27 . May . 2019 BY Dr. Sharmishtha Deshpande

Did you know that the heroes of ancient Greece used harsh soaps and bleaches to lighten and redden their hair to the colour that was identified with honour and courage? Even first-century Romans preferred dark hair, which was made so by a dye from boiled walnuts and leeks. Over centuries, certain trends and ideas have remained the same. More and more youngsters are experimenting with styles, going blonde, going burgundy, or simply curling or straightening hair.

Some of the elements we will speak about today, have in fact become a regular feature in any household. A couple of decades ago, especially in a country like India, these were strictly restricted to salons and their use reserved to professional photo shoots, movies and perhaps, weddings?… These days, you find blow dryers and straighteners, DIY hair colour boxes & styling gel in every house, being put to active daily use.

Earlier, only celebrities were prone to change their looks and experiment with their hair. With changing times, in this age of Instagram, mindset of the society has also changed and everyone is open to try out different colours, cuts and trends…to flaunt, to feel ‘in’, to get that perfect selfie…But these fashion trends and modern lifestyle practices have certain risks considering the long term health of your hair. It is best to recognise them and understand them.

Let us dive deeper into this. Here are the top 5 things you need to be aware of while you are considering hair trends to follow!
  • 1. Perming & Straightening

    Girls with curly hair want it straight and silky, and those gifted with the latter want them curled. Salons are flooded with clients making requests for all kinds of hairdos. However, what one doesn’t realise is that after all of it, you will have to settle for damaged and destroyed hair.

    When hair is straightened or curled, tremendous heat is applied to change its natural shape. A solution containing acid, which can reduce the strong disulfide cysteine bond to make the hair permeable, is used to break the bonds in hair’s keratin structure. There is considerable damage to hair in the process. So, if you want to perm your hair or get it straightened, make sure you don’t do so too frequently. Alternatively, try other techniques that do not involve the use of heat-generating equipment – like simple rollers!

  • 2. Hair Colouring

    Regular streaking and dyeing can cause cumulative damage, although it may take years before there are visible signs of hair breakage. Frequent colouring of hair can damage the cuticle which is the outermost layer of the hair shaft. It can also damage the internal structure such as cortex and medulla.
    Permanent chemical dyes may damage the hair and also produce an autoimmune reaction leading to alopecia or a skin disease called dermatitis.

    It is generally advisable to stay within the natural colour group you belong to – perhaps upto three shades variance. This, to some extent, controls the extent of hair colour used. Also, instead of using a permanent dye, try a rinse or a temporary dye. Do try hair colour that are made up of natural ingredients. Do read our blog on hair colour related concerns and how to tackle it,

  • 3. Hot Rollers and Dryers

    When you apply excessive heat to the hair, it can damage the scalp and cause the hair follicles to weaken. High heat and the time for which it is used on the hair will also impact the structure of hair. Hair loses its elasticity, damage to the cuticle (hair protective shield) that makes it more breakable. Steam forming (water trapped inside the hair fibre turning to steam) inside the hair shaft causes hair breakage as well. Yes, steaming does hydrate the hair and it has its benefits, but only when it is done the right way for the right time. It is, therefore, necessary to limit the amount of heat as well as the length of time you dry your hair.

    If you use a blow dryer, use a low or no-heat setting. Do not hold the dryer at one spot for too long. Never over-dry. Cold hair dryers are the best. It is also advisable to towel dry your hair gently before blow drying.

  • 4. Hair styles that cause damage

    Hair trends. Look it up over the internet and the number of results can be mind blowing. And yes, they look awesome too. But do be wise in which ones to follow! Do keep in mind your hair and scalp condition. Not every individual has the same hair texture, strength or quality.

    Treating your hair roughly, tying it too tight, pulling it back into tight ponytails, tight stressful braids…all of this can cause severe damage to your hair and scalp. These may cause breakage and tear of the hair shaft (part of hair coming beyond the surface of the skin). It can lead to a condition called traction alopecia, which most people do not even recognise as it sets in!

    Frequent abuse of hair through damaging hair styles can instigate male or female pattern thinning or baldness.

  • 5. Hair sprays, gels & other styling products

    Watch any hair trend tutorial video and you will find a mashup of bottles & tubes on the table top. Gels, serums, hair mousse, hair colours, sprays – you name it. Every single one of them is loaded up with chemicals. Do you know why? Because any alteration to your natural hair, be in terms of shape, texture or colour, needs the hair cuticle to lifted up/altered, for the product/equipment to deliver its result. And this will not happen naturally. It needs chemicals. If the product packaging declares that its ‘Free of’ a particular chemical, trust us – it will have another to compensate it! You will only need to see which is the lesser of the evils!

    The incidence of lawsuits seeking compensation for damage caused by chemical abuse is quite striking and is increasing at an alarming rate. Chemicals used in products to dye, bleach, straighten or perm the hair tends to break the hair shaft. This can result in hair thinning and in very rare cases, permanent hair loss. Hair loss in such cases is typically reversible, if dealt with in time.

    Yes, we all want to look our trendiest best. We acknowledge that and are not advocating that you should NEVER use styling products or hair colours. Our intent is to create awareness on what could possibly go wrong when you over-style and what care you need to take, on a regular basis, to ensure that the damage is under control!

Hair breakage, damage and loss due to over styling, as mentioned above, is reversible when the underlying cause is diagnosed and treated right. A trichologist becomes your most important person – to help you through this process. He/she will study the condition of your hair & scalp, understand your lifestyle, what trends you have been following, and guide you through the right course of treatment to reverse the damage caused.

Treatments aimed to disinfect, detoxify and rejuvenate your hair & scalp may be most helpful in this process. Such treatments are supervised by trichologists and are holistic in nature. They treat you internally, externally and through therapeutic care. Consulting a professional should not be pushed back. The sooner you act, the easier it is to reverse the damage.

Pay due attention to your home hair care routine as well. Some small changes to your routine can go a long way in ensuring that your hair can take the stress around it. Your hair deserves at least a two day break every week from styling. It needs proper oiling, massaging, shampooing and conditioning. It needs hair foods to keep it strong from within. Give all of this, the time and effort it needs.

Always remember – if you ever notice worrying changes in your hair, such as persistent hair loss, itchy scalp, and split ends or no growth, contact a trichologist immediately. You may be too fashionable for your hair’s liking!

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