It’s a simple enough question, a colleague asked on twitter (Daniel Whitby, an excellent cosmetic chemist). So many of the answers that came back through the ether were cosmetically sound and correct.
Many correct answers abounded,
one twitter follower chirped “The common
consumer perception of frizz is that it’s the misalignment of hair fibres,
whether it’s due to environment (which impacts H2O uptake) or natural
morphology of the fibre.” Sounds perfectly correct!
said “I’d say frizz is when your hair is not smooth,
whatever the reason. However, it usually implies volume caused by messy-looking
waves and curls”.
Again…true, but then as the word ‘Frizz’
itself is ambiguous, it means different things to different people, and so
you’ll get many ‘right’ answers, and they are from a personal or scientific
correct point of view.
However, as a clinician dealing
with hair loss and hair thinning disorders, my take on frizz is probably a
little more sinister, so my concern is when people suffering from ‘frizz’ are
treating it as a cosmetic issue when really it’s a symptom of an underlying
Many of my patients who come to see me are confused as to what is happening with their hair, they have no patches of hair loss, their hair is still growing, but their hair density has diminished, their hair has ‘changed’, not to an extreme amount, but enough to warrant concern, make them worry if this general thinning will ever stop and their minds race to where will it end?
This form of hair density
diminishment is incredibly common, up to
1:3 women will suffer from this form of hair thinning, and it may not even be visible to anyone else, their hair
may still ‘look’ normal but feel thinner.
This type of thinning is caused by
a disruption of the growing phase to the hair cycle; the hair is still growing,
but not as well or for as long as it did. There are usually two sure-fire signs
that this is occurring;
The person’s ponytail diameter is reduced (they can wrap the bobble around the hair more times than they usually can.
The hair is frizzier than before.
It’s this second symptom. I want to concentrate on; This problem is mostly a ‘cosmetic’ one, there are no aches, pains, inflammation, or external symptoms whatsoever, and so the terms people use to describe what is occurring are mostly ‘cosmetic’.
“My hair has become, fine, flyaway, frizzy, lacking
in volume over the past 6/12/24 months”; The first step for
the patient was to reach for ‘anti-frizz’ product, now these can work in some
cases where ‘frizz’ is occurring due to the hair becoming dehydrated, or the
hair being naturally frizzy.
It can smooth cuticles, prevent water from entering the hair (partially)
so preventing hydrogen bonds form re-aligning after you have spent the best
part of an hour misaligning them an keeping them in place through dehydration
(or as its commonly called blow-drying and straightening your hair).
The difference is long term changes, has your hair changed in density, generally feels thinner and become frizzy or has it merely always been frizzy because its curly, unruly etc…
Hair is 4D, what you see is a hair that has length, breadth, width and time,
the length of the hair and the time it has grown for are inextricably
linked, if one shortens, the other will too.
The normal hair cycle shows hair growing for approx. 3 years, then naturally dying, falling out and starting again as a new hair.
This means your hair naturally is not all one density through its
length, and you will always have more hair near the scalp than you will find
halfway down the hair length and defiantly more than the ends of the hair, this
is called the ‘taper’ of the hair which should usually be around 30%.
You should lose about 30% of the density naturally between the scalp and the ends of the hair if your hair grows for approx. 3 years. (40cm of hair growth).
However, with a disrupted cycle the hair may not grow for that maximum length of time, or only a small percentage may grow for this long, the rest may cycle through in much shorter time-space, 2 years, 18 months, even 6 months.
The hair usually cycles back
through and starts again (as a small hair), so in a real hair cycle disruption,
there is no loss of hair follicles, just density… it is just that the hair is
not growing all together for the same amount of time.
By looking at the diagram
above, you can see where the ‘frizz’ element comes in, a person with a cycle
disruption will automatically suffer from ‘frizzy’ hair and no matter what
conditioning agent, serum, anti-frizz blow-dry product you use…it will make no
difference as this problem is not due to the ‘hair’ but the hair cycle!
If you feel like I’ve just
described your hair and you want to do something about it, book in, this can be
helped and, in many cases, corrected.
In typical fashion, it’s the season to resolve, repair & re-evaluate our health plans for ourselves, but how many of you also do this for your hair?
Diets can help lose the weight gained over the festive period, but if you lose too much too quickly your hair will bear the brunt of this excessive weight loss, so here are a few tips to ensure your hair keeps healthy as you ‘yourself’ attain the goals you want.
• Your hair needs everything!..Carbs, fats and most importantly protein, if you exclude these in any severe form of dieting your hair can suffer.
You can be a vegetarian or a vegan and still get all the proteins you need, but you have to ensure you get all the amino-acids your body needs every day as plant-based proteins are not as complete as animal-based ones. The most important to hair are the ‘Sulphur based amino acids’ (Cystine, Cysteine and Methionine) these are the things the hair really needs to grow to its optimum level.
If you look at your diet and think you are low in protein (the average person needs between 0.7-1.3g of protein per kg of body weight) you may need to rethink your diet or use a supplement (such as Hairjelly) to ensure your hair gets the proteins it needs to grow normally. • Don’t cut calories to the point of starvation, scientists have proved time and time again there is no such thing as a detox diet, by removing everything for several days and relying on exclusive ‘supplementation’ to the detriment of actual food, will make you lose muscle mass (as well as fat) but whilst it does this it will starve the things your body does not need of energy (such as your hair follicles).
Cutting calories to less than 1000 per day may cause a starvation mode and may trigger excessive hair shedding. There are loads of websites that will give you an indication of how many calories you need to maintain the weight you are at present, to safely reduce your weight, reduce this number by 500 per day. • Hair loss in the majority of cases can be either corrected or medicated against to maintain density, for this to happen you need to know ‘why’ it is happening, the bottle of ‘whatever’ or the supplements for ‘hair loss/hair growth’ are going to do you no good if you don’t know why your hair is thinning.
Visit your GP first, they can rule out many of the more serious issues such as anemia and hypothyroidism, but just because they said you are not ill, does not mean to say you are 100% well, hair is a very sensitive barometer of health and if you are low in particular vitamins or minerals this may not show as a ‘deficiency’ on your blood test results.
Genetic hair loss is not classed as an illness by the doctors and so you will get little help from the usual medical route. If you get the all clear from the GP, come and visit us (or another registered Trichologist) to work through the minor details of the issues and come to a more solid diagnosis for the issue.
I hope this helps some of you! we are always happy to answer general questions if we haven’t covered something in this post… (but cannot comment on specific cases until a consultation has been performed)
Some people seem to think Trichology is all about men’s hair loss, treating genetic thinning, but this is very far from the truth, 80% of of patients we see at the Hairmedic clinics are female and approx. 80% of those have a general thinning of the hair rather than specific patterns of hair loss as seen in alopecia or male/female pattern thinning!
Here’s some information to put female hair loss in to perspective. 1:3 women will suffer from a diffuse shedding at some point in their life due to nutritional insufficiency’s
Genetic hair loss before the menopause may affect approx. 3% of women, however this raises to over 38% in women after the menopause whose hair will affected genetically. However, this figure may be a little on the light side as ‘hair loss’ is not readily diagnosed by doctors as many consider it to be one of these things and not a medical issue! Consider this to the statistic for alopecia areata for both sexes which is at 2% of the population… you are far more likely as a woman to suffer from general shedding/thinning of the hair than you are actual patches of hair loss!
What are the main conditions which cause it?
The first trap people fall in to is to group hair loss as one problem. You look on the internet and see ‘hair loss treatments’ but what type are you treating?
Hair loss happens usually as a side effect due to another reason, the mechanism for growing hair is complex and sensitive to changes nutritionally and hormonally and so anything from a low iron level to a genetic sensitivity to testosterone can cause the hair to thin.
The second trap is using the word ‘alopecia’, which conjures up patchy hair loss (alopecia areata) and is prevalent in approx. 2% of the world’s population regardless of sex, this is an auto-immune disorder and difficult to treat. (the word alopecia itself simply means hair loss in ancient Greek, so by visiting your GP and they exclaim you have alopecia, means you have just been told you have ‘hair loss’ in a different language…usually useless to the person).
The real question is ‘why’ I have hair loss, not ‘do’ I have hair loss?
If we are talking about female hair loss the two most common issues are telogen effluvium (a diffuse, excessive shedding of the hair) and genetic hair loss, a gradual decrease in the density, size and width of the hair mainly on the top of the women’s scalp.
Telogen effluvium is when your hair becomes diffuse and thin form excessive hair shedding, you are supposed to lose 100 hairs per day (approx.) if you lose more than this your hair will start to thin. The good news is this is self-limiting (people do not go bald from this) and usually correctible. There are two versions:
Acute telogen effluvium – or shock hair loss caused by an emotional, physical or psychological trauma, which will usually rectify itself in 4-6 months.
Chronic Telogen Effluvium – this is a side effect of an underlying nutritional/hormonal problem, you usually need tests to find out the issue and get clinical help in correcting this, after which the hair comes back!
Genetic thinning in Women can be age related or exacerbated by a lowering of oestrogen or raising of testosterone, so things like contraceptive pills, HRT, and even obesity can play a part in this.
Is ageing a factor in female hair loss/ thinning hair?
Yes, our hair thins as we get older, the cells which replicate to make hair become slower over time, so this exacerbates and compounds any other problems we have affecting our hair such as nutritional issues, genetic thinning and long term medical problems may exacerbate this further.
Are there any environmental factors or diet involved in causing hair loss?
Nutrition accounts for a massive amount of hair problems in pre-menopausal women, Iron and protein insufficiencies can cause the hair to shed excessively. Other common nutritional deficiencies which can cause hair shedding are Vitamin B12 and folic acid, more rarely but still documented are Zinc and Biotin (I rarely see patients with a true deficiency in these though?) Other environmental problems which can impact hair is your general health, smoking, obesity and poor diet will impact the body to a point where you need long term medication which can impact on the hormones and enzymes which help hair grow.
It’s boring advice but for healthy hair, YOU need to be healthy!
 Causes of hair loss and the developments in hair rejuvenation, D. H. Rushton M. J. Norris, R. Dover, Nina Busuttil
 Hair density, hair diameter and the prevalence of female pattern hair loss. Birch MP1, Messenger JF, Messenger AG.