Hair today, gone tomorrow… or at least we would hope, in certain places. Even the three little pigs said, “Not by the hair of my chiny chin chin.” The big bad wolf could have made a different kind of “killing” if he knew how to thread.
Women generally have 2 types of problems with hair. This is aside from style and color choices. Women either complain about too much hair that is not on their head or too little hair on top of their head. If you think you are losing hair or have thinning hair, that is definitely a reason to see an Internal Medicine doctor or a Dermatologist to search for underlying causes.
Possible causes range from destructive styles or coloring, to endocrine or autoimmune problems. Don’t trust the diagnosis provided to you by the internet, or Dr. Google as I like to refer to him. That dude never even went to Medical School. I don’t mind if someone tries skin, hair and nail vitamins, but if the changes are abrupt or dramatic, medical investigation by an actual doctor is warranted.
Too much hair is a much more common issue for my patient population. Not too much on top of the head either. We’re talking new and more abundant hair on the chin, abdomen, nipple, buttocks, underarm, and many other places. If this subject is searched, hormonal imbalances such as polycystic ovarian syndrome will come up.
While hormonal problems can affect hair growth, more commonly, age is a factor in leading to a normal amount of increased hair growth. I’ll repeat that one: It is normal for women as we age to grow more hair in unwelcome places. Now it is time to do one of my favorite things: Dispell myths:
- Shaving hair does not make more hair grow, per multiple sources including Scientific America. There is nothing about a razor that creates new hair follicles. My very novice, brown thumb understanding of bush pruning is that if you trim down dying or overgrown bushes, the growth efforts of the remaining branches will be fuller and more abundant. Razors aren’t like that. There is no follicle fertilizer. What a person may notice is that the hair appears darker.
- The new hair that results from waxing or plucking grows back fine and tapered. This is in contrast to hair that is cut mid shaft with a razor or shaver. The full diameter of the remaining hair is what remains, which is wider and broader than the new hair. Take home message, plucking or waxing will leave less noticeable hair, but shaving won’t increase hair volume.
- People with coarse hair who are prone to ingrown hairs may need to not cut hair below the skin. I am referring to my ladies who shave or wax the bikini zone and immediately have to answer to ingrown hairs and scars. Those coarse or curly hairs can more easily get trapped under the skin surface when you shave with a razor or when you wax. For those who don’t need to get to the beach regularly, a better alternative may be to use an electric razor. That way the length and volume of hair can be kept at bay without the individual hairs having to fight their way through the skin.
In short, scientists are beginning to gather clues that support the theory that stress can hasten the graying process. There is no proven scientific evidence demonstrating a cause-and-effect relationship. Scientific America has more on that subject.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tackle hair loss related to hair products and styling practices. An article that I read about the physical stress imposed on the hair and scalps of African American women by many chemical and styling techniques was stirring enough to make anyone go natural. Forget being scared straight- you’ll be scared curly! The take home message there is that repetitive tight styles and chemical treatments can cause inflammation of the scalp that can be difficult to treat. If you find yourself with hair loss or itching and irritation, be aware that these can be a cause.
I wrote an article earlier this year about heightening awareness to some of the dangers of some commercial skin and hair products. You would be surprised what types of products are sold in stores and used every day that have known side effects that can be detrimental to overall health. Click here for more about how to keep yourself and your family safe from unnecessary risky exposure.
Do you have something to add, Dr. Shelly?
Dr. Shelly: Ahhh. the relationship with hair in a women’s life. It is definitely a love/ hate relationship. As a woman of Indian descent, my forays into the hair world started early. There are two types of hair struggles. One is the hair on my head, the second is the hair on my face and body. We want the hair on our head to be long, thick, and luscious. The hair on our body, however, should be thin, light and barely there. What a conundrum!
From childhood, my girl cousins, sister and I have compared notes on all the latest trends and products to remove, bleach, pluck, wax, thread, and shave our hairs. We have gone through laser treatments, epilators, and Nair, all while massaging coconut oil and almond oil into our heads to coax the hair to fill in and grow thicker and thicker.
I still remember the envy of my classmates in school with their long and straight hair- no frizz, no curls. I remember as a college student going to a salon where the hair dresser just changed my life. She said “You don’t have white girl straight hair. Embrace your curls! Embrace your wave!” Since then my quest has been about finding a hairdresser that knows how to cut my hair. It includes using products designed for my wave and texture, realizing that everyone has their own issues with their hair, and like most things in life, it’s all about just embracing it, and owning it. Here’s to good hair days, and cute hats on the other ones.
Dr. Wendy: Shells, you had hair issues growing up too? I feel so much closer to you right now. I’m glad we both love our tresses now!
The point is, follicles work in mysterious ways. If you think you are alone, you’re probably not. If you think it is problem, talk with a doctor. Otherwise, know that there are people who are trained to keep us all LOOKING like hair only grows in designated places that have obtained our written consent. Hair is like children: It can only do what you allow. Obedience is mandatory in my household.
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Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald is a board certified OBGYN. She began practicing medicine in 2007 and now uses her extensive knowledge and growing following to increase health awareness in a fun and viral way. She is the founder of The Gyneco-blogic and an author of numerous books for adult and childhood health education and social growth. For more, check me, I mean her out at dreverywoman.com