Hair loss can occur due to a number of reasons, ranging from hormonal imbalance to genetics to stress. Irrespective of what the cause is, the effect it has on the hair shedding cycle and hair texture (brittleness) takes a toll on both our physical appearance and mental health. In many cases, the cause of the hair loss is difficult to control or takes a while to be eliminated. But majority of the causes can be controlled and treated effectively with a little caution. Chemicals in hair products can cause immense damage to our hair resulting in hair thinning and hair loss. This condition can be reversed with changes in kind of products we use and treating the already scanty scalp with some permanent hair restoration methods.
Do Toxic Chemicals Really Cause Hair Loss?
Yes, there are many chemicals found in the hair care products that are used regularly, or in the hair styling products that are used occasionally that can cause serious damage to the scalp and the hair follicles. This eventually result in hair loss and hair thinning. Harsh chemicals are found in shampoos, hair gels, etc. Apart from the chemicals in products, exposure to a few types of these toxic substances can also occur because of their presence in the atmosphere or in water
Signs of Chemically Damaged Hair
The main signs of chemically damaged hair are as follows –
• Increased hair shedding or hair fall
• Hair thinning
• Scanty areas of hair forming on the scalp
• Brittle and dry hair
• Increased hair breakage
• Itchy scalp
• Hair lacks luster and natural shine
• Split ends
• Bald patches on the scalp
Chemicals That Cause Hair Loss
1- Parabens – They are added to hair products to prolong the shelf life but they can easily cause allergic reactions in many people. This chemical is bad for the hair as the allergic reaction can sensitize and irritate the scalp skin and lead to increased hair fall. Parabens are also associated with breast cancer because of their ability to mimic oestrogen and cause a hormonal imbalance
2- Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) – This is added to solutions that are used for cleansing purpose; to remove dirt, grime, oil, and other impurities. It produces a rich lather when present in the right concentration in cleaning products such as shampoos, dishwasher detergents, surface cleaning products, etc. It is corrosive to skin and may cause irritation thus it is identified as a harmful ingredient in shampoos.
While performing its key functions, SLS has the ability to enter the skin cells and cause damage to the cell membranes and proteins. The removal of the oil also results in dryness and brittleness. Sodium lauryl sulphate hair loss is very common because of its widespread presence in the chemical composition of shampoos. Chemical based hair loss can also progress and lead to baldness
3- Chemicals in hair dyes – Dyeing the hair for covering grey hair or for simply trying out a new hair colour can prove to be more damaging to your scalp and hair than you think. Many hair dyes contain harmful chemicals like ammonia, DMDM hydantoin, lead acetate, resorcinol, diaminobenzene, etc. These hair colour chemicals are toxic as they not only cause irritation on the scalp but can also cause lung deformity, neurological problems, and hormonal imbalances by affecting the endocrine system. In other words, there are certain harsh chemicals in hair dyes that cause allergic reaction thus resulting in chemical induced hair loss
4- Propylene glycol – This common chemical ingredient in shampoo is included to help retain the moisture in the hair strands, but it is unfortunately known to cause contact dermatitis. The allergic reaction that occurs on the scalp in some people can lead to propylene glycol triggered hair loss
5- Hydrogen peroxide – Hair is subjected to damage from hydrogen peroxide that is a common chemical in hair bleaches. It is used to remove the existing hair colour before another hair colour or hair dye is applied. It strips away the natural oils from the hair strands (along with the hair pigment) and makes the hair dry and brittle. Such hair experiences hydrogen peroxide hair loss in the form of increased hair breakage and hair thinning
6- Sodium chloride – This chemical component of shampoos may seem harmless because it is basically table salt, but its effects are damaging in the long run. Sodium chloride is added to shampoo concoctions to improve lather formation. However, on regular exposure, hair can become dry and brittle. Hair breaks easily as a result and hair thinning can be observed eventually
7- Hair straightening – Certain methods used for straightening the hair involve subjecting the hair strands to be exposed to specific chemicals that are actually bad for hair health. Sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, etc. are used in various concentrations as chemical relaxers to achieve hair straightening. These chemicals can easily cause skin burn when they come in contact with the scalp and in turn, become the reason for hair loss after application of chemicals for hair straightening.
Chemical based hair loss from sodium lauryl sulphate, parabens, and hydrogen peroxide are the most common types seen among men and women which result in increased hair loss. Apart from the above list, exposure to the following chemicals is also known to trigger hair loss –
● Diethanolamine (DEA)
● Sodium laureth sulfate
● Imidazolidinyl urea
● Behentrimonium Chloride
Also Read: What is Female Pattern Baldness?
Treatment Options For Chemically Damaged Hair
The first and foremost step to treat chemically damaged hair would be to identify the product you are using which contains the harmful chemicals and to stop using it completely. Once the usage has been stopped, the hair loss will be arrested to a certain extent. To further treat chemically treated or damaged hair, consult a dermato-trichologist. They would examine your scalp/ hair, and advise the best course of treatment that can promote hair growth that was hindered by the chemical exposure. Popularly recommended treatments include –
1- Minoxidil and finasteride – Depending how severely the chemical has damaged your hair; the doctor may recommend you to use one of these topical medications. These medications are applied on the scalp to stop hair loss and improve hair growth at the same time. Their usage usually is recommended for a couple of months to see substantial results.
2- Platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatment – One of the most popular and permanent treatment to re-grow your hair naturally, PRP is a therapeutic and non-invasive procedure. In this treatment your own blood is extracted and put to centrifuge to separate the growth rich activated platelets. These platelets are rich in proteins and are injected back in the scalp with scanty hair growth due to harsh chemicals. This injection ensures that important growth factors are delivered to the hair follicles and hair growth is reinstated.
The amount of hair being lost lessens and hair growth speeds up over the course of the treatment to cover the thinned out areas and even small, bald patches. This treatment can also be used to repair severely or mildly damaged hair. Its effects are seen at various levels of hair loss without the chances of any allergic reaction being caused by the treatment.
3- Laser treatment – In this treatment, controlled beams of laser are targeted to reduce the inflammation in hair follicles which helps in improving hair growth. This is low level laser therapy which is safe and effective for chemical based male pattern baldness
4- Hair transplant – For extreme hair loss due to chemicals, hair transplant may be recommended by your dermatologist. Skin grafts are removed from thick hair growth regions of the scalp and are then harvested, then tiny grafts of hair are put back on the scanty areas of hair growth. This helps in triggering hair regrowth.
Other than these treatments, it is important to follow a good hair care routine for chemically treated hair using products that does not contain harmful chemicals. Your dermatologist can suggest the right products for your hair and skin type.
Tips To Prevent Hair Loss Caused By Chemicals
• Avoid using hair care products which contain chemicals that stop hair growth and increase hair fall. Keep the list of chemicals in mind when you purchase a new shampoo or conditioner
• If you are using hair products that contain any hair damaging chemicals, dispose and replace them with products with a better chemical composition
• Do not opt for hair styling treatments that use harmful chemicals such as hair straightening or hair smoothing treatments
• Check with a dermatologist for recommendations regarding hair care products.
We often do not pay attention to the ingredient list when we purchase hair care products. Similarly, we fail to inquire and understand the damage that can be caused by the hair styling treatments (straightening, smoothing, dyeing, bleaching, etc.). The chemicals we expose our hair and scalp to, on a regular basis cause immense damage and allergic reactions. These impact the hair growth and shedding cycle. Take action before the damage reaches advanced stages and consult a dermatologist regarding suitable treatment options for chemical based hair loss.