Q: Is it my imagination, or does the hair on my legs as well as my head grow more quickly in summer?
A: There are no reliable statistics about it, but warm weather does seem to make hair grow faster, says Brian Thompson, senior trichologist (hair specialist) at Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic in New York City.
Bottom line: It's probably not your imagination.
Q: How much hair loss is normal?
A: I have the sinking feeling you're asking because you've noticed an unusual amount of hair in the drain after a shampoo. Everyone loses between 40 and 120 strands a day, depending on how much hair you have and its growth cycle. Finer-haired people tend to have more strands than coarse-haired, so they generally lose more. But if you're used to losing around 40 a day and you're suddenly shedding 80 or more, or if your part seems to be getting wider or you're seeing more scalp, you've probably got a problem, according to hair and scalp specialist David Kingsley, PhD. Don't hit the panic button—not all hair loss is permanent, says Kingsley; it's vital to find out what's causing the loss so that it can be treated. Some of the causes: seasonal shedding, usually in the fall (no pun intended); postpregnancy hormonal changes; going on or off (but especially off) the birth control pill; losing more than 15 pounds in a month; thyroid problems; iron deficiency; and stress. Oh, and menopause, when thinning often begins. Kingsley reminds us, though, that postmenopausal thinning stops at some (genetically predisposed) point, and that women's hair tends to thin diffusely, all over the scalp, rather than in the male-pattern way. Minoxidil is the only FDA-approved treatment for hair loss in women, and in 60 to 70 percent of cases it improves the follicle's ability to produce hair, Kingsley says.
Keep in mind: If you seem to be shedding more than usual, see a doctor to determine the cause, because in many cases, hair loss can be reversed in three to six months.
Q: I keep seeing references to "older hair." Does hair really age?
A: Yes, in a way, it does, says David Kingsley, PhD. As we get older, our skin, including the scalp, tends to get drier. Scalp oil moisturizes the hair; the less oil, the drier the hair. And as it loses melanin (pigment), turning white or gray, hair tends to feel drier. It grows more slowly too, and gets finer, partly because hair growth is affected by hormones, and as we age our bodies produce less estrogen and progesterone. If you'd like your hair to remain delightfully youthful, make sure you eat well and regularly; include enough protein in your diet; exercise; drink enough water (so that you're not thirsty); and to hedge your bets, take a multivitamin, says Kingsley. By the way, he says don't be afraid to color your hair if you don't like the gray; as long as you don't overprocess, it won't do any harm.
Bottom line: Take good care of your body, and it will show up in your hair.
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