[Farmers Journal 19th July, 2008: Irish Country Living (supplement), Country Health section, pages 16 and 17.]
Losing Your Locks
Is your hair your crowning glory or something you're embarrassed about? Hair thinning affects one in three women in Ireland. While going bald may be more socially acceptable for men, it can seriously affect a woman's self-confidence, writes Margaret Hawkins.
There are many, many causes of hair loss, and you have to find out why you are losing your hair before you can try to get it back,” says Galway-based trichologist Deborah Whelan. Trichology is the science of hair and scalp, and at present there are only five trichologists practising in the Republic of Ireland. Three-quarters of Deborah's patients are women.
“The correct term for hair loss is alopecia,” says Deborah. “Most people associate that word with total, sudden hair loss, but it is in fact a blanket term for any increased visibility of the scalp and any kind of hair loss.”
Deborah says that a lot of hair loss in women is self-inflicted. That can be from over-use of hair straighteners and hair styles, which pull the hair too much. Stress can also cause or exacerbate hair loss, she says.
“Some women who come to see me have lifestyles that are far too hectic. They haven't got 10 minutes to themselves in the day, as they try to juggle work and family. The stress hormone cortisol is therefore in their system all the time, and that can cause hair thinning.
Poor diet can be another cause. “Many people have an increasingly poor diet, and this is a very common cause of hair loss. Red meat should be eaten twice a week for iron, for example. A lot of people nowadays don't have red meat even once a week.
Hormonal changes can also lead to hair loss in women, according to Deborah. “Hair loss in women is particularly common after child-birth,” she says. Menopause also, or when you are starting or stopping contraceptive pills. There may also be more unusual causes, like auto-immune disorders and hair shaft abnormalities.”
“Women need to understand that they are not going to lose all their hair,” says Deborah. That reassurance will often help.
There are treatments for most hair loss and scalp conditions, according to the trichologist. “There are topical oestrogen treatments that clients can use at home for hair that is thinning on top. For more severe cases, like alopecia totalis, there are electro and light therapies that are used for very serious scalp diseases.
“There is also a list of herbal remedies and supplements we would recommend, depending on the disorder, but people have to look at their whole lifestyle.”
Trichology is the science of hair and scalp. To find a list of trichologists in Ireland check out www.trichologists.org.uk. Another useful website is www.hairandscalp.co.uk. Trichologist Deborah Whelan runs the Galway Trichology Clinic, Tel: 091 565148.