Even 'happy' stress can cause hair loss

SINGAPORE - If you experiencing hair loss, here's one way to solve the problem: Keep calm at all times.

Intense periods of stress can lead to hair fall, according to trichologists, who say that there has been a surge in young executives visiting them for hair-loss problems.

At the Philip Kingsley Trichological Centre in Orchard Road, for instance, the majority of clients used to be in their late 40s. But, over the past five years, the centre has seen a 20 to 30 per cent increase in visits from individuals who are in their 20s to mid-30s.

Ms Leonica Kei, a senior trichologist at Philip Kingsley Trichological Centre, said stress is one of the causes for hair loss in that age group. This includes "happy" stress, as well as the stress one feels from worrying too much.

"Generally, any sudden surge in emotions can cause hair loss," said Ms Kei.

"When you are excited, there will be a change in hormonal levels which could lead to an increase in hair loss."

Mr David Salinger, executive director of the International Association of Trichologists (USA), agrees.

He said that, generally, there are three types of hair loss that young executives face: diffuse hair loss, caused by anything that interrupts the normal hair cycle, including endocrine imbalances; alopecia areata, which refers to patches of baldness; and genetic thinning.

Stress of any kind is certainly a factor, said Mr Salinger.

"Any shock to the body can cause hair to fall," he said.

And that includes intense periods of work-related stress, specific incidents such as childbirth, or even stress the body feels when it is not getting the nourishment it needs.

"Hair loss is very much influenced by our sex hormones which can, in turn, be affected by our food and water intake," said Mr Salinger. But stress isn't necessarily the main cause of hair loss. Genetics is the likely culprit.

Most experts agree that genetics plays a big part when it comes to one's predisposition to hair loss.

Dr Harold Ma, medical director at Freia Medical Aesthetics Clinic, said that hair loss is "more likely influenced by genetics, diet deficiencies and hormonal changes".

In rarer instances, an underlying medical condition may also predispose one to hair loss, he added.

Dr Ma has seen a surge in young patients looking for hair- loss solutions.

But he puts this down to the fact that they are part of an Internet-savvy generation, who are quick to turn to Google to find out the reasons for hair loss, as well as the methods available to solve the problem.

This, along with a greater emphasis on one's appearance, is prompting young individuals to seek treatment before their hair loss becomes advanced, he said.

However, before seeking medical treatment, experts advise patients to strike a balance in their lives.

Dr Ma prescribes "sensible work-life balance, diet and exercise", which will help regulate the body's systems and promote healthy hair regrowth.

Dr Alvin Wong, medical director of SKN MediAesthetics, also recommends that individuals look at how they manage stress, as well as aim to follow a balanced diet, supplemented with essential vitamins and minerals that are required for healthy hair growth.

If one must seek medical treatment, the process involves first correctly diagnosing the problem and listing the contributing factors, then treating them one at a time. This may involve topical and oral medication.

Whatever happens, Dr Ma said: "I strongly urge people to treat hair loss as early as possible, without waiting until it is very advanced."

wwee@sph.com.sg


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