In the Biblical tale, Samson loses all his strength when Delilah cuts off his hair, and while the effects of losing hair might be slightly less intense for us, there’s no denying that for many, thinning or weak hair can cause great distress. Plus, who doesn’t want a luscious crop up top? We speak to trichologist Kim Fong of Svenson Singapore and hairstylists Alex Neo of The Lawn and Johnny Ng of Oba Xiamen to find out how to achieve your healthiest head of hair yet.
According to Kim, it is perfectly normal to lose around 50-150 strands of hair per day, so don’t freak out if you spot hair clumping around your drain cover or in your brush. These hairs are usually replaced with new hair, which will continue to grow for another 2-5 years.
We consider it ‘hair loss’ when a person consistently loses more than 150-200 strands without spotting any new growth, or when the growth is very fine. Another sign of hair loss would be weak, fine hair that falls during brushing continually for weeks or months on end. For men, obvious signs would be a higher receding hair line, or when hair at the crown area is thinner than usual, and you are unable to cover the scalp as before with styling.
If you have spotted some early signs of hair loss, Kim advises to first check the type of shampoo you are using. For example, oily scalps will require shampoos that help deal with excessive sebum and typically contain ingredients like orange oil, eucalyptus, cade oil, hydrolyzed wheat protein or tea tree oil, and those prone to excessive hair fall should look out for saw-palmetto, plant proteins, biotin and D-Panthenol.
You should also cultivate the habit of shampooing your hair and scalp daily (if you aren’t already doing so) as this helps to remove any residue or excess sebum and encourages optimal scalp conditions for hair growth. If possible, reduce the use of your hair products, unless you are able to thoroughly cleanse your hair and scalp at the end of the day – sweat, oil and residue can get trapped in hair follicles, which lead to bacterial growth and scalp issues later on.
Also, don’t wait too long to visit a certified trichologist if you suspect you are suffering from hair loss, because once your follicles have minituarised and the extent of your baldness exceeds 20% or more, it might be too late as dead follicles simply cannot be revived.
Visit a trichologist if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:
Significant decrease in hair density
Excessive hair fall for an extended period (3-6 months)
Mild itching that irritates your scalp for more than 2 weeks
Noticeable flakes on your scalp (particularly hard, scaly patches)
Dyeing our hair is a great way to experiment and change up our looks once in a while, and while it is tempting to reach for a cheap box of hair dye at the local drugstore, not knowing exactly what you’re doing could damage your hair and scalp in the long run. Alex recommends always visiting a professional colourist because he or she will be able to ensure you get the colour you want, while maintaining the health of your hair and scalp. This is especially important if you want to achieve the mermaid/unicorn/pastel hues that are all the rage these days, because your hair needs to go through a bleaching process that will affect your hair’s condition and colour durability. At his salon, he uses products like Goldwell as they are known for gentle yet effective bleaching results, and Elumen for pastels that last longer; if you’re putting your hair through something so intensive, you’ll want someone who knows what he’s doing!
Before a dye job, Johnny and Kim suggests applying a scalp protectant, and using a good conditioner after to soften cuticles that have been damaged from the harsh effects of dyeing agents. You should also avoid heat styling with curlers or flat irons and products like gel or fixing spray 48 hours after dyeing.
Depending on your existing hair condition, wait 1 month between root retouching services, and 2 months for big colours changes. You should also consider doing regular treatments in between dye jobs as well. If your hair is particularly damaged, consider deep conditioning your hair once every 2 weeks, and remember to never apply conditioner to your scalp!
If you consider yourself a sun lover and often find yourself on beach getaways to spots like Bali or the Maldives, then you should know that it isn’t only your skin that needs protection from the sun! UV rays can actually cause damage to the hair cuticles, causing your hair to lose moisture and becoming dry and brittle. Kim advices donning some form of protection like a cap or hat if you are going to spend long hours under the sun, while Alex advocates applying leave-in conditioners or styling products that offer UV protection.
If you are bald or have thinning hair, take note that your scalp can get sun burnt, which leads to sensitivity, pain, flaking and in some cases, skin cancer of the scalp. Yikes – best pile on that sunblock!
Consistency is key, and ensuring you do right by your hair every day will pay off in the long run. If you have long hair, use a paddle brush or detangling hair brush to prevent tugging out too much hair. If you have medium length hair, use a round brush (also works if you have permed hair to create waves) and shorter hair lengths can use Vent or Denman brushes. For curly hair types, always use a wide teeth comb or detangling hairbrush.
We don’t need to tell you that styling your hair daily can seriously damage it, but if you must, ensure that you always apply leave-in conditioners and styling products that provide heat protection. Alex suggests the KMS ThermalShape Hot Flex Spray if you are partial to flat-irons or curlers as it offers heat protection up to 200 degrees, and you can restyle after without having to use additional products. As for Johnny, he swears by any products in the the Toni & Guy Label M line, and advises never exceeding 120 degrees if you are heat styling.
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You can ditch the silk pillowcase you’ve been reading so much about, as both stylists maintain that it is merely a myth. According to Alex, frizz happens for many reasons, such as natural hair structure, dry weather and already damaged hair. He recommends applying a leave-in product that offers frizz control, or has some form of keratin treatment instead.
As for the caveman regime advocated by many celebrities, Kim dismisses the concept of “self cleansing”. In our Southeast Asian climates particularly, this regime is not at all feasible and might very well be detrimental to your scalp hygiene and health, as we perspire more often than colder, western countries. Also, your scalp literally cannot self cleanse as all it produces are perspiration and sebum. If you rely on styling products, the build-up that accumulates on your scalp if you don’t wash them off will cause reactions like sensitivity and itching. You need a good shampoo to remove this build-up so your scalp can return to its natural PH balance of 4-5.5.
Not washing your hair after a few days, in combination with potential build up from products will only cause your scalp to become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus, resulting in infected follicles and eventually, hair loss. Definitely no-go on the caveman routine then!
Like good skin, good hair comes from within, and eating healthy is key to having a great head of hair. “Hair is a good barometer for your health, and a good diet equates to good hair.” Kim says. “Foods for healthy hair are those that are rich in vitamin E, like coconut oil, olive oil and avocados (bring on the avo toast people). Fish that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids is also beneficial, and don’t forget protein-rich food like liver, eggs and soy. Finally, incorporating a good dose of vitamin A-rich foods like kale, most leafy green vegetables and sweet potatoes won’t hurt either!” she recommends.
Alex Neo: Always make sure you blow dry your hair completely after shampooing for healthy hair and scalp.
Johnny Ng: Tip #1 If you have long hair and you want a bit of a wave, plait your hair before going to bed. Tip #2 If you go for a sauna, apply your conditioner or treatment before stepping in. Tip #3 If you are planning to swim, wet your hair, apply some cheap conditioner and don a swimming cap before stepping into the water to prevent it from getting damaged by chlorine.