International Alopecia Day: What is alopecia, what causes it and how to tackle hair fall
We all have had nightmares about losing all our hair! Imagine seeing your precious strands of hair falling in clumps right before your eyes. That’s what alopecia does to you!
Ketaki Jani, a model who has alopecia, says, “In our society, it is considered a taboo if a woman doesn’t have hair. Hence, people used to stare at me with either pity or remorse. It gave me extreme trauma and I slipped into depression. When I washed my hair, huge chunks would fall out which gave me a phobia of water. However, now I have accepted myself the way I am. Acceptance is the only medicine for alopecia.”
Shalini Gupta, a 26-year-old suffering from alopecia, says, “Even though we started my treatment immediately, it left me depressed and a target to bullying. Since my hair loss was very severe, I had to wear a wig, which my fellow classmates used to pull off my head.”
As the world observes International Alopecia Day on August 3, let’s know more about the autoimmune disease.
What is Alopecia?
To put the condition in perspective, alopecia is a form of hair loss that kicks in when your own immune system mistakenly views hair follicles as a threat to your health. This causes the hair to come out, often in clumps. The amount of hair loss is different for everyone and in some cases it affects eyebrows, eyelashes, and face, as well as other parts of the body.
A 35-year-old woman, who suffers from the disease, shares her experience on the condition of anonymity. “You never realise how important your eyelashes and eyebrows are until you lose them. Every morning I wake up, put pencil in my eyebrows, and apply false eyelashes. The hardest part of having alopecia areata (patchy hair loss) is finding wigs that are stylish and yet affordable, while dealing with the heat in summer. Life is hard but this is not the end of the world. Bald is beautiful.”
What causes it?
Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, nutritionist, says, “Various causes can trigger alopecia. For instance, systemic illness, genetic tendency, drugs, acute illness, hormonal imbalance, stress, local skin disorder and nutritional deficiency are some of the causes.”
Dr Rachit Bhushan says, “The risk of developing alopecia areata is unusually high in people who have asthma, hay fever, thyroid disease, vitiligo (a condition in which patches of skin lose their colour), pernicious anaemia and Down Syndrome.”
Is there a cure?
Dr Bhushan continues, “Although there is no permanent cure for alopecia areata, there are ways that may short-circuit the body’s autoimmune reaction in the scalp and encourage hair regrowth. For limited areas of alopecia, the most effective therapy is a series of corticosteroid injections into the bald patches to suppress the immune reaction. A short course of oral corticosteroids and immunotherapy can also be tried. Topical minoxidil may increase hair growth by accelerating the speed of the natural hair cycle.” He adds, “Your treatment depends on several factors, including your age, the amount of hair loss, and your willingness to deal with any treatment.”
Home remedies, diet for healthy hair
Even though conventional treatments for alopecia are still being discovered, it is essential to take good care of your hair. Dr Rohatgi says, “Eating a balanced and nutritious, diet is necessary for the health of your hair and body. Try consuming a good amount of protein, biotin, antioxidants, folate, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and beta carotene. You can also include eggs, fish, green vegetables, citrus fruits and berries in your diet.”
Beauty expert Blossom Kochhar says, “For healthy hair, add lemon juice to coconut milk and mix it with five drops of lavender. Apply it on your hair and massage it lightly. Leave it on for two to three hours and then wash your hair with shampoo.”
She shares another home remedy. “Take one tablespoon of olive oil, one teaspoon of castor oil and add two to four peppercorns and five to six curry leaves to it. Boil them together and store the solution in a can. Use this regularly before shampooing your hair.”