Ever wanted long hair like a mermaid?

Question:  How come I just can’t seem to grow my hair long? It just never gets past a certain length and then either breaks off or never gets longer. Why is that?

shutterstock_197763182Answer:  Every little girl and subsequent teenager has, at some point or another, wanted to grow their hair out as long as possible.  Many characteristics about how your hair grows are fixed and genetic and then there could also be some environmental reasons your hair is not growing as long as you wish.

To grow your hair as long as possible, it helps to understand that hair growth occurs in a regular repeating cycle which can be disrupted by many things.

The normal hair growth cycle:

  • Anagen Phase: This is the active growing phase of your hair which lasts for an average of 3 years (1000 days), but can be anywhere from 2-6 years and determines the length of your hair. The longer the growth cycle, the longer hairs can grow before being shed. The reason you cannot see hair growing is because the average growth rate is just 0.37mm per day.
  • Catagen Phase: During this time, lasting 1-2 weeks on average, hair follicles undergo a transition from the growing phase to a resting phase during which all growth activity ceases. Whatever length the hair is, it will not grow any longer.
  • Telogen Phase: This is the final resting phase and hair follicles remain in this phase around 3-4 months, or 100 days on average, before they are pushed out by new hairs growing underneath or pulled out by a hairbrush or other mechanical action causing friction such as shampooing.

Your scalp normally contains 100,000 hairs, and the average number of hairs shed daily is 100-150.  Hair (unlike nails) does not grow continuously but stops growing after a pre-determined period of time and is replaced by new hair. While many things can disrupt the normal growth cycle, halt hair growth and increase fall out, nothing, including medications, shaving techniques or menstruation can make hair grow faster. And, since the number of hair follicles is pre-determined in utero and does not increase after birth, there’s nothing you can do to increase the amount of hair that you have, despite what many websites and products may have you believe.

Hair grows normally, and at different rates, on all skin surfaces except palms, soles of hands and feet and specific genital areas. In addition, terminal (dark, course) hair is always present on men’s face, chest and abdomen. The duration of hair growth cycles (and hair length) vary with the anatomical location of the hair, for example, scalp growth lasts for 3-5 years and the eyelash cycle averages just 3-5 months.

Lifestyle factors that can affect your hair growth cycle

Aside from a genetic set point that determines your personal hair growth cycle and hair length, here are some other factors that may be inhibiting your hair’s growth and health:

  • Unnecessary roughness. Sometimes hair doesn’t appear to be growing because it breaks off in the middle or at the ends. This can be caused by rough treatment in shampooing, toweling wet hair, combing and brushing, tight pony tails and braids and use of heated appliances all causing hair to weaken as it ages (the ends) and simply break off. Any injury such as a burn or laceration to the scalp can also cause a scar resulting in permanent hair loss to the area contributing to a shorter look.
  • Telogen Effluvium. Any physical or emotional trauma can shock your body (and your hair follicles) which halts the hair growth phase and pushes it straight to the telogen phase causing a shedding of a larger than normal amount of hair (which thankfully and  usually reverses).  Some of the most common causes are extreme crash diets, child birth, menopause, chemotherapy and even a prolonged high fever along with emotional traumas such as death of a loved one or a traumatic divorce or other life change.
  • Hair loss diseases. Systemic, skin disease and deficiencies can affect the scalp, the hair shaft and the hair follicles. These include folliculitis (an infection of the hair follicles which can involve just one inflamed follicle or spread to others), autoimmune conditions such as alopecia areata, psoriasis or lupus that result in patchy hair loss, seborrheic dermatitis, fungal infections and even trichotillomania (a compulsive disorder characterized by a secret compulsion to pull hair out from the head and body parts), among other skin and hair diseases.
  • Medications. Some medications are known to have the side effect of diffuse (all over the head) hair loss.  These include beta-blockers (blood pressure medications), certain oral birth control pills, isotretinoin (for treatment of acne), antidepressants (serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SRIs) and some cholesterol-lowering drugs. Hair loss will not occur in everyone, but if you experience it, work with your doctor to evaluate different medications and dosages to improve or stop the hair loss.

How a dermatologist diagnoses hair loss conditions:

  • Hair care and lifestyle evaluation. We can determine the causes of telogen effluvium or medication side effects and educate you about treating hair gentler.
  • Hair pull test. If a gentle tugging of the hair produces more than 6 hairs at a time we consider that an abnormal hair loss condition.
  • A thorough visual examination. This is how we rule out skin and scalp hair loss diseases.
  • Scalp biopsy and culture. If we notice any lesions, papules or pustules we will culture and biopsy the area to rule out scalp infections, fungal infections and carcinomas.

So, while you may never have hair as long as a mermaid, you can make the best of the hair you have by maintaining a healthy lifestyle of nutrition and exercise and being gentler on your hair at all times.

-Jodi

 

What good is coconut oil for hair and skin?

Question: I’ve been reading more and more about using coconut oil for hair and skin. Do you think this is a good idea? Can you tell me how to buy coconut oil and how to use it properly?

As a solid its an ointment or balm, warmed to a liquid a liquid its a moisturizing, conditioning oil

As a solid, its an ointment or balm, warmed to a liquid, its a moisturizing, conditioning oil

Answer: I love coconut oil as an added treat for hair and skin (as long as you are not allergic to nuts or coconut). But, I only recommend buying organic unrefined expeller-pressed virgin coconut oil (also called VCO).

I think VCO is a great addition to any hair and skin routine because:

  • It has no preservatives, additives, or color.
  • It’s available at any local health food store or online.
  • It’s affordable at $9 for a small 14 oz. jar.
  • It’s a multi-use beauty product:  Coconut oil is  a solid (like butter) at room temperature and ideal as an ointment or lip balm, but if you place the jar in  warm water, it melts into a liquid oil perfect for massaging, baths, a moisturizer or a hair mask.
  • That smell is like being on a desert island (refined VCO  does not retain its natural coconut aroma).

The real beauty of VCO for skin and hair is its natural, molecular composition

Not only does VCO have a high saturated fat content-composed of 90% saturated triglycerides, but its low molecular weight and straight linear chain (called a medium-chain fatty acid, in contrast to other saturated fats comprised of long chain fatty acids which make them larger molecules), it is able to permeate the hair shaft  and skin surface rather than just sitting on top. That’s what makes it so effective. If you use it at room temperature (when it is solid) it is the perfect ointment to relieve dehydrated, chapped, scaly and itchy skin and it can even improve symptoms of psoriasis and excema.

The medical literature supports my own observations of VCO as a healthful skin conditioner and moisturizer. Studies have shown that  VCO use may improve skin barrier function (protecting skin from bacteria and fungal intrusion) and  decrease trans-epidermal water loss (skin’s ability to retain moisture). Animal studies have shown that coconut oil use can improve wound healing and increase collagen production, too.

For hair, in addition to its high absorbability, VCO contains a high percentage of the saturated fat, lauric acid, which also is highly attracted to the protein in hair. Because VCO actually absorbs through the hair shaft, it has positive effects on the strength of hair while it prevents hair damage and protein loss from styling, brushing and even chemical treatments.

 A little coconut oil on your skin and hair goes a long way:

  • As a daily body moisturizer, after shower or bath
  • As a bath oil
  • As a skin exfoliator for skin and to help control dandruff in hair
  • As a cuticle conditioner
  • As a lip balm
  • As an intensive hair mask, from scalp to ends
  • As a scalp or body massage oil

Coconut oil can be greasy if applied too heavily, but don’t worry, it absorbs in a few minutes leaving behind that beachy smell and softer, healthier, smoother skin.

It can be applied on wet or dry skin. But only apply to dry hair because water limits the VCO from coating the hair properly and permeating the hair shaft. To remove VCO from hair, do not wet first. Simply lather up shampoo in your hands and apply directly and completely over hair and scalp, from roots to ends, then rinse thoroughly.

VCO can be applied in the same way to children and adults. Just be sure that you don’t use coconut oil at all if you are allergic to nuts or to coconut.

Have you tried virgin coconut oil yet? What’s your favorite way to use it?

-Jodi

 

Inaugural post … and croissants!

Wow…today is the inaugural blog…I don’t really know what to say. I guess, Welcome! Welcome to my blog! I will certainly try to give you my honest opinion, feedback and of course, answers to your skin care concerns and questions. Anything having to do with skin, hair and nails are up for grabs here…so ask away! Additionally, I will try and keep you up to date with the latest news and media reports on dermatology. I hope you enjoy it all!

BTW…today is National Croissant Day! In addition to being a skin care guru, I’m also a foodie. At our office, we love to celebrate anything having to do with food. No food holiday goes unnoticed!