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Does hair abuse cause hair loss?

Most people style, colour, dry, straighten, or curl their hair in one way or another to make it look its best. The good news is that in moderation, most hair treatments will not lead to hair loss. The hair that is left in your brush is usually no more than the hair loss that naturally takes place in your hair’s growth and rest cycle.


You will lose on average 100 of your 100,000 hairs a day, regardless of how you style, colour, or wear your hair. However, if taken to excess, many of these processes can fall into the category of hair abuse, which does cause hair loss, either temporarilyy or permanently. So how can you safely style your hair and what can you do to reduce the risk of damage and hair loss?

 

Braiding and hair loss

One of the most damaging things you can do to your hair is to wear it in tight braids or bunches for a prolonged period. This is especially true for tight cornrow style braids or dreadlocks, making this a particular problem for certain ethnic communities. Keeping your hair tightly braided puts a strain on the hair follicles and leads to hair loss through traction alopecia.


Traction alopecia can be particularly severe if tight braiding is applied to hair that is already damaged through dying or bleaching. Hair loss through traction alopecia is most common in the frontal and temporal regions of the scalp, and if not spotted and treated early, will result in permanent hair loss in these areas.

 

Hair extensions and hair loss

Another common cause of traction alopecia is the weaving in of hair pieces or extensions. These not only cause tension in the existing hair through the weave itself, but also through the pull from the weight of the hair piece or extension.


Since many hair pieces are sited at the edge of the existing hairline, the hair they are attached to is often the most vulnerable. Several leading celebrities who favour hair extensions have been photographed with rather obvious bald patches and unsurprisingly, opted for a new, shorter hair style subsequently.


Drying, styling, and hair loss

Contrary to common belief, normal drying, straightening, and styling will do little damage your hair follicles. The most likely effect will be on the hair shaft itself, which can cause the hair to break and appear thinner. You can make sure that you minimise the risk of damage and hair loss by following a few simple steps:


  • Always hold the hairdryer at least 15 cm from your head and use a diffuser if possible

  • Ensure that the hot air flows along your hair, not directly at it, causing a hot spot

  • Always try to leave your hair slightly damp to avoid over drying it and leaving it brittle

  • Choose hair products that moisturise your hair and add proteins


Similarly, it is unlikely that styling products, such as relaxers, gels, or hairspray will cause hair loss if used in moderation. However, such products can build up on the hair adding weight that can become a factor in other hair loss problems, so it is best to thoroughly cleanse your hair of these products on a regular basis using a deep clean shampoo.

 

Perming and hair loss

If your perm is done professionally by a skilled, experienced stylist, it should not put you at risk of hair loss. However, there are risks if you try and cut corners and put your hair in the hands of someone less skilled, like yourself armed with a home perm if you have never done it before.


If perms are undertaken by less skilled stylists, there are several risks of hair loss. Too much tension in the curling rods can cause breakage in the hair, and if the rods are rolled too tightly to the scalp, this can cause damage to the follicles themselves. Furthermore, excessive exposure to the perming chemicals can cause damage and scarring to the scalp that can result in hair loss.

 

Hair colouring and hair loss

Once again, high quality hair colouring products used properly according to the instructions will have little impact on hair loss. As with perms, it is always worth paying that bit extra to ensure your hair gets the best possible protection.


The biggest danger from hair dyes is hydrogen peroxide. This is used in most hair dyes to raise the cuticle layer and allow the dyes to penetrate the hair shaft. Once the cuticle is raised, your hair is at risk of drying out as more moisture can escape from within the hair shaft. This can cause it to become brittle and at risk of breaking and causing hair loss. Many modern dye kits and most professional salons will include a conditioning stage after the dye has been applied, which closes the cuticle again, sealing in both the dye and the hair’s natural moisture.


As a rule, the greater the change in hair colour you are aiming for, the harsher the chemicals required, with the lightest shades often requiring bleaching agents that can cause lasting damage to the hair shaft. To minimise the risk of hair loss from hair colouring, it is best to avoid significant colour changes.

 

Sun damage and hair loss

Excessive exposure to direct sunlight can harm your hair, damaging vital proteins and drying out the strands, leading to hair loss. You should look after your hair in the sun in the same way you would look after your skin, by protecting it, avoiding long exposure and moisturising it thoroughly afterwards:


  • Use a conditioner with SPF protection built into the formula

  • Tie up your hair in a ponytail or plaits to reduce the amount of hair exposed to the sun

  • Wear a hat or scarf to protect your head

  • Avoid oil-based hair gels, sprays, or finishing products as these can magnify the heating effects of the sunshine

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