By Dr. Teo Wan Lin, Consultant Dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre
In my practice, I have seen many men and women who are beset with hair-loss, which can occur at any age and is extremely distressing. It is unfortunate that many go the route of medi-spas and scalp treatments by aestheticians before deciding to see a dermatologist, by which time a large part of their hair has already been lost.
I’ve also seen so many expatriates who are convinced that only since moving to hot and humid (and stressful) Singapore they have started developing scalp problems and hair-loss. Also with stories that their friends have developed the same issues since moving to Singapore, leading some to even conclude that the water supply must be the cause. So if you’ve moved to Singapore recently, started having hair fall and feeling panicky, fret not because I’m about to share some top dermatologist tips (the first of a series) on hair-loss happening on this sunny island.
Ever since the media brouhaha about certain hair-loss treatment centres’ tactics on selling beleaguered customers their “anti- hair loss” packages, I’ve been wanting to share my dermatologist expertise on this troubling topic, hoping it will help many out there who are searching for an answer to their hair-loss woes. So I’ve decided to pen down some the top tips dermatologists offer to hair-loss patients in a series, starting with the first.
1. Hair-loss is not caused by a wrong shampoo, hair care products or even water supplies
Hair-loss is not caused by using the wrong kind of shampoo. Period. The science of all shampoos is that it contains lathering agents, like sodium or ammonium-laureth sulfate based detergents, in varying proportions, to grab dirt, grime, bacteria and oil from the surface of the scalp and hair and the foam is then rinsed off with water. The ones which promise to degrease and deep-cleanse are simply those that contain higher proportions of Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS). Put simply, all shampoos perform a similar function and the main difference would really be how well they cleanse the scalp without drying out hair ends.
It is a total myth that what’s in your water (assuming we are speaking about potable water in the first place) can affect the condition of your scalp. Unsanitary water would be teeming with bacteria so using that on any part of one’s body can indeed increase chances of infections but that’s never the case in Singapore. Hence there’s no possibility that the water you are using to shower is causing your hair-loss and there’s also no need to spend extra money on specially treated water for showering!
2. Chemical hair treatments like rebonding, perming and bleaching can cause hair-loss, but a specific kind
It’s a question that almost every patient with hair loss asks me, “ Is my hair-loss caused by bleaching my hair last year?” The truth is bleaching is detrimental for the hair shaft( which is made from keratin, a dead material) but unless one has an allergic reaction ( i.e. allergic or irritant contact dermatitis ) due to the bleaching agent that occurs on the scalp( which is the “living component” where the hair follicles are), bleaching itself should not cause hair to fall out from the roots, which is true hair loss.
What bleaching and other chemical treatments i.e.perming, rebonding, hair dyes, actually does is to alter the structure and the bonds of the hair via chemical reactions so that it’s appearance is changed. Essentially, these chemical processes damage the hair shaft, leading to parts of the hair shaft being broken off and causing hair-loss by breakage. If you have bleached or permed hair, you should adopt grooming practices such as a wide-toothed comb and soft bristled brush using gentle detangling motions rather than harsh combing which can result in even more breakage.
3. Certain hairstyles can trigger and worsen hair-loss
Do you always tie your hair in a tight bun or pony tail? If you find your hairline receding or are experiencing tightness or even a headache around your hairline at the end of the day, beware. Dermatologists counsel that wearing such hairstyles persistently can cause a form of hair loss known as traction alopecia, whereby continued pulling and pressure over the hair roots causes the hair follicles to weaken, miniaturise and if over an extremely long period of time, even die.
If you are having hair-loss concerns, use a scrunchie or a hair tie that does not rip at the hair or tie it overly tightly. You may want to keep a shorter hairstyle while your hair-loss concern is addressed by your dermatologist.
© 2017 Dr. Teo Wan Lin. All rights reserved.
Meet with Dr. Teo Wan Lin, founder and Specialist Consultant Dermatologist of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, an accredited dermatologist specialising in medical and aesthetic dermatology. She integrates her artistic sensibility with her research background and specialist dermatologist training, by means of customised, evidence-based aesthetic treatments using state-of the-art machines, injectables (fillers and toxins) which work synergistically with her proprietary line of specialist dermatologist grade cosmeceuticals Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals.