Saloni Anand, Co-Founder, Traya

Saloni is a Co-Founder at Traya and passionate about creating valued customer experiences. She is a data-driven person who loves factual evidence and has an eye for detail. Saloni graduated from Cummins College, Pune and later worked in health tech companies. She also went ahead and completed an MBA in marketing. At Traya, she handles tech, sales and branding.

 

Popular opinions are not always true. And in recent times the availability of expert interactions online has made it easy to bust pseudo-scientific health myths that can often be rather dangerous. One of the arenas where this evolution is currently happening is in the hair loss industry but the pace is rather slow. For too long the hair care industry has peddled an image of also being the hair loss treatment industry, relying on ambitious ingredients that are trending in the nutraceutical industry such as biotin, onion oil, ACV, argan oil to name a few recent ones. And also the occasional blend of science and technology with activated ingredients that increase the tensile strength of hair by x amount. So, most people who face hair loss reach out for a new hair care product as a courtesy of this conditioning. Not only that, being a country that loves DIYs, those of us who wish to stay away from “chemicals”, create a blend of delectable kitchen ingredients as hair masks and oils to fix their woes. And finally, when we do reach out to experts we confuse expert hairstylists as hair loss experts to get caught up in a cycle of hair spas and treatments that make your hair smooth, shiny and soft but not safe from shedding.

Research has shown that in recent years over 60% of Indians have faced a hair loss condition. Studies also show that this generation is experiencing hair loss in their 20s and 30s which is quite early in comparison to the previous generation’s late-onset post 50. And it is no coincidence that we see this disparity. The diet, lifestyle, stress, indoor and outdoor pollution over the last decade has led to increases in the so-called “lifestyle” health conditions to occur sooner than they did in the previous generation.

But there is also something that we have started to do right, seeking help from licensed professionals for physical and mental health has become easier and normalised. So why is the hair loss industry still behind?

For starters hair loss is not properly understood. Hair fall is used as an umbrella term that includes damage, breakage, split ends and hair shedding.  Therefore, shampoos, oils and serums seem like the obvious solution. Whereas, in reality, hair loss and hair fall are very different from each other. Hair fall of about 100 strands for women and about 50 strands for men is normal. Anything more than that which continues for a few months or is preceded by an illness is a hair loss condition.

And that is exactly the starting point of change that needs to come about – creating awareness is the only way to change the way the hair loss industry is currently functioning. Let us start with how many hair loss conditions there are – 4. They are:

Androgenic Alopecia – A hair loss condition commonly known as male or female pattern hair loss. This type of hair loss is genetic, however, it can be triggered by diet, lifestyle, exposure to pollution and illness. The main cause is the susceptibility of hair follicles to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It presents as hair thinning, receding in the hairline in men and widened partition in women. There are 7 stages of this hair loss. It is preventable in the early stages, between Stages 1-4. According to Ayurveda, this hair loss is triggered by an increase in pitta dosha which connotes the acidic and heat element of your body. Pitta can increase with the consumption of gluten, dairy, fermented foods, red meat, etc.

Telogen Effluvium – Your hair has a life cycle of three phases. Anagen, or growth phase, catagen, or transition phase and telogen, or falling phase. When your body undergoes extreme physical or mental stress due to illnesses such as covid, typhoid, TB, surgery, pregnancy, sudden weight loss or mental health conditions. It pushes your healthy anagen phase hair into the telogen or falling phase. Resulting in rapid hair loss (about 200-300 strands) over a span of a few weeks or months. It can be treated and is reversible.

Alopecia Areata – An autoimmune condition that results in coin-sized bald patches on the scalp and in some cases on other parts of the body. In men, it can also start in the beard. The only treatment for this hair loss condition is prescription corticosteroids. Which should always be taken under the supervision of a doctor.

Alopecia Universalis – It is believed to be an advanced stage of alopecia areata which causes complete hair loss all over the body, including eyebrows, lashes, and body hair.

Looking into the aetiology of hair loss conditions allowed us to understand that hair health is a litmus test for internal health and much more complicated than people believe. Therefore, it cannot be treated by hair care products that are meant for the texture and appearance of your hair. Instead, one needs to fix the root cause of hair loss by working on the internal triggers using preventive solutions from Ayurveda and get prescription medicine for regrowth that is clinically proven from a dermatologist.

Not just that, most people assume that hair loss that runs in the family is not manageable or hair loss after the 30s is normal and courtesy of the ageing process and therefore doesn’t require treatment. These myths prevent people from seeking help for hair loss conditions in the early stages. This leaves them thinking hair transplant is the only option because hair loss treatments rightly will either not work for them or will take too long.

So, what do people need to do? They need to see an expert, which in this case happens to be a dermatologist or a trichologist. But is it really that simple? At present, there are only about 12-13K dermatologists in India catering to a population of over 121 crore people. And access to dermatologists is better in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in comparison to other areas. Whereas, hair loss is spread across rather evenly in urban and rural areas. Thanks to the digital age you can access experts from anywhere in the world these days. Not only is it easy but also rather affordable.

These past few years numerous companies have sprouted to provide health care solutions online for numerous lifestyle conditions such as PCOS, diabetes and of course hair loss. What these brands must focus on is educating the customers to ensure that people make the right choice because they understand their condition better and not because they think it is the latest trend. We need to learn from global companies like Hims/Hers who are leading the way with content that steers the conversation towards overall health in treating conditions like hair loss. Not to mention India’s advantage of Ayurveda that has always taken a bottom’s up approach in treating hair loss with a preventive rather than a curative approach.

In conclusion, if anyone reading this is facing hair loss. Resist the urge to reach for an “anti-hair fall shampoo or oil”, try to dig deeper into your internal health and fix it, analyse your diet and lifestyle and speak to an expert to get prescription medication. And that’s how the tide will turn.

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