It's all about the hair...
Oh, Martha (sigh). We love you Martha Stewart, we really do. And we applaud you for looking so stupendously gorgeous at your age. But did you really have to set the bar so high for the rest of us? Our partners are already curious about how different we look as we’re ageing but here you go - on the cover of Sports Illustrated, no less – making your eighties look glamorous and 81 just a number, defying countless stereotypes of elderly women.
It's not just the skin, the hair, the firmness, it’s the glow that we want. The desire to look healthy and for that vitality to exude from us. The beauty industry is fast adopting what the fitness industry has already cottoned onto – we want it all and we don’t want to exchange our health for some beauty trend.
Are you living your best life? Martha sure is. But, make no mistake, to look like Martha at 81 involves more than some Pilates sessions and cutting down on the carbs. There is a lot of information out there and we already understand regular exercise, supplements, mindful relaxation practices and brain games to keep our brains from degenerating too.
The beauty industry, however, seems to be developing at a pace that rivals even the tech industry. What should we do and where is it best to spend our Dollars?
Today we’re going to talk about hair. Most 80-year-old do not have a glorious mane of hair – even Jane Fonda is cavalier about showing off her wigs and hair pieces. First there are clumps of hair that fell out after childbirth or a stressful situation. Then there were pesky auto-immune issues and COVID that signaled the hair follicles to abandon their contents (what fun!). Hormones creep in and suddenly, our eyebrows lose their tails, and the hairline becomes patchy. Next, we see the scalp peeking through whatever hair now chooses to grow, and so it goes. It all seems to be out of our control. There must be ways to slow this all down.
The desperation is achingly visible when we look at our reflection, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, please tell that I don’t look that old, after all!” Have you ever experienced a walk in the mall or through a restaurant alongside your daughter? And you’re suddenly rendered invisible. Nobody sees you anymore. Time to go to the mattresses!!
We have COVID to thank for a surge in options as the beauty market is suddenly all over hair loss. It is estimated that 80 million Americans are experiencing some form of unwanted hair loss. There are supplements, serums, infrared helmets, laser hairbrushes, PRP Injections, MicroNeedling, UltraSound, transplants, and wigs. You name it, someone is selling it. Overwhelming? Yes, and just like nobody admits to the Botox and Fillers (that Martha clearly wasn’t getting either), nobody is talking hair loss either. Somehow, it’s reflecting badly on you that you are suffering from something so incredibly normal.
Obviously, we need help. I did some research and can offer some insight that I gleaned from industry experts.
Supplements, hair thickening sprays and serums are plentiful and readily available online. How do you know which one is the right one for you? What I discovered is that one size does not fit all. Some of the serums are loaded with chemicals (they throw the kitchen sink at the problem approach). Unfortunately, more sensitive individuals will soon find themselves suffering from a host of health issues that result from their organs being taxed with this overload. One popular brand that I purchased made my blood pressure shoot up and when I shared my experience, it would seem that a number of individuals had stopped taking the brand owing to dizziness, nausea, etc. You can of course do a health check up with your doctor and ask them to specifically check Vitamin B levels, hormones, thyroid, and advise n the drugs that you’re taking to see if any of them could be causing excessive hair loss. The AARP publication recently wrote an article naming some drugs that might do this and noteworthy are that anti-depressants were on the list. The new weight-loss fad-drug – Ozempic, has hair loss as one of its noticeable side effects too.
From the inside out, a healthy diet is the way to go.
The next group that we are bombarded with are the topic balms, serums, shampoos. Do any work? What works best? Yes, there is merit in many of these applications. Some key things to consider are related to your scalp health. The build-up of product of the scalp is not healthy and can lead to greater hair loss. The scalp is very thick – the skin there is not like the skin on your face so will the serum permeate and be able to make a difference or is it just going to be washed away with your next shampoo? The bodily readily accepts and can better absorb bio-identical products. We’re talking about stem cells, exosomes and serums that are produced by companies that specialize in human growth factors.
Minoxidil is a chemical found in many OTC preparations. It makes hair grow but it doesn’t work on the health of the hair follicle. Users often complain that their newly grown hair falls out as soon as they stop taking it.
Finasteride is another buzz ingredient in hair growth preparations. However, it works by converting testosterone to DHT and this stops further hair loss. Sadly, it has the unpleasant side-effect of erectile dysfunction – a bit of a double-edged sword there!
Hair stylists will tell you to look for serums that contain SH Polypeptide 9 and SH Polypeptide 11, 2 hair growth peptides that help with hair anchoring and that work to reduce shedding.
Maybe your hair loss is important enough to you, that you are looking at the treatments on offer my professional providers. This is what is currently on offer with varied documented results, levels of pain and downtime and at different price breaks.
MicroNeedling. This is usually performed with some type of skin pen that creates micro-injuries to the scalp to allow a topical serum to be applied. Some practitioners will offer a numbing solution and it can be tricky to get a consistent result as the needles need to reach all parts of the scalp in the area being treated. The needles to however allow the serum to pass the thick scalp and the practitioner can offer several topical serums to rejuvenate the hair follicle and the scalp. The added benefit is the increase of blood flow to the area. The skin has suffered a trauma and will immediately try to heal (pushing some serum back out) and this trauma could result in further hair loss owing to shedding. Slightly painful and a few hours downtime. Results vary and are largely anecdotal. There are very few clinical studies to document these procedures. 3 to 4 sessions recommended at $750 per session.
PRP Injections. These procedures need to be performed by someone who is a nurse or doctor and can draw your blood. Your blood is spun in a centrifuge and the plasma is separated. This plasma (blood platelets) is then injected back into the treatment area. Plasma can be combined with a serum. The positive is that it is your plasma and so your body readily accepts it, and it can go about healing the area. The negative is that it is your blood. IF you are older, have hormone issues or are suffering from a health condition, then you have just placed that plasma right where it might result is worsening an existing problem. If your provider spins the blood a minute too long, TGF Beta 1 is created and that can create shedding. This is not for the pain adverse. Even with a topical anesthetic, this is a painful procedure. Results are uneven at the injection sites. There is no clear clinical evidence to support PRP efficacy. You will need 3 treatments and the cost is around $800 to $1200 per session.
Ultrasound or Acoustic sound waves. We’re aware that Europe has been using this technology to deliver drugs across large areas, for addressing ailments like arthritis and for people who are unable to be injected. The hair procedures are similar in that they can deliver the serum across the thick scalp using sound waves. Different equipment is hitting the market, so it is important to ensure that it has clinical results and an impact delivery device. During a treatment, the first pass is to open temporary channels in the thick skin, and the second pushes the serum to the hair follicles. The entire area receives an increase in blood flow creating new vascularization. There is no pain, no trauma, and no downtime. There are clinical studies supporting the efficacy – reportedly 3 times that of micro needling results). 3 to 4 treatments are suggested, and treatments will cost you between $950 and $1250 each. Added bonus- as the follicle health improves, you can look forward to not only healthier hair, but your own color begins to come back – bye bye pesky grey hairs.
Hair Transplant. FUT or FUE.FUT is when a surgeon takes a strip from the back of the head and places it where the patient has hair loss. FUE is when the surgeon selects individual hairs and transplants them where the patient has hair loss. Transplants are advised when the follicle is dead (the scalp is shiny and has been for some time, so the likelihood of stimulating dormant follicles is very slim.). Yes, instant hair. There is pain, trauma, and significant downtime. There can be scarring too. Only 1 procedure required. Cost in excess of $15 000.
With this in mind, what can you do to begin with at home to look after your scalp, the same way that you would your skin on your face. We suggest:
Remove excess product with each shampoo, get hold of a rubber scalp-massage brush and use it and when the hair becomes too thin to pierce through the thick scalp, reach out and look at a treatment to revitalize that scalp before that hair follicle dies.
Other tips are not to wear headgear that is tight and creates excessive heat – you have heard from the chemo wards how colling caps are helping the patients to retain hair. And yes, eat healthily, exercise, supplement where needed, all the normal things!