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Hair Loss

Alopecia

What and Why?

Your scalp, the skin on the dome of your head, is rather special. It is firmly stitched to a fibrous layer underneath it called the galea, which moves freely over the surface of your skull. It is anchored to the back of your head by a sheet of muscle that extends almost to your crown, with which you can twitch your galea back and forth. Its front edge is also muscular but unattached, able only to wrinkle your forehead and raise your eyebrows. Its breadth extends on either side of your crown almost to your ears. This unusual arrangement means that the circulation to your scalp can only get in at it edges. Several arteries terminate there in a web of connections under your scalp, from which capillaries feed the hair roots all over it.

Men have an additional factor to contend with. From your late teens to your mid fifties, when male hormone production is at its strongest, its influence makes your galea gradually thicken and get tougher. Dense unyielding fibrous undergrowth becomes its dominant feature. This is liable to shrink gradually, corrugating your forehead, tightening around your capillaries and starving your hair roots of blood. Only the onset of middle age checks this development and by retirement the fibres are weakening again.

Your inherent virility influences the outcome of this very much, because having lots of male hormone makes the process more aggressive. Consequently baldness tends to run in families, on the men’s side. But many other factors help to determine how well your circulation copes with it, your diet and scalp hygiene being foremost among them. Virile men on processed Western diets who shampoo their scalp regularly are on balance very susceptible to hair loss over the galea, which exactly underlies the area of typical male baldness.

This is the commonest form of hair loss but not the only one. Any deterioration in the health of your scalp, such as dandruff, may thin out the hair all over your scalp and shorten the life of each strand. Unnatural coldness attributable to thyroid insufficiency has the same effect. Sometimes a small patch of your scalp goes bald for a time when its circulation is badly hit; hair usually grows again as the blood vessels recover.

What can I do?

Advice to maintain and maximise your health

1. Look after your skin and blood vessels to prevent baldness of any type, whatever your inherited tendencies may be. Give them sunlight and air. Never bunch a pony-tail or bun tightly, or use curlers or rollers overnight. These habits stretch your hair root capillaries and narrow their blood flow, which weakens the hairs and starves their roots to death.

2. Brush your hair thoroughly for three to five minutes twice each day. Use a fine natural bristle brush, and vary the direction of your strokes — from the crown downwards in all four directions, then from every direction up towards your crown, for half a minute each. This massages and cleans your scalp and hair very thoroughly without disturbing its natural chemical climate, and prevents dandruff far better than shampoo. Shampoo your hairbrush often, by all means — not your hair.

3. Make your diet healthier, cutting down especially on meat and animal fats, refined starchy foods, and salt — all of which clutter your blood and crowd out the necessities. Abundant fresh fruit and vegetables supported by whole-grain cereals supply most of what your hair needs. Honey Cider Vinegar or Egg Nog recipe, supplemented with a tablet of kelp and a teaspoon of cod or halibut liver oil each day, augments your supply of the relevant minerals, vitamins (A and D) and essential fatty acids. Stop smoking.

4. You can reinforce this with massage for five minutes twice daily if you have the time. Plant the tips of all your fingers and thumbs firmly in a close pattern on one area of your scalp: stretch it in every direction, wriggling it as vigorously as you can, for a few seconds; then move on to another area. If this is tiresome use a simple vibro-massager instead.

5. If your hair is thinning or you are recently bald, intensify your efforts. Pad an old door with foam rubber for use as a slant-board and arrange to support it at one end 18-20" (45-50cm) off the floor. Lie on this for fifteen minutes twice a day, on your back with your head downwards. Massaging and brushing your scalp in this position powerfully restores its circulation.

6. Additional supplements of Brewer’s Yeast, Vitamins A, C and E, Lecithin and Essential Fatty Acids (eg Blackcurrant Seed Oil) are worthwhile for three months. So is trial of a local stimulant such as Aloe Vera gel, castor oil, or cayenne in spirit.

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