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Hair loss can be traumatic and emotionally painful for many people. But today, it is far easier to grow back your mop with the help of effective shampoos, conditioners and making some lifestyle changes.

For long-term effect, hair growth and health will have to improve from within, says Dr Rajesh Rajput, aesthetic and hair restoration surgeon, Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai.

Diet and nutrition
Foods can reduce the excess formation of harmful chemicals which cause hair loss. There are enzymes in the body that convert hormones into harmful products, which cause hair loss by triggering miniaturisation of the hair. The hair becomes thin, short, less pigmented and gets converted into a vellus (baby hair) before it falls off. The storage and conversion of the enzymes occur in the sebaceous glands of the body. Intake of fried foods, red meat, bakery products, excess of peanuts, potato, pasta, noodles and aginomoto increase the activity of the oil and sebum. High activity of the glands induces high activity of the enzymes which causes further hair loss. Consumption of sugar-based food triggers the release of insulin, which in turn releases more hormones
from the binding proteins into the blood. More free hormones are then available for conversion. Avoid sugar, chocolates, pastries, sweets, ice creams, soft drinks and packed fruit juices to protect your hair.

Lifestyle modification
Smoking: It can give readymade free radicals and also constrict and block the blood vessels that nourish the hair roots.

Sleep: Have proper six to eight hours of sleep. De-stress and allow your body and mind to refresh. Stress-induced hormonal and chemical changes in the body lead to hair loss. One of the reasons teenagers lose hair at early age is due to competition in studies, etc. The other reason is wrong selection of food, dieting, fast foods and nutritional deficiencies.

Exercise: It improves blood circulation to the skin and hair. Sweating is a good way to clear the toxins accumulated in the skin and scalp. Massaging the scalp is relaxing than actually being useful in hair growth.

Extreme temperatures: Avoid exposing your hair to excess heat and cold. An AC directly overhead will cause hair loss. If you visit a cold country, cover your hair with a woolen cap. In a sauna, cover your hair with a wet towel.

Wash your hair regularly: Always use a mild shampoo. Hair specialists do not encourage formula shampoos for dry or oily hair. Harsh anti-dandruff shampoos are best avoided. Use them once in three days or twice a week, if required. If you are travelling daily and the hair is exposed to dust, dirt or smoke, you should wash your hair everyday.

Oils, brushing and gels: There is no oil that can grow hair on a bald patch. It only protects hair from dust, dirt, pollution, chemicals, detergents, shampoos, and colours and further damage. It acts as a conditioner and keeps the hair soft. Oil your hair 30 minutes before bath maybe twice a week. Brush your hair twice or thrice a day with a wide toothed soft brush. Avoid frequent use of gels and styling creams and if at all, you have to use a gel, go for a water-based one.

Medical management of hair loss
Two US FDA approved medications available for treatment of hair loss are Minoxidil and Finasteride. The incidence of side-effects with proven effective hair loss medicines is 2 - 4 per cent, which means all these medicines are 96 - 98 per cent safe.

Cyclical medicine programme
Cyclical medicine is a combined approach of using proper hair care, diet, lifestyle modification, hair vitamins, minerals and low dose medicines to stop hair loss and re-grow the lost hair.

Hair transplant
The roots that are dead and cannot be revived with medicines can be replaced with a hair transplant. The scientific basis of a hair transplant is that we have two kinds of hair roots on the head – sensitive (temporary) roots on the top of the head and front and non sensitive (permanent) roots on the sides and the back. The receptors that respond to changes in the body and cause hair loss are absent in the permanent roots.