As a young girl with flowing hair, I was always asked how I did it? I would typically give answers ranging from how hair oil helped to how I kept washing my hair to a minimum etc. However as I matured and as I qualified as a dermatologist I realized how much of this is purely incidental and there did not exist a true causal relationship between my actions and the health of my hair.
Now when I attend to patients who come in with complaints about hair loss or how their hair has become rough and unmanageable, I find the same sill co-relations at play in their minds.
Hopefully, this article will help put a lot of such speculation to rest and allow most individuals to focus on the basics of hair care that are most effective.
Hair is a fiber that is made mostly of proteins. It is important to understand that unlike your skin your hair shaft is ‘dead’ That is it is not being constantly fed nutrition to keep its entire length alive. It is the root that is alive. What one needs to understand is that influencing hair growth and protecting grown hair shafts are two very different things.
Patients often believe that by applying grooming products to the hair shafts will actually stop hair loss. This is at best half truth. Grooming products like conditioners and hair oils can only protect the hair shafts from early breakage if the hair has undergone something called ‘weathering’. Which is where the hair is damaged due to exposure to hair treatments, environmental damage etc. However, they cannot help in growing hair.
Hair Growth can be a totally different story. Hair growth cannot be influenced by grooming products. It is important to understand that every hair follicle undergoes what is called the hair growth cycle. In this there is anagen (the growth phase), Catagen (the stable resting phase) and Telogen (the falling phase). Hair loss happens when there are a lot more hair strands in the catagen and telogen phase than in the anagen phase.
In the points ahead, I will talk about Hair Protection separately from Hair Loss or Hair Growth.
Patients have strange beliefs regarding hair cleansing. There are patients who refuse to use shampoo or any cleaning agent. They wash their hair with water and sometimes add natural ingredients like egg yolks, yogurt etc. This is an extremely unhealthy practice. Shampoos are extremely safe for hair and are a requirement for keeping it clean. Not keeping your hair and scalp clean can cause a variety of scalp infections and also cause further weathering of your hair strands leading to excess breakage. I advise my patients to wash their hair at least 2 times a week and more if they are engaged in any activities which cause heavy sweating and collection of dirt and grime in the hair. Using natural ingredients like the ones mentioned above can actually cause infections. Please restrict suck ingredients to your kitchen.
Hair oils are to conditioners what petrol and diesel cars are to electric cars. It is outdated. Using an oil as a grooming agent to protect you hair shaft was an acceptable practice back in the 1980s. Oils have a substantial disadvantage that they can cause scalp infections and cause scalp boils. As these lock in the dirt, grime and sebum on your scalp and cause bacterial growth. Conditioners are formulated to adhere to your hair shaft and not to your scalp. Also Conditioners are formulated with the correct ingredients having the appropriate molecular size to a. Penetrate the hair shaft and b. To dissipate on the hair shaft. Both these actions provide a much superior protection to your hair shaft without the ‘champi’ look.
Keratin treatments claim to infuse keratin (proteins) into your hair. However, these use extremely harsh chemicals and treat the hair at high temperatures to actually force the chemical to adhere to your hair and create an unnatural layer on the hair strands that can cause severe weathering and even fracturing of hair. This is probably the worst thing that you can do to your hair.
While as a practicing dermatologist and cosmetologist I do understand the need for looking young in social situations, I would still advise avoiding any form of coloring to the hair is it is truly not needed. If you must, please choose a hair colour from large FMCG organizations which have better testing standards and least amount of side effects.
Hair shafts are more prone to damage than skin, as unlike skin the hair shafts do not have any self-healing mechanism. Everything from combing, to exposure to UV rays of the sun, to pollution, to harsh grooming products can damage your hair strands. While I am not suggesting always stepping out with a cap over your head, it does make sense to use a cap when out in the sun for long durations. Or for that matter ensuring that while combing your hair, do not brute force your way through knots. Just sensible precautions is what I would recommend.
Please understand that hair growth is more a function of your overall health and hormones than of a particular local effect on your scalp. Ensuring that you keep a healthy weight, exercise, and eat a healthy balanced diet are truly the things that will help the health of your hair also. If you suffer from hormonal disturbances like during PCOD or like during life stages of pregnancy or menopause, hair growth will get adversely affected. It is advisable to attend to your hormonal levels and overall health rather than focusing narrowly on hair growth and loss.
I mention this separately from the overall health advice above for one simple reason it is far too underappreciated. Please understand that this one factor alone can be responsible for substantial hair loss. It does not matter how you de-stress whether it is through meditation or a movie or exercise, all that matters is that you de-stress.
Self-medication, Google Medication and Medication prescribed by friends & family are the worst thing you can do to yourself when it comes to solving hair loss. Not all hair loss is the same and not all medications are the same. A dermatologist can help you identify the exact cause and create a proper treatment protocol for you. Medical science has made progress in leaps and bounds and there are a variety of treatments like meso therapy, prp therapy which can be used in addition to medications and topical solutions to stop hair loss. It is important to note that hair specialist is a term that is loosely thrown around nowadays. I would advise patients to please check the qualification of their treating ‘doctor’. Please note that the Indian Medical Council does not recognize a ‘degree’ called trichology or cosmetology.
Most so-called natural medications and treatments fall into three categories.
The first are those products that are truly natural – for example egg yolks, yogurt, extracts of leaves, fruits, and vegetables. These have not been tested for application on hair and scalp and their efficacy also has not been tested. Also in general these ingredients have a very low concentration of active ingredients that can create the medical effect so desired. Any success of such ingredients is purely anecdotal and should not be considered seriously.
The second are a set of products that are truly natural or ayurvedic preparations. I sincerely doubt these treatments for a single reason these are not subject to testing for safety and efficacy. Also in terms of actual causal relations between the ingredients and the desired outcome, there is practically no research.
The third are the worst, these are the products that claim to be natural but have a miniscule percentage of actual natural ingredients while the true active ingredients are all allopathic. These products may also have skipped safety and efficacy tests and should be seen with skepticism.
I would like to leave you with the thought that hair care is not rocket science and basic simple steps go a long way in keeping your hair healthy and flowing.
The objective of this article is to educate the reader and help them make wiser choices under the guidance of a trained dermatologist. It is not meant to be used by patients for self-diagnosis or for avoiding proper medical treatment. The images used in the above blog are only for visual representation purposes. Actual procedures and results may vary from patient to patient.
About Dr. Sejal Saheta and InUrSkn:
Built on more than a decade of experience of Dr. Sejal Saheta, we are an honest and affordable skin and hair care clinic in Powai, Mumbai. Our goal is to make each patient comfortable and happy with their appearance with the least amount of intervention.
Dr. Sejal Saheta has dual degrees of MD and DNB in dermatology and venereology and has worked alongside some of the senior-most doctors at the largest hospitals in Mumbai.
Located in Powai, InUrSkn is the largest skin and hair clinic in the central suburbs of Mumbai and offers the latest technology in the safety of world-class infrastructure.
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No matter what your skin and hair needs, Dr Sejal Saheta ensures personal attention to each patient and creates customized and scientifically-backed treatment plans for each patient. Through her years of experience and use of technology at her clinic (InUrSkn – Skin and Hair Clinic) located in Powai, Mumbai, she has been able to consistently deliver great results in the field of dermatology and trichology to thousands of patients. All of the above is done with the best-in-class machines within the comfort and safety of world-class infrastructure