Hair Related Disorders
By Long Hair Loom Contributer, Lucy
Long Hair Loom Contributer, Lucy, is from Western Australia. She is currently studying Occupational Therapy and works in a Pharmacy as a dispensary assistant. Through her schooling and work she has learned a lot in the medical field and has kindly taken the time to share some of her knowledge with us on hair related medical disorders. Thanks so much, Lucy!
Hair: When Things Go Wrong
There are several medical conditions that make the road to long hair difficult and frustrating. Often people struggle to care for their hair under these circumstances and may resort to cutting it. Some of the most common hair-related disorders, and disorders affecting hair growth and condition are explained below. For each condition, there are several steps that can be taken to help minimise the effects of the disorder, and make growing hair long that much easier. Natural remedies have also been included where possible. This article is not fully conclusive, and it is essential that anybody concerned about the condition of their hair or scalp contact a professional. Where possible, I have avoided the use of brand names, as these will vary between countries.
Many people have suffered from dandruff at some time in their lives. Dandruff is characterised by an excessive amount of flaky skin on and falling from the scalp. Skin cells throughout the body are regularly replaced, with dead skin cells simply falling off as new cells grow. Dandruff occurs when this process occurs too rapidly and the dead skin cells accumulate on and fall from the scalp, forming white clumps. Dandruff may be caused by fungi called Pityrosporum ovale
which can be found on most peoples skin, but in higher concentrations in those affected by dandruff. Dandruff does not necessarily indicate that the scalp is dry; a dry flaky scalp is an unrelated and different condition. Symptoms of dandruff may include an itchy scalp, and presence of white flakes of skin, often visible against dark clothing.
There is no real known prevention for dandruff, although it can be controlled, and may eventually slow itself. Dandruff can often be treated with over the counter products that can be found in pharmacies. Many anti-dandruff shampoos contain anti-fungal ingredients (such as selenium sulphide, ketoconazole or zinc pyrithione) to combat dandruff causing fungi. Supermarket lines claiming to combat dandruff may not be effective if they do not contain these ingredients; it is important to research the ingredients in products before purchasing them. Examples of common anti-dandruff shampoos include Selsun Blue
and Head and Shoulders.
For more severe dandruff, Nizoral
shampoos may be more effective. For a natural alternative, rubbing a tablespoon of salt into the scalp prior to shampooing may aid in removing flaky skin (it is important that this is not tried on skin that is broken or bleeding!)
Head lice, or nits, are tiny insects that live, feed on, and reproduce in the hair and scalp. The lice reproduce by laying eggs on a daily basis, that are attached to the hair shaft, often close to the scalp. The eggs are attached to the hair by a glue like liquid secreted by the female. Head lice do not have wings, and are transmitted by direct contact. This can occur when an effected person touches hair with another person, or by sharing combs, brushes or hats. Despite the stigma attached to head lice, lice are not "dirty" and actually prefer living in clean hair. It is a common condition in children who are not yet fully aware of appropriate hygeine practicies.
Head lice can be very difficult to get rid of, and prevention is definitely better than cure. You can prevent the spread of head lice by wearing your hair up, not sharing items that come into contact with hair, avoiding head contact with others you are unsure about, covering the head (by a hat or scarf), and by regularly applying tea tree oil to the hair. Lice do not like tea tree oil, which makes it difficult for them to attach to the hair shaft. This can be done by adding a teaspoon of oil into conditioner before applying. Brushing the hair thoroughly is also a good habit to get into, as brushing the lice can damage them, and also removes any debris or loose lice that may be in the hair. "It is a good idea to wash all bedding, towels, hats, hair brushes, combs, ties and head bands in hot water in case any lice survive in these materials after treatment. It is important to use hot water, as cooler water, such as that used to wash hair, may not sufficiently kill the lice.
To treat head lice, there is an overwhelming range of products available. Some are natural based (using oils such as lavender, tea tree oil and eucalyptus) and others are chemical based (using a variety of insecticide-like chemicals). These products also come in many forms, including shampoos, mousses, sprays and lotions. The best way to decide upon a suitable product is to talk to your pharmacist. It is a good idea to repeat the application of your chosen product one week after the initial application to ensure any lice you have missed are killed. If a chemical based product does not work, the lice may be resistant to it, and a new product may be needed. Despite claiming to kill the eggs laid, most products simply do not penetrate the eggs, and they will continue to hatch if left in the hair. Thus it is essential that all eggs are removed with a specialised fine tooth comb. If the eggs are sticking to the hair strongly, a vinegar rinse may help to dissolve this "glue" and make them easier to comb out. An alternative to specialised products is to saturate the hair in thick, cheap, white conditioner and leave this on whilst combing through the hair to remove eggs. It is believed that this conditioner suffocates the live lice, killing them, while the conditioner makes it easy to comb through and remove any eggs.
Alopecia is a condition that causes hair loss. There are two main types of Alopeica. Androgenic Alopecia,
which is the common balding that occurs, particularly in men, with age, while Alopecia Areata
occurs when hair is lost in round patches, seemingly randomly.
Androgenic Alopecia is hereditary and unavoidable. Hair loss is usually gradual, and occurs in a consistent pattern, with the hairline receding and hair loss occurring on the top of the scalp, and increasing as hair falls out and is not replaced. This type of hair loss is permanent.
Alopecia Areata is an auto-immune disease, with causes unknown. Individuals can often be perfectly healthy when the condition begins. This type of hair loss is usually temporary with hair eventually growing back.
There is no cure for alopecia. There are two main options for treatment, and these are primarily targeted towards those with Androgenic Alopecia. Firstly, pharmacological treatment. This can either be a prescribed medication (such as propecia or cortisone) or by usage of a special solution applied to the scalp that stimulates the hair follicle to begin producing hair again (these products contain a drug called minoxidil, Rogaine is an example of this). The more drastic option is surgical relief. These procedures may involve transplanting hair, or tightening the scalp so that the size of a bald patch is reduced, as bald skin is removed. Those with Alopecia Areata usually will not require options such as this, as their hair will begin to grow again itself. Temporary measures may involve the use of wigs or hairpieces. Alopecia can be very socially and emotionally distressing, thus education and support are often recommended for those with the condition to continue to live happily and productively.
/ - This site contains a wealth of information about a large variety of conditions affecting the skin and hair
/ - This site is run by the manufacturers of Head and Shoulders (an anti-dandruff shampoo)
An informative website about head lice
Comprehensive information on Alopecia from the Mayo Clinic
1cNiii (4.1" ponytail)
22/26/waist length (around 30"?)
Discovered TLHL in May 2003, when I was at 24 inches.
CWC method with LUSH products. Use a wide tooth comb to detangle wet and dry hair, and a boar bristle brush on ends. Coconut oil to moisturise ends between washes. Regular protein treatments. Braid hair at night.