Any woman who has experienced hair loss will know how much of a toll it can take on one's psychological well-being. Research has found that when a woman endures excessive shedding, she often experiences a loss of self-esteem, as well as anxiety and depression; she is also very likely to withdraw socially. Many are embarrassed to talk about it, while others are not sure if they should first consult their general practitioner (GP) or a specialist such as a dermatologist.
However, according to board certified trichologist Mike Ryan, aka the “Dubai Hair Doctor”, the good news is that despite common misconceptions, the majority of female hair loss is not genetic, and is in most cases treatable. It is therefore imperative to speak up, seek professional help and try to discover the cause. “The biggest problem we have here in the UAE is that female hair loss is misdiagnosed all the time,” explains Ryan. “The majority of doctors put it down to being genetic, when most of the time it’s not. There are approximately 50 causes, ranging from diabetes to diet, stress, polycystic ovary syndrome and thyroid conditions, so getting to the root cause of it is difficult,” he continues.
What should I do if I’m experiencing hair loss?
Most women who notice their hair thinning will first head for their GP, or, in some cases, a dermatologist. Ryan however advises that you opt for a board-certified trichologist instead, because they are best qualified to diagnose the cause. “Most other medical professionals will study hair for approximately two hours during their entire studies. The reason for this is that hair is non-essential to life – if you lose your hair, you don’t die. Trichologists on the other hand study the hair follicle and the skin surrounding it for four years at an intense level,” he explains.
During your first consultation, a trichologist will take a full medical history, as well as details relating to your lifestyle, family, diet, dental work and any medication you may be taking. You should also receive a hair and scalp check. Following this, your trichologist may recommend certain blood tests to check on iron, zinc, copper and vitamin D levels. Once the results are ready, and taking the information garnered during your first consultation into consideration, the trichologist will recommend the course of treatment, which, depending on the cause of your hair loss, can vary from taking dietary supplements to vitamin injections.
You may also be referred to another specialist should the hair loss be caused by an underlying health issue such as a thyroid problem. According to Ryan, if you successfully establish the cause of your hair shedding, within three to six months of treatment you should see an improvement.
What are the main types of female hair loss?
There are a number of types of female hair loss, the main ones being telogen effluvium – where the hair is shed over the whole scalp, and may be caused by stressful events such as a high fever, or chronic blood loss from heavy menstruation, androgenetic alopecia – which is hereditary pattern hair loss, and alopecia areata – a recurrent disease that results in a typical pattern of diffuse hair thinning over the middle scalp.
Does the water in the UAE really cause hair loss?
It is commonly believed that the UAE’s water is one of the main culprits behind the seemingly common occurrence of hair loss in the country. Ryan, however, says this is a myth. “The water here may dry the hair out, which makes it more brittle and dull, but it has absolutely no effect on the life cycle of your hair. If you flip it around and ask what is the main cause of hair loss here, I’d say it’s a collection of things, including humidity, our hectic lifestyles and the low nutritional value of the food,” he concludes.
How do I find a trichologist in the UAE?
Ryan advises that it is important to try to consult a board-certified trichologist where possible. The International Association of Trichologists website lists all its members and is a good place to start (www.trichology.edu.au).
Supplements save the day
When the Dubai-based nursery nurse Susan Moat first started to notice that there was a little too much hair in her shower plughole, she simply put it down to normal shedding. Over time, however, she began to realise that it was becoming a serious problem, as she felt the density of her hair was decreasing dramatically. “My hair wasn’t thick to start with, and at one point I hardly had any when I tried to clip it up,” she explains.
Moat’s first port of call was the doctor, who put the shedding down to ageing and didn’t take it too seriously. Depressed and unhappy, she decided to make an appointment with Mike Ryan last April. “The first consultation was really good, as Mike told me he could help and the problem wasn’t as bad as I had first thought. He told me that the loss in hair density was down to the fact that my hair was falling out before it had the opportunity to grow, and I was therefore losing it before it had the chance to shed naturally,” she says.
During the first consultation, Dr Ryan checked Moat’s scalp under a special microscope to diagnose the cause of the hair fall. Moat was prescribed a course of supplement tablets called Florisene, as well as Tricomax and a scalp stimulating lotion. “After a few months I noticed lots of new hair growth, and after six months my hair was looking healthy and had gotten a lot longer,” explains Moat. “I feel very relieved that the hair loss has been addressed and I can now put it up without feeling there isn’t enough hair in the clip.”
• Mike Ryan is a trichologist at the Hair Spa in Dubai (04 3353336). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org