Thanks to lifestyle changes, hair problems are becoming increasingly common in both women and men, doctors say, warning against being misled by random products bought over the counter.
"Hair problems are becoming common these days and we have noticed an increase of 10-12 percent in patients coming with such problems every year. Similarly, the demand for hair transplants has also increased over the last five years," D.M. Mahajan, dermatologist at Delhi's Apollo Hospital, told IANS.
The nature of hair problems is varied - hair fall, thinning, baldness, dandruff, scalp problems and the like. Depending on the age group, some problems are more common than others.
"The most common problem that inflicts people across all age groups is hair loss. This is a big concern for women and young males. The second most common problem is dandruff. This is usually related to climate, type of water and soap and shampoo used," Mohan Thomas, cosmetic surgeon at Mumbai's Breach Candy Hospital, told IANS.
Usually, men suffer from hair loss at an earlier age than women, he added. "Concerns about hair loss are usually more in men and at a younger age, starting as early as in their 20s".
The reason for hair loss could be anything - bad lifestyle, poor diet, pollution, hormones or even genetics. But stress is the big culprit behind the increasing hair woes among people, doctors say.
"Stress is a major factor behind hair loss. Hair is the fastest growing organ in the human body but has less stability. So when there is a change in season, or an exam coming up, it is generally accompanied with hair loss. Plus, there are other factors, like not enough exposure to sun and vitamin D deficiency, peer pressure or anxiety," Mahajan said.
Nitin Walia, consultant in the dermatology department at Delhi's Max Hospital, said that women usually suffer from hair loss post-pregnancy, after menopause, or when there is a hormonal imbalance.
While doctors unanimously agree that an increase in awareness among both the sexes, and at an early age, is benefitting in early detection of problems; random use of hair care products should be discouraged.
"Some patients come to us after trying every possible product bought over the counter. A majority of them have tried home therapies or have gone by their hairdresser's advice. A word of advice - companies try to push the sale of their products through beauty parlours; so be careful," Walia cautioned while speaking to IANS.
Instead of relying on haircare products, doctors suggest medical intervention for problems so as to pinpoint the exact reason. For instance, women with dry and thinning hair need their thyroid hormones checked.
Dandruff and boils on the scalp, if not treated early, can also lead to hair loss later.
"Most of the shampoos don't carry scientific evidence of solving hair problems. They are just cleansers," Walia said.
Breach Candy's Thomas recalled the case of a 38-year-old woman with grey hair who had been using a branded hair dye for years. Seeing a new product on TV, she decided to try it.
"After a couple of weeks, she noticed tiny eruptions on her scalp. This led to flaking of skin and dryness of hair, further leading to hair breakage. When she approached us, we stopped the product usage and put her on low dose steroid-based creams and sun screens. It took months before the hair grew back to normal," Thomas said.
"I therefore advise people to use medicated products under a doctor's supervision. Shampoos should ideally have a pH of 4.5-5; otherwise it makes your hair alkaline and dry," he added.