Before you brush aside women’s concern to have beautiful hair as superficial, dermatologist Jean Marquez said that the state of a woman’s hair could also be a reflection of her health.
Dr. Marquez was one of the featured guests at a hair-care launch organized by Unilever executives at Fairmont Hotel’s presidential suite. With “slumber party” as its theme, the event had guests, including journalists and bloggers, donning pajamas embroidered with their respective initials.
Led by Carlo Isla, Apples Aberin and Ella Dorado, Unilever introduced Dove’s hair fall rescue line consisting of shampoo, conditioner and hair tonic, which contains trichazole, ginseng and soy protein.
“Development of the product started years back,” said Dorado. “It has been a long journey. Unilever didn’t develop the product line with any particular group of women in mind. But when we develop formulations, we test them in all regions.”
The leave-on hair tonic is a set composed of seven vials that you apply and massage directly to your scalp once every two days. It’s not formulated to grow back hair, but instead strengthen the scalp and “lock” the remaining hair in until new strands of hair start growing, said Isla.
“You apply the product after shampooing and conditioning your hair,” he added. “We recommend that you use the product once every quarter to allow new hair to grow.”
Joining Marquez were “real” women led by former model Marilen Faustino-Montenegro, who shared personal stories on temporary causes of hair loss.
Montenegro, for instance, was alarmed when she learned that her hair wasn’t as resistant as she thought it was, from constant blow-drying and styling. Since her job as a model required her to be thin, she also constantly dieted, which eventually took a toll on her hair.
“Because it was part of my job, my hair was constantly subjected to a great deal of blow-drying, ironing and hair spray,” she said. “Then I had to diet constantly. Over time, I noticed that the combined effects made my hair fall off.”
Marquez didn’t discourage women from having their hair chemically treated to attain a desired look. Yes, they may lose a bit of hair from rebonding, perming, coloring and highlighting, but the condition is temporary.
“There are also certain hair styles that can cause minimal and temporary hair loss,” she said. “If the chemicals used are really strong, then you can develop an allergic reaction that may lead to temporary hair loss.”
As far as she can remember, Alexis Alunan-Sarmiento has always had to deal with falling hair. She didn’t consider it a big deal until other people, including her mother, started noticing it. For some strange reason, she experienced a “respite” when she was pregnant with her first baby. But months after giving birth, her hair started falling off again, albeit more gradually.
“That’s the nice thing about hair,” said Marquez. “It doesn’t only reflect your beauty, but most of the time it also says something about the state of your health.”
Women with hyperthyroid problems, for instance, have shiny yet thinning hair. They’re also edgy, prone to palpitation and have difficulty sleeping, said Marquez. Those afflicted with hypothyroid have the opposite symptoms. They have dull, brittle hair and are always sleepy and lethargic.
One of the major causes of hair loss among women is hereditary, including a condition called alopecia areata, a flaw in the autoimmune system in which a person’s body attacks her own hair follicles. Patchy bald areas on the scalp characterize the condition.
“When it already concerns the whole scalp, including loss of body and facial hair like the eyebrows, the condition is called alopecia universalis,” said Marquez. “When that happens, I inject the scalp with steroids. I also ask the patient to apply steroid lotions and Minoxidil solutions.”
Telogen effluvium, or diffused thinning of hair, is generally caused by such factors as pregnancy, stress, major illnesses, medication, hormonal imbalance, thyroid problems, iron deficiency and dieting.
But in Sarmiento’s case as well as that of radio personality Delamar Arias, the event’s host, the opposite happened during pregnancy. Their hair strands were shinier and lusher. How come?
“Pregnant women tend to have more estrogen in their bodies, which is manifested in lusher hair,” Marquez explained. “Soon after they give birth, the hair strands start to fall off because of loss of estrogen. But your full head of hair will come back again ideally after six months.”
That’s why it’s important to consider the condition of one’s hair as a telltale sign of bigger health issues. When patients see Marquez in her clinic, for instance, she sometimes pull a strand or two of their hair to check.
“Based on the hair strand’s strength and the appearance of the hair, especially the tip or hair follicle, you would know what you are dealing with,” she said.
Isla added that when hair fall reaches a “different level,” then it’s best that the woman see a dermatologist or endocrinologist to help her immediately address the problem at its roots.