When most women think of the word ‘thin’, it’s usually associated with a goal for body weight, not their hair. While hereditary factors may come into play regarding hair loss, there are still a number of things you can do to avoid losing your hair. And these are common sense things that may seem harmless, yet they play an important role in whether or not you hang onto your tresses.
1. Hot, Steamy Showers
Hot water dehydrates strands (just like skin), leading to dry, brittle hair that’s more prone to snap and fall out. Take the temp down a few degrees. Opt for a warm shower, and try to rinse your hair with the coolest temperature possible.
2. Using Hot Styling Tools
Limit your hot tool usage, including your blow dryer, to two or three times a week, and start with the coolest setting possible. Always apply a heat-protection spray, which creates a thermal barrier to reduce friction.
Scorching temps damage the proteins that make up your hair and its protective cuticle. Once the cuticle is damaged, the moisture balance is disrupted and your hair is more prone to breakage.
3. Crash Dieting
Eat a healthy diet with plenty of lean protein like fish, chicken, lentils and beans. Hair is primarily made of protein and it’s the one thing that can make or break your hair if you’re not getting enough. Aim for 46 grams per day (or about 25 to 30% of your total calories).
Starving yourself forces your body to direct its energy (the little it has) towards essential functions—like helping your heart and brain work—rather than making hair. In fact, when diagnosing anorexics, one of the top symptoms is severe hair loss.
4. Mishandling Wet Hair
Minimize post-shower brushing by combing before hair gets wet. Then, blot (don’t rub) hair with a soft towel after your shower.
Your hair is never more fragile and prone to breakage than when it’s saturated with water, since the protective cuticle is slightly raised. Brushing or combing locks in the shower, then following with aggressive towel-drying, create the perfect storm for snapping it off.
5. Wearing Tight Hairstyles
If a tight ponytail or braid is your favorite style, be careful. These styles put excessive tension on your hair follicles, damaging them and creating scars that destroy them permanently. This can lead to traction alopecia, a condition that permanently weakens the follicle and makes it impossible for hair to grow.
Try wearing your hair down whenever possible (especially while sleeping; rolling around on a pillow can create even more friction). When you do tie your strands back, keep it soft—if it’s pulling on your skin, it is way too tight.
6. Using Long-lasting Hold Styling Products
If your hairspray or gel promote the benefit of ‘extra-hold’, they’re actually making your hair harder to hold on to. These are usually high in alcohol, which makes hair dry and brittle. Once you comb or brush your hair, that residue causes the hair to break and fall out.Skip any products that make hair stiff or sticky. Instead, opt for softer-hold solutions like styling creams that keep hair’s moisture intact and don’t create friction when brushing.
7. Taking Oral Birth Control Pills
If you are sensitive to hair shedding or thinning due to hormonal changes, the wrong oral birth control can weaken your hair. A pill that contains androgens can cause hair loss for someone who’s ‘androgen sensitive’ and doesn’t know it. Switch to low-androgen index birth control pills. If you want to know whether you have androgen sensitivity, a hair restoration physician can perform a quick cheek-swab genetic test.
8. Scratching Your Head
Relieve the itch with a shampoo that contains selenium, zinc pyrithione, or tea tree oil, like Head & Shoulders Extra Strength Dandruff Shampoo. If over-the-counter products don’t help, your doctor can prescribe prescription antifungal shampoo or cortisone foam.
Itchy scalp such as that caused by seborrheic dermatitis may result in hair loss due to scratching-induced hair damage.
9. Soaking Up the Sun
Wear a hat—preferably one with built-in UV protection—whenever possible (and don’t forget to tuck your ponytail underneath). Or, if you’re not a hat person, use a leave-in conditioner with built-in sunscreen.
Even if you’ve given up tanning, chances are your hair is still exposed to UV rays, which eat away at the strength and elasticity of your hair. Prolonged UV exposure causes the layers of the cuticle to weaken and break, resulting in brittle hair that can lead to hair loss.
10. Not Washing Your Hair Often Enough
Dry shampoo can be convenient, but not so great for your hair. A buildup of product or excessive dandruff on the scalp has been shown to clog hair follicles, and if it’s bad enough, it can be difficult for your hair to grow.
There’s nothing wrong with skipping shampoo for a day. But if it becomes a habit, product residue, dirt, and oil can clog pores in the scalp. Be sure to wash your hair every two days, especially if you’re sweating or using lots of products. To prevent excessive dryness, switch to a sulfate-free shampoo.