Less stress, more tresses

PHOTO: Less stress, more tresses

SOME men look regal sans their crowning glory. Actors Patrick Stewart, Jason Statham and Bruce Willis, singer-composer Pitbull and even former Singaporean footballer Abbas Saad can carry off their shaved heads with gusto and cool confidence.

But for many, hair loss makes a huge dent on self-esteem. I know a few men who, under their manly composure, would quietly slab on hair tonic or seek treatment for their receding hairlines. They no longer think that just because they are men, it's fine to be bald.

The problem with losing hair is that sometimes, you are just predisposed to it. It's a genetic thing. If your father's hairline recedes early, chances are, so will yours.

Svenson chief trichologist Teo Kim Teik says the most common cause is pattern hair loss or androgenetic alopecia, which affects both men and women. "Half of all men and women over 60 suffer from this. It 'runs in the family' and is genetically determined."

Teo, who is also vice-president of the Asian Society Of Trichology, says we all have androgen receptor genes, which hold the key to whether we are genetically predisposed to hair loss.

So what Svenson has done is to develop a genetic test to identify people who will experience androgenetic alopecia, before any visible signs of hair thinning appear.

"In fact, about 50 per cent of one's hair will be gone by hair thinning is visible, so this test lets you know if you have to take measures to delay the onset of hair loss."

The test is simple. With just one easy, non-invasive cheek swab, one can find out one's chances of having androgenetic alopecia. The swab, which has to be taken in a controlled environment by a certified trichologist at Svenson, will then be sent to the laboratory in the United States and two weeks later, a genetic analysis will be given.

"Launched in 2008 in the US as the first commercial genetic test in the field of trichology, Svenson's genetic test revolutionises how hair loss can be treated through its accurate diagnosis. With proper genetic diagnosis, it will then be much easier for our trichologists to tailor-make an effective, preventive treatment programme for anyone facing this problem."

In Asia, the company has launched this genetic test in Hong Kong and Singapore, prior to Malaysia. Teo says the response has been good since people can find out if they are predisposed to this condition. "They are diagnosed as high or low risk and our trichologists can advise on proper preventive methods based on their results."

But there's still hope on the hair front because lifestyle also affects the condition of our hair. So if we cannot control our genes, a healthier lifestyle may help us retain our crowning glory longer.

"The difference between 30 years ago and now is that people today are more stressed. Adding to the damage is the unhealthy environment, such as air pollution. Also, our typical diet consists of more processed food. What is bad for the body is bad for the hair.

"Our hair is also constantly being subjected to strong chemical treatments in line with fashion. In the long run, hair will be damaged. Finally, many of us don't get enough rest and sleep, which do not give hair ample time to regenerate.

"Shampooing also plays a role in hair loss. We want to emphasise proper hair and scalp care because excessive hair loss can be exacerbated by unhygienic scalp conditions. There is always a need for greater awareness and education - many people still focus on the hair and neglect the scalp which has an important role in determining hair health."

The Svenson test is available at any of its eight outlets nationwide.