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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow (Hair Fall)

By Gesel Pereyra-Mangilit as written for The Daily Tribune (www.tribune.net.ph).

Nothing ruins the promise of a great day more than bad hair. But that is increasingly becoming a thing of the past since people today have in their arsenal a long list of products they can use to get that great mane they want whenever, wherever. Unfortunately, these easy fixes only work if your hair stays in your head long enough to take the abuse.

According to the Procter & Gamble Kobe Technical Center in Japan, given the rate at which hair grows -- one centimeter a month - one would have had "around 1000 washes, more than 5,500 hours of sun exposure, thousands of times styled, brushed or retouched and maybe about 23 applications of hair colorants" by the time the hair has grown to shoulder length (approximately 30 cms). We, women, can be as brutal and abusive of our hair. All in the name of beauty. No wonder the price we pay is just as high --- hair literally down the drain. When you start seeing less hair on your head and more on your bathroom sink or pillow, you had better do something -- and fast.

While the first person you are likely to approach is your hairdresser, a dermatologist specializing in trichology, a branch of science derived from beauty care and dermatology, will offer sound advice. At the recent launch of Pantene Hair Fall Control Shampoo at Nuvo Restaurant in Greenbelt 2, Dr. Ma. Rica Silva-Mallari of the Hair Unit of St. Luke's Medical Center's Dermatology Center gave guests an overview of the causes of hair fall.

It doesn't take an expert to tell us that healthy hair is the pre-requisite to strong and beautiful hair. But to achieve that, one must learn how to eat right for starters, because in some cases, falling hair is caused by under-nutrition. Low zinc levels causes hair fall, while iron deficiency is known to cause brittle, limp hair. B vitamins are essential for hair gloss, color and thickness.

Some causes of hair fall though can't be prevented, according to Dr. Mallari. While men are genetically predisposed to hair loss, women can also lose substantial amounts of hair during pregnancy and lactation, which sucks out all the nutrients in the body, making hair weak at the roots and susceptible to breakage. Hair products that contain panthenol as active ingredients are beneficial to hair because it penetrates the hair shaft where the cuticles have been damaged. It also increases moisture in the hair shafts, thereby reducing the frictional force among strands during combing.

Apart from physiological causes, tension or stress can also cause hair fall. And by this, we don't mean running your fingers through your hair countless times after a particularly trying day at the office and finding strands of hair falling. It has to do with lifestyle and bad habits like lack of sleep or smoking. Bad habits could also mean rubbing your wet hair vigorously to dry it, getting it all tangled up and damaging the cuticle, the outer protective layer of the hair. So is brushing dry hair with the proverbial 100 strokes a day, which can produce static electricity, making hair prone to breakage. Not to mention all the gunk we put in our hair to get that ''contoured'' or what a friend describes as her sexy, tousled look, which by the way, requires loads of medium hold hair gel and a few over-the-head flips and finger styling.

While my Mama swears by their herbal shampoos, twice-a-month coconut milk hair treatment and occasional gugo regimen and rubbing and letting her scalp marinate in sabila (aloe vera) juice (believe me, you wouldn't want to try this, the smell is awful), she is lucky to be living in a time when even the hair has experts like Dr. Mallari to take care of it and science to develop shampoos and conditioners that not only rinse hair, but contain vitamins and minerals to nourish it. The bane of this lady's existence is styling gels and hair spitzers that contain chemicals (even though some may say they're hair friendly) which weigh down her hair.

Pantene conducted studies of Asian women and found that at least 46 percent of them accept hair fall with resignation, even though one out of 10 experience hair fall in drastic measures, meaning exceeding the 50 to 100 strands a day normal hair fall. Pantene Hair Fall Control claims to reduce hair breakage by up to 50 percent within two months of regular use, thereby lessening hair fall.

Women (and many men) take great pains to get that well-groomed, head-turning mane, but as our hair expert said, no cosmetic fix can match the luster and shine of healthy hair. With the right products, you can make sure your hair today isn't gone tomorrow.

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