Understanding and Navigating The Different Causes of Hair Loss due to treatments and illness

Understanding and Navigating The Different Causes of Hair Loss due to treatments and illness

Maybe it’s happened to you. It happened to me, too. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, it’s normal to expect hair loss after a significant illness, injury, or medical procedure. Here’s why. 

The type of hair loss that happens after a fever, illness, or surgery

Fever is a common symptom. A few months after having a high fever or recovering from an illness, many people see noticeable hair loss. But what’s actually happening is hair shedding, or more specifically, a type of hair shedding called telogen effluvium. It happens when more hairs than normal enter the shedding (telogen) phase of the hair growth cycle at the same time. Stress or medications from a fever, illness, or surgery can force more hairs into this shedding process. 

It can take some time for this stress to show up in your hair. For instance, most people see noticeable hair shed two to three months after the fever or illness in question. Handfuls of hair can come out when you shower or brush. This can last for six to nine months before it stops—then most people see their hair start to look normal again. 

 Understanding the Triggers for Alopecia Areata with Auto Immune Disorders

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks hair follicles, leading to hair loss. The exact cause of this immune response isn't fully understood, but several factors are believed to play a role:

Genetic Predisposition: Some individuals might have a genetic predisposition that makes them more susceptible. If a close family member has alopecia areata, there's a higher risk of developing it.

Autoimmune Mechanism: The immune system mistakenly targets and damages hair follicles. Why it does this in certain individuals and not in others is still a topic of research.

Triggers: Certain factors might trigger the onset of alopecia areata or worsen existing conditions. These can include viral infections, trauma, stress, hormonal changes, or even certain medications.

Other Autoimmune Conditions: Individuals with other autoimmune disorders, like thyroid disease, vitiligo, or rheumatoid arthritis, might have an increased risk of developing alopecia areata.

Despite ongoing research, the exact mechanisms and causes of alopecia areata remain not fully elucidated. It's a complex condition with multiple contributing factors. If someone believes they're experiencing alopecia areata, they should seek advice from a dermatologist or another medical professional.

Understanding the triggers for hair loss after and during Chemotherapy:

Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cancer cells, but in doing so, it also affects other rapidly dividing cells in the body, including those in the hair follicles. This disruption can cause hair to thin and fall out, a side effect known as chemotherapy-induced alopecia. It’s a profound experience, as hair is often closely tied to identity and self-expression.
Additionally, chemotherapy can induce intense heat sensations in the scalp and body. This occurs because certain chemotherapy drugs can affect nerve endings, leading to a sensation of heat or burning, a condition often referred to as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. The heat sensation is also partly due to the body’s increased metabolic activity as it works to process and eliminate the drugs.
The duration for chemotherapy drugs to leave the body varies depending on several factors including the type of drug, dosage, and an individual’s metabolism. Generally, it can take days to weeks for these drugs to be fully excreted, primarily through the kidneys into the urine, but also through the liver and in feces.
Even after the completion of chemotherapy, the effects on hair follicles and the scalp can persist. It may take several weeks to months for hair to start regrowing, and this regrowth period can be a time of transition, with hair possibly having a different texture or color than before.
Throughout this process, gentle scalp care is essential. Using mild, soothing products can help in managing scalp sensitivity and promoting a healthier environment for hair regrowth. It’s important to remember that each individual’s experience with chemotherapy is unique, and patience and self-care are key during this recovery and healing phase
Compassionate Care:
Undergoing chemotherapy can be a challenging journey, one that extends beyond its immediate effects to the delicate balance of your scalp health. This powerful treatment, while targeting cancer cells, can also impact your hair follicles, often leading to hair thinning or loss. Moreover, it can cause scalp sensitivity and inflammation, necessitating tender, attentive care. As you navigate through and beyond your chemotherapy, it’s crucial to nurture your scalp with gentle, soothing treatments. Hydrating and nourishing products can help mitigate dryness and discomfort, providing much-needed relief. Remember, caring for your scalp during this time is not just about aesthetics; it’s a vital part of your overall well-being and recovery. Embracing gentle scalp care is a step towards honoring your body’s resilience and supporting its healing journey.
Personal Note: 
In my journey, I’ve seen how deeply cancer can touch our lives and those of our loved ones. The trauma it brings runs deep and wide, affecting us in ways that are profound and often invisible. While I know I can’t provide healing in the medical sense, what I can offer is love and compassion, especially when it comes to guiding individuals through their scalp and hair care journey during and after such trying times. I’ve had the honor to do that with many guests, clients and loved ones. It is a deep honor. There is not much guidance around the hair during treatment and so I’ve had guests allow me to massage their scalps and treat their needs walk them thru protocols and often just make them feel supported as they can at least navigate this part of healing on their own. 
This is my way of being of service, not just to those I know and love, but also to those I haven’t met. It’s why this product line is so much more than a collection of beauty items for me. It transcends the mere act of consumption. It’s about nurturing, caring, and understanding the complex emotional and physical needs during one of life’s toughest battles. This is my heartfelt commitment – to support, comfort, and provide a small semblance of normalcy in a world turned upside down by illness
Understanding the triggers of Covid and Fevers:

I remember working in December 2019 and everyone was getting sick and no one really knew why—someone had a friend who had horrible pneumonia or the flu was the worst ever, or a client had a headache that just wouldn’t go away. If you were a hair artist at this time, I’m sure you remember a lot of this. I’m sure you also remember we all would work sick or with colds and clients would come in sick as well. You just did.

I remember my kids getting sick and then two weeks later I had a low fever but, like usual, I was still able to push myself to function, chalking it up to another virus my kids gifted me. A few months later I noticed my hair shedding AGAIN, and a lot, and I was overwhelmed by the repeat of hair loss I felt I had just gotten under control.I dreaded showering because of how much hair would come out. I looked at my scalp and hairline in a close-up mirror every day to see if hair was growing. I thought about it all day long, and I felt lost, like a shell of myself.

Looking back now, I know that my cycle of hair loss was connected to illness and fever and yes, it did stop and yes, two years later my hair is coming back, but here’s what I really learned: The why and the how and the what you can do. 

 

What you can do: 

ACCEPTANCE.

PATIENCE. 

CONSISTENCY IN SCALP HEALTH ROUTINE. 

 FIRST: Always first check with a dermatologist and your doctor (I learned this the expensive way). Get basic blood work done so you can address any imbalances off the bat. 

 

NEXT:  Begin a healthy scalp routine. So here I share Najeau not because It’s my baby but because I know that the organic oils work if you use them. I spent 4 years searching, researching, asking and doing routines and procedures that deal with hair loss and growth. Massaging in oils and nourishing ingredients with love is key for follicles to regrow, renew and heal.

Why does this hair loss happen? 

Chemotherapy, stress and post-infection inflammation can cause temporary hair loss, disrupting the normal ratio of growing to resting hairs. Growing hairs typically make up 90 percent of hair, while resting hairs make up 10 percent. When disrupted, this can shift to a 50:50 ratio. 

 

Inflammation of the hair follicles themselves can trigger hair loss. And inflammation affects so much throughout your body, period. 

 

In short:

  • They create inflammation and heat within your body that in turn inflames and burns your hair bulbs and follicles, triggering the hair to go straight to the fallout stage. 
  • High fever or flu-like illness can disrupt the normal ratio of growing to resting hairs. 
  • So the goal is to stop the follicles from premature miniaturization, aid them in healthy hair growth and up the efforts with scalp treatments and massage. 
  • To reduce inflammation and heat in your scalp, tighten and strengthen the follicles and hair bulb. 

 

Because telogen effluvium is caused by stressors or changes to your body, take measures to ease internal stress ahead of major surgeries or any planned travel where you might be more vulnerable to getting sick. These measures might look like a meditation practice, sound bath, breathwork, or herbal adaptogen supplements. Steer clear of common inflammatory offenders like fried foods and refined carbohydrates. The more balanced you can keep your internal system, the better prepared you’ll be to receive stress and minimize its effects. 

Hair tends to return to normal on its own

When the cause of your hair shedding is due to a fever, illness, or stress, hair tends to return to normal on its own. You just have to give it time. As your hair grows back, you’ll notice short hairs that are all the same length by your hairline. Most people see their hair regain its normal fullness within six to nine months.

 

If you suspect that your hair loss is caused by something more than telogen effluvium from stress or a fever, talk with a hair-loss expert or dermatologist. 

A scalp routine to see you through times of stress 

Only focus on what you can control. Here’s the scalp routine I recommend if you’re preparing for or recovering from telogen effluvium. 

 

  1. Begin daily scalp massages
  2. Shampoo scalp 2-3 times a week with pH-balancing shampoo
  3. Do the Najeau Scalp Mask once a week with the addition of fresh ingredients. Think of it as your once-a-week exfoliating facial for your scalp. I recommend combining this with avocado, as avocado is known to cool down the scalp.
  4. Use Najeau Follicle Drops as a pre-shampoo treatment. So every time before you wash your hair (which should be 2-3 times a week) apply the follicle oils to your scalp, massage for 15 minutes and then shampoo and go.
  5. If you can, invest in a red light laser cap (that post and explanation is coming soon).
  6. Leave all mousses and dry shampoos OFF your scalp. 
  7. Shower hair with cool to lukewarm water (whatever you can tolerate). Heat that’s too high can further weaken the balance of the scalp and hair. 

 

You might be tempted to cover up your scalp when you experience hair shedding but try not to stifle your follicles by wearing a wig or hat all of the time. Your scalp needs oxygen, so let it breathe.

 

Start here and you can grow more into your routine. Most importantly, I learned to: Be patient, trust the process, stay consistent, and let go. 

Scalp  Accupuncture, PRP, integrative medicine and everything in the hollistic approach are great tools to walk you thru these times.

Sources: 

Hughes EC, Saleh D. Telogen Effluvium, Updated 2023.

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