Dr. Judith Reichman

What Can Women Do To Stop Hair Loss - Dr. Judith ReichmanAn article came out today on MSNBC.com discussing women’s hair loss. I think the article provides a good overview of hair loss so I’m posting it here. The question asked to Today Show medical contributor, Dr. Judith Reichman was, “I’m in my early 40s and I’ve noticed sudden hair loss. I’m devastated. Why is this happening and what can I do?” (The original article can be found here) Here is her reply:

Women don’t expect to lose their hair (unlike men), so when it happens it’s extraordinarily traumatic. We normally have, on average, 100,000 hairs on our scalp. And as evinced by our changing hair lengths, roots and visits to our hairdressers, those hairs grow; in fact, 90 percent of our hair is actively growing at any given time. Hair is the second fastest growing tissue in our body after (I’d love for you to guess) … bone marrow. To keep its place on your head, your hair needs the right conditions. (Note I didn’t say conditioner.) You may find that you’re unexpectedly losing hair if you impose restrictions on hair growth or if your genes are such that continued hair growth is not in your destiny.

There’s a simple test you can do to help determine whether you are losing hair, it’s just thinning or you are damaging it by abusive hair products or pulling it too tight (which can occur with braiding). Pull on several strands of your hair — do they come out easily at the root? If so, it suggests that the hairs are indeed “shedding” and have gone into what we call an excess telogen phase.

To explain this telogen phenomenon, I must first go into hair physiology 101. As hair actively grows, it’s in the anagen phase. Each hair is connected to a hair shaft (or follicle), which remains in its secure position in the scalp for three to seven years before falling out and being replaced by a new follicle. Once the anagen phase naturally runs its course, there’s a two-week catagen phase, in which the hair follicle dies. The hair then goes into the telogen phase for the next three months, during which time it falls out. Normally we lose 100 telogen hairs a day, but in certain cases (and this sounds like your situation), many, if not most, of the hairs go into the telogen phase. This causes alopecia (balding). The condition of overwhelming telogen loss is termed telogen effluvium; the anagen to telogen ratio has gone from its normal 90:10 to 70:30 or less. If I do the math correctly, this means you lose at least 300 hairs a day, compared to 100 hairs. [click to continue…]