Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hair Loss- My True Story

My True story

Like many of you, I am also a victim of hair loss …..

More and more Singaporean men are losing their ‘crowns of glory’ and this trend may be getting earlier and earlier.On the streets in these recent years, we may spot a relatively number of young men who are bald or balding. Compare this phenomenon to say ten years ago when this phenomenon is not commonly seen.

This balding trend among Singaporean men is sparking an increasing proliferation of hair treatment centres. Hair treatment centres have practically sprung up all over the island with the likes of Beijing 101, Yunnan, Svenson, Bossin, etc.Causes of hair loss can be hereditary, or caused by stress, drug medications, poor diets, oily scalp etc and these causes manifest into the many forms or types of hair loss such as male pattern baldness, telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, etc.A normal human loses about 50 to 100 hairs per day and this loss is not alarming. However if more than this number is lost per day, one should seek a doctor before it is too late.Hair grows from follicles, and if one balds and takes no actions, the follicles will eventually die and there will be no more growth. It will be too late for any action. Note that when I say bald, normally a human will not go totally bald, the follicles at the sides of the human scalp, the parts above the years are programmed for life, and hair grows for life at these particular areas.

Balding follows a pattern known as the Norwood chart.There are three stages of hair growth: anagen (the growing phase), catagen (the intermediate phase) and telogen (the shedding phase). Hair loss occurs when the hair grows and sheds fast. The average life cycle of a hair is 2 to 3 years and each hair growth to fall can last 25 cycles, balding occurs when these cycles are accelerated and completed so fast that the cycles end, the follicles dies off and the hair can never grow back again.

I understand in this post, there are many jargons and technical terms that are used. The internet offers a rich array of resources for which one can research in depth and understand more about hair loss.

In this post, I will just roughly summarize what I understand and experience about hair loss from my studies and very own personal experiences.In the past, I have very thick volumes of hair so much so that I complained about having to go to the barber often as my hair grows so fast. Showering, there would be no hair lost as my hair is so strong.Following a medical treatment some two years ago from a supposedly reputable clinic and consuming the drug nimigen, I notice hair loss, my hair shed in the dozens on the bed and at the bathtub sinks daily so much so that I stopped taking this drug nimigen and stop the laser treatments.

During the consumption of nimigen, my complexion becomes too dry as it is supposed to prevent facial oiliness but it overdoes. Till today, I still do not know the real reason for my hair loss though I believe it has to do significantly with the laser treatment and the consumption of nimigen. On hindsight, I shall not have carried out with the treatment and the consumption of the medicine and this doctor still asked his nurses to force me back to continue with the remaining treatments and at the same time, refuting all my allegations squarely.

I spent close to $3K only to lose even moreAnyway that is the past already and nothing can be done to turn back the clock. What I want to share with readers here are my experiences and what I have gone through to combat hair loss and hopefully it can provide some useful glimpses or lessons to those who are currently suffering from hair loss.

Okay for the start, I first stopped all the causes that I believe have contributed to my hair loss and that is to discontinue with the medical treatments and the nimigen consumption. But even with that, two months down the road, the hair loss does not subside, so it was time to take some real actions.From the internet, I came to learnt of two drugs called Propecia, an oral medication, costing about $95 dollars at that time for 28 pills, to be taken one pill a day; and a topical hair spray called minoxidil (called Regaine, Rogaine, Growell, etc in the market) also at a $95 for one bottle that can last a month.I went to a doctor and was prescribed Propecia, taking one pill a day for three months, after which I stopped.

Why do I stop? Firstly, there was no improvement and secondly, I began to experience what was mentioned as the side effects of this drug, i.e. I begin to feel less manly, though it was a minor side effect that the drug claimed and that it affect only a small percentage of users.

With these two factors, I stopped using this drug and the less- than- manly feeling, which was temporary finally subsided. I did not use Minoxidil, as I also learnt of its side effects too. I want to list down the possible side effects of these two drugs here:Propecia: Lack of ‘manliness’Minoxidil: Increase scalp sensitivity, itchiness, dandruff, increase sensitivity to the sunAnd the most important drawback of these two scientific proven drugs is that once you stop using these two drugs, whatever new hair that you have grow will fall again!

Thus these two drugs are to be used for life! Imagine the cost involved to maintain these newly formed hair: $100 (for each of these treatments per month), this amount translates to $1200 and more per year, and so on ......

So after ending the use of the Propecia, I began to explore natural ways of cure. One method that I thought of was using mild shampoo like Johnson Baby Shampoo, however its mild concentration was not strong enough to clear the oilness of my scalp.

My hair loss may be due to oiliness and dandruff as I did notice these symptoms like dandruff on my pillow.So I decided to explore the help of professionals and there was a vast array of choices from the dermatogists and hair treatment centres.I went to one such hair treatment centre for a free consultation and these ‘professionals’ scanned my hair, only to reveal many patches of oil and these ‘professionals’ introduced me a package to clear my scalp greasiness.

The package cost a bomb and I did not like the pushiness of these professional in introducing these packages to me. Also I have heard many stories of people having spent more than $10,000 on these supposedly good cures only to lose even more hair or having no improvement seen, besides wasting their hard-earned money.!Thus, hair treatment centres scared me off at that point and I decided to consult a top hair dermatologist in Singapore instead.It was not cheap.

 First consultation alone cost $80. The dermatologist inspected my hair and said there was nothing wrong. She prescribed me with two shampoo, Nizoral ($25) and a Gentle Shampoo ($21) to be rotated interchangeably daily and a sebum regulator to be applied on the scalp at night after washing ($18).


However, there was still no improvement.

In fact, the residue from the sebum regulator produced tiny sticky white residue on my hair once my hair dried to the extent that my colleagues thought my hair had dandruff.

Anyway my hair was still very oily and coated with some dandruff too, despites applying the supposedly strong and beneficial shampoos that the top dermatologist prescribed. I confirmed this fact when I popped into one of the hair treatment centre at a shopping centre for curiosity and did a free consultation with the centre.

The ‘scanner’ that the centre operators used magnified my scalp glands many times over, revealing the oily spots, it really look disgusting with such a hundred times over magnification of the sebaceous scalp glands. The operators said my scalp glands were choked with oil, and this may cause hair loss; but I did not want to take any chance with this centre and off I left.I went for a second consultation with the dermatologist I saw previously.

Again, the dermatologist said there was nothing wrong with my hair or with my scalp and the results from the ‘hair-pull’ test she carried out on me revealed no extraordinary hair loss. After hearing the story of the medical treatment I did and the drug nimigen I consumed, she suspected that it may be telogen effluvium caused by the medication, a condition which could only go away in times to come; though my oily scalp may be a contributing factor too.

She told me that she could not do anything except to help me diagnose the cause of my hair loss via a scalp biopsy ($589) and a blood test ($169); all price stated without GST. Hearing the prices, I hesitated but in an urge to find out the real cause, I decided to take the plunge and carried out the scalp biopsy and the blood test.I did the blood test first and the pain was nothing compared to the scalp biopsy I undergone later on.

 It was no joke, having a piece of your head scalp being removed surgically and the pain was terrible despite the application of anaesthetics prior to the treatment. After both the tests, the nurse rubbed a Bactroban cream on the part of my scalp which was operated on to kill the bacteria; after sewing this part of the scalp.

There was still little pain that subsisted everytime I shampoo the sewn part of the scalp. I was told to come back two weeks later to remove the stitch and to obtain the results of the diagnosis. I was given the remaining of the Bactroban cream to apply daily on the affected scalp to ease the pain and kill the bacteria.

Two weeks later, I returned to the same clinic to remove the stitch and the dermatologist handed me the result; and the result indicated that it was telogen effluvium. The dermatologist said it was good news as this condition which may be due to the medication I took would finally subside after some time. I would be waiting for this to come soon.

But alas, days pass and then months, it was futile. Seeing tons and tons of hair on the bathroom sink and waking up everyday to witness the hundreds of hair strewn across my bed and on my bedroom floor did nothing to assuage me that my illness would go away.

The visits to the dermatologist have also drained me financially and in a desperate move, I decided to try out some off-the-counter hair loss products available at pharmacies.I tried the Himalyan Hair Loss Cream (Herbal) for about one month but it was useless so I went to see the dermatologist again for the fourth and fifth time (that was in April and May last year), but again the dermatologist assessed and said there was nothing wrong with my hair, no male pattern loss or whatever.

But indeed, my hair was getting thinner and thinner by the day. She prescribed me with stronger shampoos and sebum regulator which I used without seeing any improvements. It was at this time that I finally decided not to see the dermatologist again as there was simply no use at all!

Hair continued to fall and fall.From then on (Jun 07), I have ‘more or less accepted my fate’ and accepted my hair loss fact. I tried Kaminomoto Hair Growth Accelerator and a good shampoo called Melaleucca Shampoo recommended by my friend but it was really no use at all. The telogen effluvium which I was diagnosed with did not seem to be the hair illness that struck me as it simply did not stop within a short period. It was over one year and my hair still continued to fall like rain.

Over the whole of this hair loss ordeal, I carried out numerous researches on hair loss over the internet, which further equipped me with all knowledge concerning hair loss. I tried all I could, from observing what I consumed (less oil), watching my diet, exercising regularly and even cutting down on some coffee and tea. But it did not help in the loss.I have also shared my findings with others on an internet discussion forum posting and the thread saw some 55,000 odd readers before it was finally removed by the administrator.

With my knowledge learnt from the internet and my ordeal, I shared with some of these forumers; some of them even emailed me to ask questions. For hair loss, there is really no one fixed miracle panacea: what works for one may not work for others.The hair loss did affect my life a bit: waking up in the morning and after shampooing, I counted the number of strands of hair that I lost and any fewer in count would make me slightly happier. I used to enjoy the wind but now I avoid being ‘confronted’ with a gust of wind for fear that the wind would blow off some of my hair. It does not help that Singapore can get breezy at times!

And definitely, my self-esteem would suffer a bit of loss and it did not help that I am still without a girlfriend at my age! Hair loss would certainly dealt me a serious disadvantage in this ‘image-conscious’ society; though it may not be always true: I still do my fair share of admirers as some girls are not particular over looks.

Entering the MRT daily, I always observed young man at different stages of balding; sometimes I saw friends who I have not seen for some years completely bald! This shocked me and brought me to the reality that balding in Singapore is not just MY problem, it is OUR problem !

Is it due to stress in this fast-paced society of ours? Or is it due to the diet here that causes more young men and even women to bald? And the fact that the coffers of hair treatment centres are constantly ringing? From June since I stopped the treatment and sporadically choosing some over-the-counters, I left it to nature to heal this sticky problem; it was till December 07 that I learnt some fact from one of the forumers to my post and I changed course and undertook another attempt against hair loss ……………(to be continued)

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SINGAPORE HAIR LOSS SUPPORT GROUP IS A BLOG WHERE the views and opinions expressed in this blog and blog posts arise from the author's perspectives, encounters and experiences directly or indirectly. The author, SINGAPORE HAIR LOSS SUPPORT GROUP, shall not be liable for any damage caused to the reader arising from the use or purchase of information, products and services directly or indirectly featured or implied in this blog or email replies to readers. The author of this blog reserves the copyrights to all writing, photography and images in this blog. All rights reserved. You may not copy or otherwise reproduce any of this content without prior written permission.