The truth about helmets and your hair

September 2015

botak jones

If you’re a man, your greatest fear in life (apart from flying cockroaches) is to wake up one day with more hair on your pillow than on your head. But can wearing a helmet lead to hair loss, and if so, what can be done about it? We take a close look at the bald truth about hair fall, hair care, and yes, hair regeneration….

SINGAPORE – “Woah, you definitely have trichological challenges,” says Peggy Goh, pretty much as soon as we shake hands. In plain English that means I’m suffering from hair fall, or premature hair loss, or just balding, or Patrick Stewart disease. However you put it, news like that hits you like a wet fish in the face. And to make things worse, it’s just been given to me by an expert with more than 20 years of experience.

Peggy is the principal trichologist with the DRx Group, an aesthetics company with more than 55,000 customers in Singapore and Malaysia. She runs the hair clinic at the DRx Medispa facilities in Tong Building on Orchard Road, where both men and women regularly receive the bad news I’ve just been given, but also the hair regeneration therapy to deal with it.

It took her the briefest glance at my hairline to confirm what I’d known for some time. The signs are pretty unmistakable, after all. Dragging a comb through the top of my head had become distressingly free of resistance, and on sunny days I was beginning to feel vague sensations of being barbecued above my ears.

Then at the press launch for the BMW S 1000 XR in May, I mingled with motorcycle journalists from around Europe for a couple of days, and I noticed a fairly frightening proportion who were much more shiny on top than me. I wondered if their constant helmet use was a factor. So I decided to ask an expert, which is where Peggy and DRx Trichology comes into the picture.

WHAT REALLY CAUSES HAIR LOSS
It turns out that men lose their hair for two main reasons. If you’re predisposed to the condition, then you basically have your father to thank. You probably have his eyes or nose or face shape, so there’s a good chance you’ll have his botak head, too, as you might put it in Singapore.

“If you’re predisposed to the condition, you would more or less start to experience early onset hair loss, as early as 18 to 28 years of age,” says Peggy. “Your classic, textbook example? It’s Prince William. Do you remember him when he was 18 and he had this wonderful mop of hair? Now look at him in his 30s. It’s game over. He did nothing to slow it down.”

Essentially, Prince William has inherited a thinning crown from his father decades before inheriting the royal one.

That kind of hair loss tends to be hormonal. A hormone called dihydrotestosterone disrupts the three-month growth cycle that healthy hairs undergo, leaving follicles dormant.

Wear a helmet? Clean it well (see below) or use a liner if you want to keep your hair, says Peggy Goh, principal trichologist at DRx Medispa

But there’s another hair loss category that has much less to do with destiny, that Peggy calls trigger hairfall. That has to do with lifestyle factors that are mostly within an individual’s control.

Poor sleep or heavy stress are factors in hair loss, for example. DRx Trichology sees a lot of Forex traders who do the New York market. “They don’t sleep through the night. Things like that can take a toll,” says Peggy.

And if you’re steadily abusing your body, expect it to catch up with you on top, too. Booze and cigarettes are roads to hairfall that Peggy tells her patients to avoid. “For guys, it’s the double vices,” she says. “I always tell them to choose one.” None, of course, would be better.

The basic principle is that hair is a barometer for health, says Peggy. If you keep your body and scalp in good condition, you can keep trigger hairfall at bay. And unsurprisingly, your helmet has a part to play in that.

If, like most of the nutters at CarBuyer HQ, you’re enough of a speed demon to strap a helmet on regularly for track days at Sepang and Pasir Gudang, or for stints at the karting circuits, or just to straddle a motorcycle , then here’s where you need to pay attention: helmets are grimy germ bombs. The stuff in your lid may be your germs, but they’re still germs.

THE HIRSUTE OF HAPPINESS
Shining one of those UV lamps you see on CSI into a helmet would apparently horrify the average helmet user. “I wish I could get one to scare the daylights out of bikers,” says Peggy. She says that DRx does see its share of motorcycle riders, and her usual advice is for them to clean their lids thoroughly and often, and to wear some sort of liner or a bandana.

“There’s black grime, you perspire, there’s oil, there’s clay, there’s gel, there’s hairspray…” she says. Then she looks into my helmet, and graciously resists clicking her tongue. “See, you’ve got dead skin cells in there,” she exclaims. “It’s all that dirt. It’s not the reason your hair is falling, but it can be a contributing factor.”

So there you have it, fellow speed demons. Helmets are not the downfall of your hair, but they can make things worse.

But if you really are in danger of one day waking up with more hairs on your pillow than on your head, what can be done about it?

Clinically there are two FDA-approved products that are proven to work, says Peggy, and on the other hand a course of treatment at DRx Trichology should show results in three months. The crucial thing, though, is to do something about it while you still can — the perfect candidate for hair regeneration is someone who still has hair. A bald patch, she explains, will stay bald.

THREE STEPS TO HAIR-VEN?
“You came to see me at the perfect time,” says Peggy. “I need hair to grow hair.” With no time to waste, she prescribes DRx Trichology’s Intensive Hair Regeneration therapy, which starts with my climbing into a chair where oxygenated steam is being applied to my head. That sounds gnarly, but actually turns out to be rather nice.

“You’ve got all that gunk on the surface of your scalp,” says Peggy, meaning dead skin cells and goodness knows what else. An oil-dissolving serum and the O2-rich steam take care of those.

“It’s very much like a facial on the scalp,” says Peggy. “That’s followed by the torture.”

Torture? If you hate needles, you might want to stop reading now. The DRx system involves applying a hair-strengthening serum and plant-derived stem cells that stimulate hair regrowth, and then driving them into the scalp with titanium micro needles.

“Don’t lie to your readers. It is not comfortable,” says Peggy. Apparently, grown men have cried. But that was before DRx came up with an electric derma pen — essentially a tiny jackhammer — with fine, adjustable settings. Now we merely wince.

“Men have a lousy if not zero pain threshold,” laughs Peggy. Since she gave it to me straight, I’ll do the same: the derma pen stings like the dickens, and feels like there are fire ants on your head who have just discovered that they prefer the taste of scalp to sugar. But the pain of a thousand little jabs  is easy to withstand if you picture the agony of a life with no hair as the alternative. If it’s either bear or bare, I’ll take the former.

Once the “torture” is done they stick your head under a laser light lamp. It promotes blood circulation in the scalp, but also intensifies the effects of the strengthening serum and stem cell growth factor.

The entire process is a bit like farming. “We irrigate the scalp, dump in the fertiliser, and zap with you the sunlight. That works like photosynthesis,” says Peggy.

Regular sessions — along with a twice-daily cleanse-strengthen-stimulate routine that you perform at home — should produce results in three months, according to DRx.

“It’s a three-pronged system that works,” says Peggy. “We’ve been doing it for about 10 years. Before that was a two-year clinical study, tweaking and stuff. What has been tweaked throughout the years is the cocktail, the preparations that we give you.” There are serums with varying strength for patients who could do with a bit of turbocharged help, but Peggy says that DRx has an advantage in that it uses pharmaceutical grade products that other hair care centres may not have access to.

Beyond that, Peggy prescribes a few lifestyle changes — basically healthier eating, fewer trips to the bar, and a daily dose of Vitamin B complex — and then it’s simply a matter of waiting.

We’ll check the results in a future of issue of CarBuyer, but meanwhile I’m already looking forward to the next steam-cleaning.

If you’re thinking of rescuing your own hair, the first step is a conversation with a professional trichologist like Peggy. “I try and manage expectations, so you can even decide if you want to begin this journey,” she says. The one thing DRx Trichology refuses to peddle, in other words, is false hope.

Hair regrowth takes three months, however. Till then, here’s hoping.

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