Thin hair, don’t care (or do I?)

Growing up, I was envious of the girls at school who were able to wash their hair in the morning and have it dry by the time they arrived at class. (What? You mean there are people in this world who have hair that doesn’t take three hours to self-dry?)

However, my bouts of jealousy were generally followed by them saying something like: ‘At least you can do something with your hair’ or ‘At least it doesn’t feel like you’re balding’.

As it goes, many women feel self-conscious about their hair, more so specifically if they have thin hair.

Senior stylist at Podium Hair and Beauty, Sophie Booth has witnessed firsthand the lack of confidence that some people visiting her salon have, due to thin hair.

“Absolutely, [thin hair] has an impact on women and even men when it comes to self-confidence,” she says.

“It’s scientifically proven that thin hair causes depression and anxiety, and even social phobia to the point where people don’t want to go out.

“Women even struggle talking to hairdressers and will often ask what they can do to make it appear like they have more hair.”

Pharmacy Assistant, Sharni Rossow supports Ms Booth’s statement by explaining: “Damage to hair conditions such as thinning, balding, dry brittle hair can cause both men and women to lose self-confidence, and sometimes cause depression and anxiety.”

The deficiency link

Anthony Pearce, a specialist integrative medicine trichologist at Anthony Pearce Trichology, says that thinning hair may be “a reflection of internal deficiency”.

Women, he adds, “are more prone to deficiency in certain critical nutrients than are males, and they’re also more likely to develop an autoimmune thyroid (or other) issue affecting their hair, weight and energy”. 

Mr Pearce says vitamin D, zinc, iron and iodine (essentially in that order for hair growth) are considered the most important nutrients for optimal metabolic functioning.

Vitamin D: Low levels of vitamin D are linked to alopecia (aka hair loss). Food sources of vitamin D include salmon, herring, sardines, cod liver oil, tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms and foods fortified with vitamin D.

Zinc: Zinc plays an important role in hair tissue growth and repair. It also helps keep the oil glands around the follicles working properly. Food sources of zinc include red meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds (such as pumpkin and sesame seeds), nuts (pine nuts, peanuts, cashews and almonds), dairy, eggs, whole grains, some vegetables (potatoes, kale) and dark chocolate.

Iron: This mineral helps red blood cells carry oxygen to the cells. This makes it an important mineral for many bodily functions, including hair growth. Food sources of iron include spinach, liver and organ meats, legumes, red meat, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, turkey, broccoli, tofu and fish.

Iodine: This is an essential mineral commonly found in seafood. The thyroid gland uses it to make thyroid hormones, which help control growth, repair damaged cells and support a healthy metabolism. Food sources of iodine include seaweed, cod, dairy, iodized salt, tuna, eggs and prunes.

Due to the fact that, as Mr Pearce points out on his website, “the causes of female scalp hair loss may be the result of multifaceted nutritional, metabolic or autoimmune disturbances”, it’s important for health professionals to understand the “underlying cause of the presenting problem”.

He adds that this can be typically done “through history evaluation of the client [and] specific ‘evidence gathering’ pathology”.

Once a cause is determined, Mr Pearce says, “appropriate treatments may be suggested to aid in correcting the underlying disturbance and to provide optimal outcomes for the client”.

The role of a pharmacy assistant

Ms Booth says that generally a pharmacy may not have much experience with hair and how it works exactly, so it’s important to remember that if the issue seems severe, it’s best to advise patients to see a dermatologist.

“… Especially with the embarrassment that comes with talking to an absolute stranger about their hair problems – unless they’re there because their dermatologist has given them a script – it should always be recommended to speak to a professional hairdresser or to seek out medical help, if required,” she says.

“If a customer was looking in the hair care aisle, I’d ask them if they need assistance, what their main concerns are, if they’re on medication, and what their hair routine is like; then I’d go from there.”

“Retail pharmacy is a good start for short-term treatments and beauty products, as we offer more and better-quality service than supermarkets can.

“However, if the issue is ongoing or more serious, it may be best to seek medical attention to find the underlying reasons.”

To read the full feature as it appeared in the May issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants magazine, visit: rpassistants.com.au/rpa-may-2020/ 

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