11 Bad Habits That Make Your Hair Thinner
Hair loss and thinning are amongst the most common hair problems. In many cases, lifestyle changes and habits are the major causes behind these issues. The strength of the hair fibres can be affected by factors varying from the food consumed to the hair style adopted, according to Alan Baumann, MD, who is a Boca Raton-based hair transplant surgeon and physician specialising in hair loss. So the good news is that making minor lifestyle changes can go a long way in reducing hair problems.
Here are some of the major reasons behind hair loss and some tips on combating them:
1. Taking steamy showers
Hot water dehydrates the scalp and hair, causing hair strands to be dry and brittle. Ryan Welter, MD, a Boston-based hair transplant surgeon, says that such hair easily breaks and falls out. This is because the hair loses its protective oils and the heat forces the scalp’s pores to keep up with oil production, causing hair root damage and additional shedding. Opt for a warm shower but try to rinse hair at the coolest temperature possible.
2. Using hot styling tools
Styling tools at scorching temperatures damage the proteins in the hair and its protective cuticles. Cuticle damage leads to disruption of moisture balance making hair more prone to breakage. Limit hot tool usage including blow-dryers, to two or three times a week, and use at the coolest setting possible. Apply a heat-protection spray while using such styling tools so that it creates a thermal barrier to reduce friction.
3. Crash dieting
Starvation forces the body to utilise energy for the most essential functions rather than making hair. Paradi Mirmirani, a Vallejo California dermatologist specialising in hair disorders, says that one of the top symptoms of anorexia is severe hair loss. Follow a healthy diet with plenty of lean proteins like fish, chicken, lentils and beans. Aim for 46 grams of proteins per day (or about 25% to 30% of the total calories). This will help nourish the hair as it is made up of proteins.
4. Mishandling wet hair
The hair strands are the most fragile and hence prone to easy breakage when saturated with water, as the protective cuticle is slightly raised. Brushing or combing hair in the shower, as well as aggressive towel-drying, can easily snap hair strands. Minimise post-shower brushing by combing before hair gets wet. Blot the hair instead of rubbing it and use a soft towel after shower.
5. Wearing tight hairstyles
Tight hairstyles put excessive tension on the hair follicles, damaging them and creating scars that destroy them permanently, according to Doris Day, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist specialising in hair health. This can in turn lead to traction alopecia, a condition that permanently weakens the follicle and makes it impossible for hair to grow. Try wearing the hair down whenever possible, and especially while sleeping as rolling around on a pillow can create even more friction. While wearing tight hairstyles ensure that it is not way too tight or pulling on the skin.
6. Using long-lasting hold styling products
Hairsprays or gels with long lasting holds are usually high in alcohol, which makes hair dry and brittle. The residue causes the hair to break and fall out, while combing or brushing the hair. Skip products that make hair stiff or sticky. Instead, opt for softer-hold solutions like styling creams that keep hair’s moisture intact and don’t create friction when brushing.
7. Taking oral birth control pills
Women who are sensitive to hair shedding or thinning due to hormonal changes, should be careful while choosing birth control pills, as the wrong type of pills can weaken the hair. Dr. Bauman says that a pill that contains androgens can cause hair loss for someone who is ‘androgen sensitive’. Switch to low-androgen index birth control pills. Androgen sensitivity can be checked by a hair restoration physician through a quick cheek-swab genetic test.
8. Scratching your head
Itchy scalp (like that caused by seborrheic dermatitis) may result in hair loss due to scratching-induced hair damage. Damaged cuticles make the hair fibre prone to breakage. Relieve the itch with a shampoo that contains selenium, zinc pyrithione, or tea tree oil. If over-the-counter products do not help, a physician can prescribe antifungal shampoos or cortisone foams.
9. Soaking up the sun
Exposing hair to UV rays, reduce its the strength and elasticity. Prolonged UV exposure causes cuticle layers to weaken and break, resulting in brittle hair that can lead to hair loss. Wear a hat, preferably one with built-in UV protection and tuck in the ponytail whenever possible.
10. Not washing hair often enough
A build-up of hair styling products, dirt or excessive dandruff on the scalp can clog hair follicles, and make it difficult for hair to grow. Wash the hair every two days, especially if prone to sweating or using lots of products. To prevent excessive dryness, switch to a sulfate-free shampoo.
11. Taking certain medications
Medications like statins, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety agents, anti-hypertensive medications or hormones such as thyroid replacement drugs can cause hair loss. These can disrupt or interfere with the normal cycle of hair growth, causing hair to go into a resting phase and fall out prematurely. Ask the doctor about alternative medications that do not cause hair-loss.