This is a tough topic for me tackle. Almost a full year after I concluded my travels in SEA, I have been plagued by increasing hair loss. Initially, it was not noticeable (to me, at least) but I've recently gotten a bit of commentary on my now very thin hair. I searched the topic and other men and women have experienced this same phenomena after travelling through very humid and tropical climates as I did. After much research and perhaps some irrational thinking during this (continuing) ordeal, here are some reasons I considered as the cause for my hair loss as well as some discussion around them.
1. Female pattern baldness
My scalp after two days without washing my hair. Apparently, the Christmas tree hair loss patterns here may be indicative of female pattern baldness. As a 21 year old, this is absolutely terrifying for myself and a massive bash to my self-image and self-confidence. I know, many people will say that I shouldn't care about how I look and contribute a plethora of sayings along the lines of "confidence is from within." Let's be real. I'm 21 and losing handfuls of hair in the shower and I'm scared out of my wits about being prematurely bald.
2. Stress from moving to another country/travelling extensively
Admittedly, my hair was always thin to begin with as you can see from this picture from 2012, long before any sort of travelling. That was the texture but not the density of the hair on my scalp. I never felt any extreme stress while abroad especially when getting used to the new environment, foods, peoples and cultures. However, my body and physicality displayed quite the contrary with my yearlong hair loss. Physical and/or emotional stress might have sent my body into rest mode in which I'd tend to notice more hair loss. Actually, I might have forgotten about my hospital episode in Cambodia wherein there was the stress of a 104 degree fever that wreaked havoc for 4 days.
"During the telogen, or resting, phase the follicle remains dormant anywhere from 1–4 months. Ten to fifteen percent of the hairs on one's head are in this phase of growth at any given time." Source
Bear in mind that I am no dermatologist and I plan to seek professional help once I am back from my internship in South Korea. All of this is done with the most minimal of research and maximum of freaking out.
3. I wore a cap/hat almost everyday while backpacking
Unless my cap was excessively tight, then this would not be a good reason and/or cause for hair loss.
Hair loss myth busters
4. I dyed my hair too goddamn much
No, that isn't my real hair colour though it might as well be now that I've exposed my hair to so much sunshine. I've dyed and used heating tools on my hair for over 6 years now and I thought that my current hair loss is extreme karma for disobeying the almighty Asian parents that I have when I dyed my hair against their wishes multiple times. However, dyes are generally only harmful to the hair strands themselves and don't necessarily lead to hair loss.
There are SO MANY reasons I thought of that could possibly explain the current state of my scalp but of course, I should seek professional attention and I will! For now, I am using OTC 2% minoxidil treatments to help revitalize my hair follicles and combat some of my unfortunately low self-esteem. If all is well, I will post a hair loss/scalp update in 6 months - 1 year.
Does this discourage me from travelling to hot and humid locations? NO. Not at all. But it does make me more aware of how I'm taking care of my body.
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