Going bald and losing hair has been a problem for men and women since the dawn of time. Although there is no definite cure, improved medical and surgical methods of hair restoration have developed over the years and have literally undone the effects of ‘androgenic alopecia’ for tens of thousands of men and women. Our hair is made up of keratin — an extremely strong protein, which is also a major component in skin, nails and teeth. A single hair consists of a hair shaft, a root below the skin and a follicle from which the hair root grows.

At the lower end of the follicle is the hair bulb, where the hair’s colour pigment, or melanin, is produced. It is totally normal for most people to lose between 50-100 strands of hair daily. These hairs are replaced — they grow back in the same follicle on your head. However, if you are experiencing excessive hair loss, something may be wrong.

So, what are some the most common causes of hair loss ? Dr Eileen Tan from the Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic states that, “androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata are some of the most common hair loss conditions. Androgenetic alopecia (commonly coined male or female pattern hair loss) is a condition due to combined factors of genetic influence and hormone influence, namely dihydrotestosterone. Alopecia areata, which is often present with coin-shaped or patchy hair loss, is an auto-immune condition, often precipitated by stress. Lastly, telogen effluvium is a reactive hair loss due to some underlying medical reasons such as thyroid diseases.

Our hair is made up of keratin – an extremely strong protein, which is also a major component in skin, nails and teeth.

The actual causes of hair loss though may vary from anything like stress, emotional trauma, being exposed to chemicals (such as in the case of perming, colouring, bleaching etc), poor nutrition and some medical treatments like chemotherapy.

There are two procedures that can help hair loss problems – medical and surgical methods.

Medically, you will find a host of do-it-yourself hair products such as lotions, creams, scalp stimulants and other ‘wonder treatments’, all promising to prevent hair loss. Determining which medicine is right for you will depend on your age, degree of hair loss and other factors. Not everyone who is experiencing hair loss can seek the same treatment and only a doctor can determine why your hair is falling out and suggest a treatment that will correct the underlying problems. “When surgical treatment is considered, the person should consult a dermatologist or doctor who will assess their hair condition,” said Dr Tan. “Hair transplant is usually performed for moderate degree of hair loss or patients with scars on their scalp, face or body such as the eyebrows.

The technique for hair restoration surgery is similar for both men and women, with a slight difference in the area of concern. In men, they are often troubled by their receding hair line and diffuse pattern.

Women usually are very concerned even with mild hair loss as hair loss is less acceptable in women,” she continued. Hair restoration surgery is a major decision for most people as it can result in improved self-esteem and change your appearance to a more youthful and vigorous one. Once the hair transplant has been done, your hair will be restored and it will grow naturally and can be styled and cut.

Contemporary hair restoration surgery involves very little pain. “This procedure involves the patient being put on local anaesthesia to numb the area of donor site and planted site, plus sedation both orally and intravenously, and therefore the patient will not be aware of any pain during the entire procedure. They are also able to resume work after 48 hours of the surgery, ” said Dr Sundarason. Side-effects of hair restoration surgery are also relatively minor — usually limited to slight discomfort, serious problems are rare and results are excellent.

Therefore it is not surprising to know that the procedure has gained popularity in Singapore and Asia, compared to a few years ago. How expensive are hair transplants? “Depending on the severity of hair loss or baldness of a person, prices could start from SGDS5.OO per hair graft,” quoted Dr Sundarason. With such state-of-the-art technology, both men and women with hair loss problems do not have to endure the devastating and frightening experience of balding, which can be extremely damaging to one’s self- image and confidence. Help is now readily available but nevertheless, prevention is always better than cure.

Any nutritional deficiencies can lead to thinning hair or even total baldness (notice how sufferers of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia lose their hair). Therefore, the right vitamins and minerals play a major role in keeping your hair healthy. Eating a healthy diet that is rich in protein like eggs, fish, beans and yoghurt will really benefit your hair.

Soy protein has also been found to be helpful in stimulating hair growth. Avoid foods that are high in sugar and fat. Give up smoking and the intake of caffeine as it will weaken the body and hinder maximum hair growing potential. Caring for your hair is as equally important as your dietary intake. Avoid using hot water, hot blow dryers or other hair care tools that may stress your hair. Pamper yourself with a weekly scalp massage to provide stimulation to the hair follicles. Have regular trims to eliminate split ends for healthier looking hair with a series of ongoing hot oil treatments to protect the hair’s shaft and get plenty of rest and sleep. Most importantly, avoid unnecessary brushing and styling, especially when your hair is still wet, as it can cause it the hair to stretch and break. As with the rest of our bodies, hair is healthiest when we exercise and protect it from too much sun.