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Hair Myths and Facts: Ask the Hair Health Specialists

Stylist Jim Shaw and Dermatologist Nicole Rogers, MD help you separate fact from fiction about hair health and hair care.

Question:
How long should I wait to bleach my hair after undergoing chemotherapy and radiation?
Answer:

Jim Shaw, stylist: I would ask your oncologist. At my salon, our customers usually wait until their hair has grown to 2-3 inches long for highlights and 1-2 inches long for a single process color.

Question:
I have to color my gray hair every 2 weeks. Is there something I can do to make my color last longer?
Answer:

Shaw: Yes. You can use sulfate-free shampoos. They are designed to preserve your color.

Question:
Is it possible to permanently turn my naturally wavy hair into straight hair? If so, how?
Answer:

Shaw: No. You can have it straightened with relaxers. But your hair will grow in with its natural texture.

Question:
I am an African-American woman with natural hair. My curl pattern is very tight and my hair can get very dry. I also have gray hair growing in at the front of my scalp. What would be the best kinds of hair color (to cover my grays) and hair care products for my hair type?
Answer:

Shaw: Use permanent color and products with natural ingredients. I prefer to products with a natural oil base for my clients with hair types similar to yours.

Question:
I saw an ad for a "5-in-1 cleansing conditioner" that's supposed to take the place of shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, detangler, and leave-in conditioner, all in one bottle. Can this kind of product really work for my hair?
Answer:

Shaw: Yes. But how effective they are depends on your hair type. These kinds of products can be heavy on the hair. Most people complain about the oily look and feel they experience after using them. I suggest you try one and see if you like it. 

Question:
I have straight, fine, salt-and-pepper hair. What kind of detangler will work for my hair type?
Answer:

Shaw: For your hair, it would be best to use a detangler that is liquid instead of creamy. That way, your fine hair will not be weighed-down with product.

Question:
Does body hair grow at the same rate as the hair on your head?
Answer:

Nicole Rogers, MD: Generally yes. The difference is that it does not grow for as long -- only for a few months -- as the hair on your head, which grows for a few years. That is why body hair reaches a certain, usually shorter length, then falls out.

Question:
What condition might cause body hair to fall out?
Answer:

Rogers: Several conditions can cause a loss of body hair in addition to the hair on your head. These include alopecia areata and lichen planopilaris. Male and female pattern hair loss is generally limited to the scalp.

Question:
What is hair follicle testing? If a sample is taken from my scalp, how far back in time can the results extend?
Answer:

Rogers: Perhaps you are asking about a scalp biopsy. This is when a sample of your hair follicles is taken by a dermatologist in order to understand whether there is any underlying scalp pathology. A scalp biopsy is helpful in making a diagnosis of why you may be having hair loss or any other scalp-related symptoms, such as itching, burning, or flaking. Scalp biopsies can only be used to help your dermatologist understand what kind of health conditions or issues have taken place for you within the last few months.

Question:
Can my hair fall out if I eat too much steak?
Answer:

Rogers: No. There is no link with hair loss and consumption of red meats, such as steak.

Question:
Is it necessary to wash my hair every day? I was told every few days is better so I don't dry out my hair.
Answer:

Rogers: No. You do not need to wash every day unless you have a very oily scalp. However, washing your hair less frequently will not prevent you from losing your hair or having thinning hair.

Question:
Can taking fish oil supplements help my hair grow healthier?
Answer:

Rogers: Fish oil supplements may help with certain inflammatory conditions of the skin and scalp, such as psoriasis. However, there is no data linking fish oil consumption with hair health specifically.

Question:
I pulled some of my hair out about 9 months ago. Will it ever grow back?
Answer:

Rogers: Unless you pulled so hard you destroyed the follicle, these hairs should grow back. I would recommend you allow a full 12 months to see the hair return, if it hasn't already.

Question:
Two weeks ago I fell and got a 4-inch cut on the back of my head. How long should I wait to shampoo my hair and put a color rinse in it?
Answer:

Rogers: You can probably shampoo your hair immediately. But be careful about applying any color or relaxers to your hair until the skin is fully healed.

Question:
Can hair loss be a side effect of taking Zocor or Zoloft?
Answer:

Rogers: Yes. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) as a class -- including Zoloft -- can cause hair loss. This has not been reported with Zocor, but it could develop as an idiopathic reaction.

Question:
Can having a problem with your thyroid cause you to lose handfuls of hair at one time?
Answer:

Rogers: Certainly. Either under or over-active thyroid can cause one to lose hair. Check with your internist or endocrinologist to be sure your thyroid levels are where they need to be.

Question:
Can putting miconazole on my scalp help my hair grow faster?
Answer:

Rogers: No. There is no evidence that miconazole -- which is a topical anti-fungal medicine -- can help regrow hair.

Question:
Can split ends really be mended or repaired, like some hair products claim they can do?
Answer:

Rogers: Yes. They can be coated with certain silicone containing products to bind together the split ends. When the hair is washed the product will not stay in and they will go back to appearing dry and split. The only real "cure" for split ends is to cut the hair.

Question:
A friend of mine had what seemed like an allergic reaction -- difficulty breathing -- to two different brands of hair coloring. What can she do? Should she avoid having her hair colored for the rest of her life?
Answer:

Rogers: She should first see an allergist or a dermatologist to find out which ingredient(s) in the hair dye may have caused her reaction. Then, if this ingredient can be eliminated from the product she uses (there are many dyes free of contact allergens), she may be alright. But she should be extremely careful and apply any new hair colors to a small test area first.

Question:
Can continually coloring my hair damage my hair and/or scalp after years of repetition?
Answer:

Rogers: Yes, if the coloring is done in combination with the application of high heat or relaxers. Color alone does not cause nearly as much damage to the hair or scalp by itself, especially when the processes of coloring and relaxing, or coloring and adding heat are spaced conservatively apart.

Question:
Is there a difference between how fast a man's hair grows as opposed to a woman's?
Answer:

Rogers: No. There is no evidence to suggest a difference in the rate of hair growth between men and women.

Question:
I was diagnosed with alopecia about 45 years ago. In the last 4 years, I've lost almost all the hair on my head, except my eyelashes and brows. The amount of body hair I have has also been affected. I've been under the care of numerous dermatologists -- usually for a year each time -- and have undergone different treatments with each one. Have there been any recent advances in the treatment of alopecia?
Answer:

Rogers: Your doctor may be willing to prescribe systemic anti-inflammatory medications. However, each case differs and in general the more of the body that is affected by alopecia areata the more difficult it can be to regrow those lost hairs.

Question:
I am a 64-year-old woman and I’m in good health. My hair has always been very fine. But over the course of this last year I noticed that the hair that frames my forehead along the sides has gotten shorter. What could be the cause of this? Can my hair recover somehow?
Answer:

Rogers: This hair is likely undergoing a miniaturization process, whereby it gets replaced by hairs that are finer and thinner than their previous counterparts. It is frequent for women to have thinning along the hairline, especially in what we call the temporal recessions. You may benefit from using topical minoxidil to thicken and lengthen these hairs.

Question:
Can taking coconut oil soft gels really help improve the quality of my hair? If so, how many should I take in a day? Are there any other vitamins that I can take that would actually help my hair grow faster and stronger?
Answer:

Rogers: No. There are not any supplements that have been well-proven to thicken the hair. Certain medications can be used off-label in women -- such as spironolactone and finasteride -- and these may be added at the discretion of your doctor.

Question:
What should I do -- or not do -- to my hair to help it grow longer faster? I’ve been trying to grow it out and it’s taken years just to reach shoulder-length.
Answer:

Rogers: Topical minoxidil is what you need to be applying to your scalp to help achieve thicker hair and to keep it in the actively growing anagen phase for a longer period of time. You must use if for 6-12 months every day and twice daily in order to see optimal results.

Thank you for joining us for WebMD Ask the Hair Health Specialists. Be sure to check in again on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. ET, when we will be discussing hair care through your 30s, 40s, and 50s. Sign up if you'd like an email reminder the day before the event.

WebMD Ask the Specialist Transcript

Reviewed by Nicole Rogers, MD on January 16, 2012

The opinions expressed in this section are of the Specialist and the Specialist alone. They do not reflect the opinions of WebMD and they have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance or objectivity. WebMD is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on WebMD. 

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