Why do some men go bald in their 30s while others have a full head of hair until their final days? Why do some women have ever-thinning hair, while others never seem to lose a single strand?
Blame your genes, first of all. If your mom, dad or a grandparent had hair loss, chances are greater that you will, too. Even so, there are ways to slow hair loss and stimulate growth.
THE HORMONE FACTOR
You grow and shed hair all the time. Of the 100,000-plus strands of hair on your head, it is perfectly normal to lose 50 to 100 every day. Once a hair is shed, a new hair grows from the same follicle. Hair grows at a rate of nearly one-half inch per month (faster in warm weather, slower when frost is on the vine). Baldness results when the rate of shedding exceeds the rate of regrowth.
Hair loss usually accelerates when you're over age 50. One hormone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), seems to be the chief culprit. DHT is a derivative of testosterone (the sex-determining hormone that is more abundant in men than women). In both men and women, DHT increases in the presence of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which is produced in the prostate, adrenal glands and the scalp. 5-alpha reductase is more likely to proliferate after age 50. \[hen DHT is overproduced, hair follicles are damaged. Some follicles die, but most shrink and produce thinner, weaker hairs-and the weak hairs are the ones that fall out.
An oily skin substance called sebum—produced by the sebaceous glands—makes matters worse. Excess sebum clogs follicles and contributes to high 5-alpha reductase activity, which stimulates production of DHT.
Among my own patients, stress is a factor for both men and women. I have found that highly stressed women, in particular, have higher-than-normal levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can contribute to hair loss.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry confirms that cortisol is indeed elevated in some women who suffer hair loss—and that when they learn to cope better with stress, hair growth improves.
For stress relief, I recommend daily exercise, such as brisk walking, as well as relaxation techniques, including deep breathing and meditation. B vitamins and ashwagandha (a stress-reducing herb from India) also can help counteract the effects of cortisol.
A regular daily dose of 100 mg of a B-vitamin complex and 250 mg to 500 mg of ashwagandha can help control cortisol levels. Look for Sensoril Ashwagandha, a patented extract formula by Jarrow Formulas, available at many health-food stores or by calling 800-726-0886 or at www.jarrow.com.
A PROMISING FORMULA
Taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement as well as the herbal remedy saw palmetto also can help slow hair loss. A daily scalp massage with essential oils is beneficial, too.
- Saw palmetto helps block the effects of DHT on hair follicles, strengthening hair. In a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers used a product containing saw palmetto and a plant compound called beta-sitosterol that is found in saw palmetto and other plants. The study included 19 men between ages 23 and 64 who had mild-to-moderate hair loss. Men in one group were given a placebo daily... and men in the other group received the saw palmetto/beta-sitosterol combination (none of the participants knew which group they were in). After five months, researchers found that 60% of the men who received the saw palmetto/beta-sitosterol combination showed improvement, while only llo/o of the men receiving a placebo had more hair growth.
In my clinical experience, saw palmetto is helpful for both men and women. I recommend 320 mg to 400 mg daily of an 85o/o liposterolic extract. It is safe to use long term but should not be taken if you are pregnant or nursing.
For a more aggressive approach, you should also take beta-sitosterol. Source Naturals (800-815-2333, www.sourcenaturaIs.com) offers a 113-mg tablet that can be taken daily. It is available at health-food stores and at www.iherb.com.
- The essential oils of rosemary and lavender have been shown to improve hair growth when applied to the scalp. My own belief is that they improve blood flow to the scalp, ensuring *rat nutrients get to the sites where they're needed.
You can purchase these essential oils in separate containers. Pour some of your regular shampoo into the lid of the shampoo bottle, then add five to 10 drops of each essential oil. Massage into the scalp and leave on three to five minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
If you have tried these approaches for two to three months and still aren't satisfied with the groril/th of your locks, here are some other supplements that can help both men and women…
- Biotin, a nutrient that is required for hair growth, is particularly good for brittle hair. Food sources of biotin include brewer's yeast, soybeans, eggs, mushrooms and whole wheat. For supplementation, take 3,000 micrograms daily for at least two months or use a biotin-enriched shampoo daily.
- MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a great source of sulfur, an integral component of the amino acids that are the building blocks of hair protein. MSM improves the strength, sheen and health of hair. In one study, 21 adults (16 men and five women) who were assessed by a certified cosmetologist under the direction of a medical doctor were given MSM or a placebo and then were reassessed at the end of six weeks. The participants did not know who was given MSNI and who was given a placebo.
Those given MSM showed significant improvement in hair health, while those taking a placebo showed few or no changes. I recommend a 1,000-mg daily dose of MSM. Look for Opti-MSM or Lignisul MSM, available from many manufacturers and at health-food stores.
Essential fatty acids keep hair from becoming dry and lifeless by decreasing inflammation. Inflammation worsens the quality of hair follicles, and essential fatty acids are needed for the proper development of hair. Food sources include walnuts, eggs, fish, olive oil, flaxseed and hempseed and flax oils. Or you can take a formula like Udo's Choice Oil Blend, produced by Flora (800-446-2110, www.florahealth.com). Follow directions on the label. The formula contains both omega-3 fatty acids (from flax oil or fish oil) and omega-6 fatry acids from evening primrose oil or borage oil. Don't expect immediate results, however. It can take four to six weeks to see improvement.
Not Just Wrinkles: Secrets To Younger-Looking Skin
When people complain about looking older, they usually talk about lines and wrinkles. However, most people who are dissatisfied with their appearance have color or texture problems as well that make them look older than they should.
Well-known treatments, such as Botox and collagen, are very effective for lines and wrinkles, but they don't affect color and texture issues. About three-quarters of patients will notice a dramatic improvement when they treat these two important factors, too.
Color problems are among the easiest skin defects to correct. They basically fall into two categories—browns (such as age spots and freckles) and reds (usually due to engorged or broken capillaries).
- Browns. Brown spots go by many different names—sunspots, liver spots, age spots, etc. They're almost always caused by sun exposure, which triggers excessive activity in some of the skin's pigment-producing cells. Most brown spots appear on exposed areas of the skin, such as the face, arms and back of the hands.
On the other hand, blotchy brown areas that don't have a clear border are usually caused by an imbalance of female hormones, such as during pregnancy or in women taking birth control pills.