What you should know
* Ugly hair might not be life-threatening, but it can be disconcerting when hair is a daily embarrassment.
* Your health can affect your hair. Hormonal changes after childbirth or menopause can cause hair to fall out. Certain diseases and conditions such as thyroid disease, diabetes and lupus can also cause hair loss. Yeast and fungal infections and inflammation might affect your hair follicles. A lice infestation can also affect the scalp.
* Some medications cause hair changes or loss. These changes are often temporary. Certain blood thinners, cholesterol-lowering drugs, antidepressants, birth control pills, chemotherapy and too much vitamin A can cause hair loss. Poor nutrition resulting in sudden weight loss or lack of protein can also harm hair.
* Many experts feel that sudden stress such as a death, job loss or surgery can also change your hair.
* Genetics and male sex hormones can cause some people to have male pattern baldness.
* In many cases, the body is quite well, but the hair is not healthy. Excess hair porosity is often the cause of ugly or frizzy hair. Like a fish with scales, each hair has an outer cuticle layer that overlaps. Porosity affects how much water each hair can absorb. If the cuticle is very tight, the hair will often appear shinny and shed water.
* Ugly damaged hair usually has external causes. The sun, heat and processing chemicals can fry your hair. Harsh shampoos with sulfates and soaps can strip hair of lipids and cells that hold the cuticle in place. Hair can also be tortured by excessive brushing, rubber bands and hats.
* Ironically, dry porous hair sponges up too much water and humidity, which makes it frizzy.
* Curly hair curves naturally. Curly hair will appear to be more porous and less smooth than straight hair.
* In the warm and humid Mid-South weather, your hair might need more protein, non-oily serums, pomades or anti-humectants (hair products that repel water) to help lock moisture out of the hairs' surface. Other techniques to seal gaps in the hair cuticle include clear color products with protein and cool rinses that are slightly acidic.
What you should do
* If hair damage or loss is sudden, get professional advice to find out why. Visit a doctor if hair falls out in wads.
* Protect your hair like your skin. Use gentle products that condition, moisturize and protect. Clean hair after being in chlorine or saltwater. Don't boil the internal moisture in your hair with irons, curlers or very hot dryers.
* Wear a hat or scarf to shield your hair from the sun. Some hair products also include sunscreen (SPF).
* Trim hair regularly to remove damaged ends. Then baby the healthy new growth.
* Protect your hair from the inside by protecting your overall health. Heart-healthy nutrition can be good for hair. Eat a well- balanced diet with plenty of water, fresh fruits, vegetables providing folate, vitamins and minerals, fish with omega-3 oil, and low-fat protein sources.
* Don't wash your hair too often. Wet hair thoroughly and wash with lukewarm water and a gentle shampoo. Consider diluting your shampoo. Rinse well with cool water followed by conditioner. Wash more often if you have very oily hair or dandruff. Use a prescribed or dandruff shampoo for a flaky scalp.
* Blot and squeeze wet hair instead of rubbing it dry. Use a wide- tooth comb on wet hair with a detangler product or leave-in conditioner. Air-dry your hair if possible.
* Be careful about processing hair coloring, perms, straightening, flat-ironing and blow-drying to avoid permanent damage to hair. Watch out for hair chemicals with alcohol, ammonia, PPD, peroxide or silicone. Get professional hair coloring and processing help. Be wary of inexpensive home coloring and straightening kits.
* Avoid daily grooming routines that can break, stretch or pull out hair. Avoid hairstyles that require lots of brushing or binding with bands, clips or scrunchies. Consider using old-fashioned cool rollers to shape hair.
* Accept curly hair. Learn to style it naturally. Relaxers, ironing and stretching hair under dryers damage hair.
* If you have ruled out heredity or a specific medical cause for thinning hair, consider seeing a dermatologist. Recommendations might include adding specific vitamins and minerals to your diet. Monoxidil might also help.
* Beware of hair regrowth products sold over the Internet. You might buy an unapproved drug that can affect your blood pressure, cause an irregular heartbeat or cause skin problems.
For more information Visit nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hairproblems.html. Better Health: Take Charge! is provided by the Healthy Memphis Common Table: healthymemphis.org. This article supports the care and advice of your doctor.
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