chocolate, French fries, cheeseburgers, or peanut butter- there is no real data to support that a specific food causes acne, but if you know that your skin and Double Stuffed Oreo’s are frenemies, avoid the foods that make YOU breakout. Make sure you’re getting enough fruits, vegetables, protein, and fats (yes, fats) in your diet to keep your skin resilient and help it heal from acne. Also, remember to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated from within and cleanse your skin from the inside.

Less is More for Makeup: Often makeup is used to cover up bad skin but it may be causing your breakouts. Be sure to use foundation or powder that is oil free. Using a powder foundation can help your skin breathe while it’s healing from bouts of acne. Do your best to also maintain a cleansing routine to remove your makeup adequately. If you can make updating your Facebook status a priority, washing your face and removing your makeup should be right up there with it. Regardless of the method you use, try not to vigorously scrub your makeup off or use a cleanser that leaves your face parched.

Moisturize:  Derek Zoolander wasn’t kidding when he said, “Moisture is the essence of beauty”. It is often thought that reducing the skin’s natural oils can help prevent acne. Unfortunately, severely dehydrated skin can actually create more breakouts. Depleting your skin of its natural oils with harsh cleansers and astringents can trigger your skin to create more oil and clog pores. Make an effort to use a moisturizer with SPF during the day under your makeup and a thicker cream at night after you’ve washed your face. Re-hydrating your skin, particularly overnight, can restore and repair acne blemishes and improve scarring and skin tone from post-acne changes. Many moisturizers contain Retinoids, which can help acne and also have been shown to help reduce the signs of aging. Before you begin using these types of products, consult a physician because these are not for everyone, and should not be used if you are pregnant, or have certain other conditions.

Ask for Help: If you have been struggling with your skin, talk to a doctor about your concerns. Millions of women suffer from acne. Whether you’re 14 or 40, acne can be very debilitating and take a serious toll on a person’s self-esteem. If you’ve tried several things and are still suffering, you may need a more detailed evaluation of your skin. You may even require prescription medication, or further hormonal evaluation. A doctor can provide you treatment tailored to your needs.