For most women, hair is one of the few areas where bigger is better and whilst many of us bemoan that our hair isn’t quite as lustrous as the follically-blessed Gisele’s of this world, there’s an increasingly serious side to the problem with as many as 74 per cent of women claiming to be affected by thinning hair and a worrying eight million women suffering from hair loss in the UK alone.
The causes of hair loss can be complex, and according to top trichologist Phillip Kingsley, are often due to a combination of factors. Most common are stress, hormonal imbalances, thyroid abnormalities, post-pregnancy, dieting and breakage due to styling/dyeing, so rule out any medical issues first by doing a blood test. However, Kingsley notes that low iron levels which are also one of the primary causes of hair loss particularly in women of child-bearing age, aren’t always picked up during blood tests as Ferritin which helps to produce hair cell proteins isn’t always measured. Also, although hormone imbalances can be tested, due to the inherent sensitivity of the hair follicles, even normal amounts of testosterone can cause thin hair in some women but not others.
2) Do the ponytail test
There are simple ways to tell if your hair is getting thinner although this should always be judged over a period of weeks rather than days as hair fall can fluctuate from day to day. In addition to the obvious signs such as seeing more hair in your hairbrush or plug-hole, Trichologist Iain Sallis suggests that the ponytail test i.e. your ponytail having less girth and swish than usual, is often the easiest way to notice diffuse hair loss. Even your hair acting more ‘flyaway’ than usual can be an indication that your follicles are feeling a little under the weather. However, as a thinner ponytail means a rather significant reduction in hair volume, (most people will need to have lost a minimum of 15% before they’re even aware of it), nip any inch-loss in the bud by getting up close and personal with your follicles courtesy of a Microviewing machine from Leonor Greyl exclusive to hair legend Johnnie Sapong’s fabulously quirky A-list London hair retreat. Putting your hair’s needs under the microscope, this high tech machine magnifies your hair and scalp by up to 200 times in order to identify hair woes before you notice them yourself and prescribing a botanical treatment accordingly. For more info visit johnniesapong.com.
3) Eat your way to a perfect body
If the end result of your got-to-fit-into-that-bikini-if-it-kills-me diet would give Miranda Kerr a run for her money, chances are a Victoria’s Secret fast won’t help your follicles. In fact, whether dieting or not, deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals can be a major cause of thinning, so help your hair look picture perfect by drawing up a diet plan including plenty of fruit and veg, iron, fatty acids and most importantly, protein as protein (or keratin) is what hair is made up of.
Trichologist to the stars Philip Kingsley suggests tweaking your diet to include proteins for breakfast and lunch. But even with the best of intentions sometimes we all need a little boost, so if you really want to make the most of your crowning glory go for a supplement specifically designed to maximise hair growth such as Philip Kingsley’s PK4HAIR supplements, £22, which are fortified with amino acids to enhance the production of keratin, or Viviscal tablets, £49.95, a favourite amongst the A-list, which contain a rich marine protein complex and have been shown to reduce hair shedding by a fifth as well as reversing the effect of hair loss.
4) Treat your scalp
Mr. Kingsley believes that healthy hair begins with a healthy scalp with studies showing that itchy, flaky scalps cause more hair fall than their flake-free counterparts.
Lucky for us, a plethora of scalp-friendly products have hit the shelves to ensure that beautiful hair takes root this summer. Start by treating your scalp to a soothing shampoo such as Eucerin’s Dry Skin relief Shampoo with 5% Urea, £8.25, Boots, or Nioxin’s in-salon Scalp Renew Dermabrasion Treatment before getting down to business.
Phyto’s PHYTOSTIM, £35.50, contains ingredients such as Shiitake Mushroom and Ylang Ylang to help fortify the hair bulb and stimulate growth whilst LA Science’s Follicle Stimulating Shampoo, £14.99, helps provide the optimal conditions for a healthy scalp.
And remember, a burnt scalp is not a happy scalp so treat it as you would the rest of your body with Boot’s Soltan Head Hair Dry-Touch Transparent Suncare Spray SFP30, £7.99.
5) Anti-Age Your Hair
As if wrinkles and saggy bottoms weren’t enough to contend with, along comes another study delivering the cheery news that as we age, so does our hair. Creative director for London’s Aveda Institute, Michael Lendon explains: ‘As we get older, the scalp becomes drier and tighter which affects blood circulation to the scalp and the growth of the hair follicles.’ But before you throw in the proverbial (beach) towel, the good news is that anti-aging ingredients have now hit the hair care market. Aveda’s Invati Scalp Revitalizer, £45, fabled.com contains revitalizing Ginseng and Tumeric to youth-ify your locks whilst, Redken’s Intra Force, £39.95, redken.com, is a three-step programme that claims to guarantee thicker hair in 30 days by prolonging the hair’s life cycle and combat premature follicle aging.
Wear and tear can also age your hair so to keep it from looking haggard before its time keep heat styling to a minimum and avoid strenuous blow-drying or overly tight styles. Ojon’s Damage Reverse Thickening Scalp Treatment, £25, origins.co.uk, relies on precious Ati Oil to fortify aging hair against breakage.
6) Tankini-up your tresses
Nigella aside, most of us love the feeling of the elements on our vitamin-D deprived skin, but sun, sea and sand are not always so easy on our manes. ‘The strong sunlight we experience on holiday equals strong UV radiation which causes the chemicals in our hair to oxidize,’ says trichologist Iain Sallis. ‘It’s this oxidization process which slowly ‘bleaches’ our hair, stripping the condition and ruining many a good colour.’ Arm yourself with products containing UV filters such as Charles Worthington’s Sunshine UV Protection Spray, £5.10, charlesworthington.com, or John Frieda’s Frizz-Ease Thermal Protection Hair Serum, which also helps to combat the dreaded holiday halo of fuzz.
It may work for mermaids but jumping in and out of chlorinated or salty water can also dry out and weaken your hair, making it more susceptible to breakage. Make sure you wet hair before going for a dip so it absorbs less pool or sea water.
7) You Can Always Fake It
Expanding polymers, amplifying fibres, and heat-activated plumpers – thankfully there’s a whole raft of products out there which will act as your lifeguard for limp hair. ‘Preparation is everything for volume that stays put’, says stylist extraordinaire Sam McKnight, who advises starting with volumising hair care products such as Pantene Pro V’s Volume & Body Shampoo and Conditioner, £2.69, pantene.co.uk, or Swell’s Advanced Volumizing Shampoo, £23, nelsonspharmacy.com,which uses natural ingredients to stimulate the hair follicles. Apply a thickening lotion such as KEVIN.MURPHY’s FULL.AGAIN, £15.95, kevinmurphystore.com, to the mid-lengths and ends before addressing the root of flat hair.
Once washed, hair hero Charles Worthington suggests spritzing a root-boosting product into damp hair (we love Mark Hill’s Love Big Hair! Big Blow! Thicker Fuller Volume Spray, £6.19, Boots) before blasting the roots upside down for extra lift.
For va va voom volume, sprinkle Nicky Clarke’s TEASE ME backcomb in a bottle, into the roots on dry hair and finish with Umberto Giannini’s Full Volume Hairspray For Big Hair, £5.49, Boots.
8) Cut a fuller figure
The hair equivalent of JLo’s behind can be yours for the taking with some bootilicious barnet tweaks. Super-stylist Luke Hersheson suggests having some invisible layers cut in as this will instantly open up the face and help give the illusion of texture and volume. ‘If you want thicker looking hair, don’t ever have a fringe,’ warns Sam McKnight. ‘A wide fringe in particular will simply highlight the fact that your hair is fine.’
A little teasing at the crown is always flattering and helps give the semblance of more body whilst subtle, ultra-fine highlights can also give the illusion of more hair. For voluminous updos always keep a bit of cushioning at the roots and add in a subtle quiff to give the impression of height. Many backstage hairstylists will add invisible volume by using mini crimpers underneath the hair for runway-ready width whilst Charles Worthington advocates the use of donuts (of the hair padding variety) to add weight to your bun.