As distressing as it is to loose hair, it is difficult to identify a single underlying cause for hair loss. More often than not, its usually a combination of factors that lead to hair loss and thinning. Hence a holistic approach inside out is imperative in tackling this issue.
Some of the underlying causes include: stress (I know easier said than done to manage this bucket), lack of sleep, vitamin deficiencies (particularly B12 and B6), irregular Thyroid function, low Iron levels (anaemia), hormonal changes or fluctuations (including postpartum hair loss), increased Dihydrotestosterone (DHT, higher levels of testosterone is converted to DHT), impaired micro-circulation and poor scalp health (potential fungal infections), and other existing medical conditions for which treatment
Most of these potential causes we’ve heard about, however elevated DHT levels are not so often elaborated on. As hair on the scalp goes through its normal cycle of growing and shedding, DHT makes the follicles shrink. That means they get thinner and shorter, because the growing cycle doesn’t last as long. In some cases, the growing cycle becomes so brief that new hairs don’t even poke through the skin. Plus, the thinning of the hairs makes them easier to shed.
Again, I stress the importance of having complete blood work done to identify potential factors affecting you. That really should be your first step rather than splurging on products claiming to help with hair loss.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids’s for scalp exfoliation to get rid of dead skin buildup (Personally, I spray a light mist of Pixi Glow Tonic, once or twice a week). Alternatively, manual physical scrubs are also available with Sea Salt (Christophe Robin, G.tox by Goop, DpHUE), Sugar (Kristin Ess, Ouai, Nexxus, NatureLab. Tokyo), Charcoal (Briogeo) or Enzymes (Virtue).
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a small palm tree native to Florida and other areas of the southeastern United States. It is one of the most popular and best herbal DHT blockers. Specifically look for Saw Palmetto extract (as an active ingredient), which is considered a potent form. Some studies show that Saw Palmetto inhibits 5-alpha reductase (5-AR) in tissues from producing DHT. Beloved OGX Niacin and Caffeine range had this ingredient.
Caffeine, the common stimulatory ingredient found in coffee may also help to promote hair growth by blocking DHT. An in vitro study found that caffeine applied topically in concentrations of 0.001% and 0.005% could stimulate hair follicle growth. While the exact mechanism of action still requires research, this effect may come from the compounds ability to block 5-AR receptors. OGX Niacin and Caffeine range now discontinued but was excellent, Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo (with Panthenol, Zinc PCA and Niacin), Vegamour GRO Hair serum (formulated with Panthenol, Caffeine, Turmeric, Red Clover extract, Biotin and Peptide)
Yerba mate extract is rich in antioxidants because of its high concentration of polyphenols, comparable to red wine and considered superior to green tea with its antioxidant composition. Claims to have 10x the caffeine potency of any other natural ingredient. Levara Amazonia’s range includes Yerba Mate as their star ingredient however whether its an active ingredient in the formulation is vague.
Stinging Nettle – If inflammation with scalp is a concern for you, studies have proven this is excellent for reducing inflammation in scalp, neutralize free radical damage and aid in blocking DHT activity topically. Rich in vitamins and minerals such as magnesium (which in itself has amazing properties for hair loss), vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin K, potassium, silica, and calcium are heavily present in the nettle leaves, roots, and stems. It also possesses a rich source of iron and omega-3 acid, antioxidant and antimicrobial powerhouse.
Fenugreek is an ancient ingredient, used extensively in Ayurvedic formulations. Known to be high in protein and nicotinic acid content, which are known to help combat dandruff and hair loss. Fenugreek seeds contain a unique combination of plant compounds that include saponins and flavonoids. These compounds may help hair growth because of their anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal efforts.
Pumpkin Seed Oil – Shown some promising effects on its ability to inhibit DHT. In fact, its effects on DHT have been studied for many years in relation to its effects on enlarged prostates.
Pygeum Bark also known as African Plum Tree, known to be rich in essential fatty acids, and reduce DHT levels leading to hair loss.
Prescription under Doctors advice – Minoxidil (stimulates hair growth by increasing the growth phase cycle, shortening the resting phase, and increasing the blood flow to the hair follicle) Topical application of Regaine or Rogaine (5% Minoxidil) or Keranique (2% Minoxidil))
Prescription under Doctors advice – Ketoconazole is an anti-fungal medication commonly used to reduce dandruff. Studies suggest that it may also help to block DHT and promote hair growth. A study comparing a topical ketoconazole solution and various concentrations of minoxidil found that using ketoconazole with minoxidil stimulates hair growth more than minoxidil alone.20
Prescription under Doctors advice – Finasteride is an oral medication which targets the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT. This is not prescribed to women and limited specifically to men.
Other OTC Supplements that can be considered include Biotin, Vitamin B12 and B6, Iron among many others.