When a horrific mini-wig of hair starts accumulating in our shower drain, we hastily turn to hair loss shampoos, try to tweak our hair care routines, or regular appointments for scalp “facials” – all in a bid to keep our hair on our heads and stop hair loss in its tracks.
But, say, the root cause of your hair loss is not because you’re missing using a once-a-week scalp scrub or an overly-clogged scalp. It might mean that you can chuck that hair loss shampoo in your bathroom – because you’re getting hair loss all wrong.
Read on, because we spoke to an expert in hair loss, Dr Byron Tee, an aesthetic physician doctor at The Urban Clinic in Singapore. He shares four things that doctors really want you to know about hair loss, so you can stop guessing and start – once again – growing a full mane of hair!
#1: Scalp treatments only help this much
Scalp treatments at the spa or hair salon cleanse the scalp and stimulate blood circulation to increase the delivery of nutrients to the hair follicles.
Yes, you’re left with a fresher, healthier scalp over time. The big “but” here, however, is this: while scalp treatments can promote healthier hair growth, they can’t help with hair loss if the root cause is a medical condition or family history.
“There are various reasons for hair loss. In some cases, hair loss may be temporary, while in others, it may gradually worsen without professional treatment,” said Dr Byron Tee.
If you’re experiencing symptoms like sudden or rapid hair loss, a significantly receding hairline, visibly thinning hair, or bald patches, it’s possible that they’re pointing to hair loss due – not to a need for more regular scalp treatments, but something more.
These drastic hair loss symptoms could be due to an underlying medical condition, hormonal changes, nutrition deficiencies, emotional distress, or genetics, Dr Byron outlined.
In these cases, going for regular scalp treatments won’t do much for your hair loss problems. Rather, it’s best to seek professional help to identify and nip the problem in the bud.
“If there’s only one thing I could tell my patients about hair loss, it would be to seek professional help sooner rather than later. The earlier hair loss is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of preventing further hair loss and achieving a successful outcome,” emphasised Dr Byron.
What does professional help look like? The Urban Clinic, a medical aesthetic clinic in Singapore, approaches hair loss management starting with a consultation.
Dr Byron will examine the patient’s hair and scalp as well as discuss their detailed family medical history to screen for any potential inherited hair loss risk or medical conditions.
They’ll also take into account other factors like lifestyle, stress, and diet to customise a hair loss treatment plan for each patient. This way, you’re not getting just a cleaner scalp over time, but a treatment that really targets your hair loss issues right at the root.
#2: What you eat affects how your hair grows
‘You are what you eat’ is an all-too-familiar saying for a reason – according to doctors, what we eat definitely does affect how our hair grows too.
“What we eat can have a significant impact on how our hair grows because the hair follicles require specific nutrients to produce healthy hair,” Dr Byron shared.
For example, changing your diet so that you have a healthy protein intake is one way that you can boost hair growth – especially if protein is something that your body is lacking.
“Our hair is made up of a protein called keratin. Insufficient protein intake can hamper the production of keratin, resulting in hair that is weak, brittle, and prone to breakage,” said the doctor.
The vitamins that you aren’t getting enough of could also be the reason for your thinning hair. “Certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, biotin, zinc, and selenium, are essential for healthy hair growth,” Dr Byron revealed.
“These nutrients help strengthen hair follicles and promote healthy hair growth.”
Iron is another key nutrient for healthy hair growth, as it helps to deliver oxygen to the hair follicles. The doctor also recommends drinking enough water to flush out your body’s toxins and keep your hair follicles hydrated – both crucial when it comes to boosting hair growth.
At The Urban Clinic, Dr Byron will have his patients take a blood test during the consultation stage, and these will be sent to a lab for testing.
When the results are in, the doctor calls the patient in to explain the vitamins or minerals their body lacks, such as vitamin D, iron, vitamin B, and folic acid. Supplements like Nourkrin and Miriqa are then prescribed, depending on the patient’s specific nutritional needs.
#3: Hair loss ingredient minoxidil can be taken orally too
Ah, minoxidil. If you’re concerned about pattern hair loss, it’s likely that you’ve heard of the popular hair loss ingredient minoxidil, but you might not know how exactly it works to get hair sprouting again.
A hair loss medication that is used to treat androgenetic alopecia in both men and women, minoxidil is typically beneficial for patients who are in the early stages of pattern hair loss.
“Minoxidil works by dilating the blood vessels in the scalp, which increases blood flow and nutrients to the hair follicles. This allows for more oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to the hair follicles,” he shared.
Besides boosting blood flow, minoxidil also fights hair loss – the second way – by keeping the hair’s growth “window” open for a longer period.
Hair grows in three stages, which are anagen (growth), catagen (transition), and telogen (rest). Minoxidil, essentially, brings the hair into the growth phase as well as keeps it there – and growing – for a longer time.
“[Minoxidil] stimulates hair follicles to enter into the anagen phase, which is the active growth phase of the hair cycle, resulting in increased hair growth and thicker hair,” the doctor shared.
“In addition, Minoxidil can also prolong the anagen phase of the hair cycle, allowing the hair follicles to stay in the active growth phase for a longer time.”
Minoxidil is often applied topically to the areas of concern but it can be taken orally too.
“Topical minoxidil is applied directly to the scalp, as a liquid or foam, over areas of hair loss, so it has a more targeted effect. Oral minoxidil is absorbed into the bloodstream and affects the entire body, which can lead to potential side effects,” warned the doctor.
“Some potential side effects of oral minoxidil include hypertrichosis, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and water retention,” he detailed. “That being said, topical minoxidil may have potential side effects as well. These include scalp irritation, itching, dryness, and flaking.”
Either way, topical and oral minoxidil have proven to be effective treatments for hair loss.
At The Urban Clinic, doctors take the patient’s hair loss condition and the medication’s potential side effects into careful consideration when prescribing minoxidil to patients orally or alongside topical minoxidil or finasteride (another hair loss ingredient).
#4: There are only so many hair transplants you can do in your lifetime
“Hair transplant is a surgical procedure that involves removing hair follicles from one area of the scalp and transplanting them to another area where hair loss has occurred,” Dr Byron introduced.
We were surprised, however, to learn that one treatment isn’t always enough to get desired results.
The reason is that patients who have fewer hairs in the non-balding areas of their scalp will require several procedures to achieve the hair they want.
“Using too many follicles in a single procedure can result in poor graft survival and donor site depletion,” revealed Dr Byron. “If someone has limited donor hair, they may require multiple procedures to achieve the desired coverage and density.”
Otherwise, hair loss can happen again even after a hair transplant, requiring the individual to go for more follow-up treatments down the line.
“Hair loss is a progressive condition, and even after a successful hair transplant, some people may experience further hair loss in the future. If this happens, additional procedures may be required to maintain the desired results,” said Dr Byron.
It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if we can get hair transplants done like how we get our teeth cleaned at the dentist: regularly.
However, because there are only so many transplants that one can do in their lifetime, each hair transplant procedure is precious – you’d want results that are worth each slash off on the “maximum number of hair transplants” list.
“Unfortunately, we cannot use all of the hair follicles from the donor site as this will result in someone having no hair left at the back of the scalp. Hence, there is a finite number of hair follicles available for harvesting in the donor area, and once these follicles are used up, further hair transplants become impossible,” advised Dr Byron.
That’s why, with an expert understanding of the limitations of hair transplantation, The Urban Clinic’s doctors use the least amount of grafts in each procedure to give visible results, allowing the patient more “wiggle” room for future hair transplants if needed.
Following a hair transplant, the doctor also prescribes oral supplements and topical medication to delay the onset of further balding.
In addition to educating the patient on how to minimise further hair loss right after the procedure, the doctor will also arrange regular follow-up appointments to observe the patient’s hair condition over time.
This is crucial to the long-term success of the transplant and can help patients avoid the need for a second transplant in the future.
About The Urban Clinic
The Urban Clinic is a medical aesthetics clinic dedicated to curating a personal, customised experience for its patients, whether it comes to its skincare treatments for acne and scarring, body treatments for contouring, or hair loss management services.
Each patient is assigned a doctor and consultant who will follow them from start to finish – from consultation and procedure to follow-up appointments.
The doctors take time to understand their patients’ concerns, desired results, and lifestyles to design treatments that are suited to their specific needs. By equipping them with the necessary knowledge, doctors also help their patients to maintain their treatment results in the long run.
The Urban Clinic is located at Orchard Shopping Centre. Arrange a consultation for hair loss management by calling the clinic at 6254 0407.
Location: 321 Orchard Road, Orchard Shopping Centre, #03-00, Singapore 238866
Opening hours: 10am – 8pm (Mon to Fri) | 10am – 5.30pm (Sat) | Closed on Sun & PH
Contact: 6254 0407 (Main), 6254 0419, or WhatsApp 9199 4097
Featured image credit: @skinbygill/TikTok, Pexels
This article is brought to you by The Urban Clinic.