HEALTHY HAIR GROWTH
Strengthen, Thicken, Lengthen from Root to Tip
Long let me inhale, deeply the odor of your hair, into it plunge the whole of my face,
as a thirsty man into the water of a spring, and wave it in my fingers
like a scented handkerchief, to shake the memories into the air.
–Charles Baudelaire–Tennessee Williams
Give me a head of hair... a crowning glory to frame thy rosy complexion. Now ponder this: no matter how much we baby our skin, we may not look our best without our lustrous luminous hair. Simply put, a good skin day does not make up for a bad hair day. So let us now explore how to enjoy good hair days for all the days of our lives.
Our hair, like skin, starts its journey renewing itself with youthful vigor. When we are young, we flaunt our thick, well-pigmented, and fast growing hair. But the passage of time takes a toll, and our hair begins to thin or vanish, grow more slowly, and turn gray.
While the search for methods to restore healthy, younger hair is ancient, the reality is that, even today, in the era of Rogaine® (minoxidil) and Propecia® (finasteride), the therapies that profess to restore hair health give a marginal result at best.
While far from a miracle therapy, research on copper peptides has uncovered an unexpected benefit: they stimulate hair follicle growth and function. More and more, copper peptides are being used to improve hair growth and condition, with promising results.
Why the Big Apple is a Bad Hair Town
The effect of the hair-care industry on hair health has been disastrous according to many scientists, including Russian Physician George Michael. Dr. Michael immigrated to New York City with his family after the 1917 revolution and later set up a medical practice. Despite the city’s abundance of beauty salons and other businesses that cater to hair, Michael was immediately struck by the poor quality of women’s tresses. He reminisced that, in the Russia of his youth, many women in their 60’s and beyond displayed healthy, well-pigmented, waist-length locks; whereas in New York City the women had difficulty growing their hair longer than six inches.
Dr. Michael concluded that the excess of dyes, cutting, blow drying, and relaxers, was damaging the women’s hair. He went on to emerge as the guru of long-hair care, opening a chain of Long Hair Clinics and working with famous long-haired beauties such as Crystal Gayle. (For more information on Dr. Michael, visit Jennifer Bahney’s www.longhairlovers.com).
Why Men Go Bald and Women Get Thin Hair
No matter how bitterly women complain about hair loss and thinning, they do have to admit that a woman who goes completely bald is a rare sight, one that is usually associated with certain medical conditions. The long known fact that so many men go bald, while women do not, prompted scientists to suspect that baldness is caused by male sex hormones, or androgens. Eventually the male hormone testosterone was established as the main culprit in male pattern hair loss. However, further research revealed a much more complex picture and even now there is still no complete clarity on why people lose their hair.
Each hair follicle goes through the three distinctive phases of growth and decline. The phase of hair growth is called anagen and it lasts for several years. Then a hair follicles enter the short phase or catagen (about two weeks), during which the follicle shrinks and pushes hair out. The resting phase, during which hair follicles are not producing hair, is called telogen and it lasts for several weeks. Then the whole cycle is repeated.
Testosterone that is found in blood is a weak androgen and has little effect on hair growth. However, in hair follicles testosterone can be converted into a much more potent form—dihydrotestosterone or DHT. Normally, DHT stimulates body and facial hair, but has no effect on scalp hair follicles because they lack specific DHT receptors.
The problems begin when certain scalp hair follicles start responding to DHT (develop DHT receptors). In this case, DHT shortens their growth phase (anagen) and eventually causes miniaturization (progressive shrinkage) of the hair follicles. As a result, with each hair cycle, the hair grows thinner and thinner until the follicles start producing thin, barely visible vellus hair instead of thick, beautiful terminal hair.
Men usually have DHT sensitive hair follicles all grouped together, typically on the forehead and on top of the head. These are the areas where hair loss is often profound and noticeable (“male pattern baldness”). In some cases, every single one of the hair follicles on a man’s head can be DHT sensitive, eventually resulting in complete baldness.
Women on the other hand, have diffuse distribution of DHT sensitive follicles. That is why women rarely go completely bald and may just develop thinning hair instead. Since the degree of DHT-dependent hair loss is determined by DHT sensitivity of hair follicles, it is quite possible for a man to have a full head of hair regardless of a high level of DHT.
An enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT is called 5-alpha-reductase (5AR). Normally skin and hair (as well as the liver) contain 5-alpha-reductase Type I, while the prostate contains 5AR Type 2. However, it was found that hair follicles in a balding scalp often contain both types of 5AR—Type I and II. That explains why male pattern hair loss can somewhat be reduced by a drug finasteride—or selective inhibitor of 5AR Type II. Unfortunately, finasteride has little effect on female hair loss.
Yet, while the DHT role in hair loss may seem so well established, recent studies have proven that it is not the whole story (Ellis et al 1998). Today other factors such as follicle inflammation, poor circulation and disrupted skin remodeling have started to come forward as true forces behind the age-old hair loss problem.
What Is Behind Hair Loss?
The causes are far more diverse than many people realize. The following is a description of the factors that can inhibit hair growth.
Hair Loss and TGF-beta. Miniaturization of the hair follicles is the most distinctive finding in individuals experiencing balding or thinning hair. So it is natural to assume that DHT is the cause of it. However, some researchers now believe that DHT causes miniaturization of hair follicles indirectly, and that its main action is to raise the level of TGF-beta (a scar promoting and pro-inflammatory cytokine). In turn, TGF-beta causes inflammation and accumulation of excessive collagen around hair follicles, restricting their growth and impeding circulation. It has been demonstrated that miniaturization of hair follicles is usually associated with inflammation, increased level of TGF-beta and accumulation of fibrose tissue around the follicle (Uno 1988).
Inadequate follicle microcirculation. The blood flow of older follicles slows down as we age which diminishes synthesis: the formation of necessary compounds. As a result the follicles shrink in size and function. The synthesis of new hair necessitates a very high nutrient flow to the follicle bulb. Morphological studies, which measure structures of aged follicles, often observe a markedly diminished capillary blood supply in aged, miniaturized follicles. This alone may be the cause of follicle miniaturization and inadequate hair synthesis (Stenn et al 1991).
Decreased subcutaneous fat layer. The layer of fat at the base of the skin, known as subcutaneous adipose tissue or “baby fat”, diminishes with age. Researchers have noted that fat accumulates around the healthy follicles that vigorously grow hair. In contrast, they observed a lack of fat around dormant follicles. They postulate that these fat cells serve a supportive function for the hair follicle. Conditions that inhibit hair growth, such as chemotherapy and starvation, also decrease the subcutaneous fat layer (Stenn et al 1991).
Lack of sulfur donors. Hair is composed of 35 percent sulfur-containing amino acids. Only bird feathers can boast a similar level of amino acids. Nutritional sulfur supplements, such as methyl sulfonyl methane (commonly known as MSM), have long been shown to beautify the manes of racehorses; and my clients rave about how MSM adds health and luster to their hair.
Damage from relaxers, excessive heat, coloring agents, and dyes. As we discussed, an array of razzle dazzle hair products, designed to beautify can inflict more harm than good as they damage the scalp and frazzle the follicles. Relaxers, permanents, color cosmetics with their organic dyes and metallic salts, and excessive heat from blow dryers and hot oil treatments can literally boil the follicles and also damage the hair shaft’s hard outer layers of keratin. When we combine these treatments, it’s like adding oil to a fire as these procedures ravish hair follicles and reduce hair growth. This follicle onslaught is most noticeable when some women lose their eyebrows and eyelashes by age 40. Such self-inflicted damage can also result in hair loss via excessive breakage, when hair shafts get so badly damaged they break, leaving only short stumps much like those in a heavily logged forest. This form of hair loss can often be reduced by a regular use of a good, well formulated conditioner. But avoiding the damage in the first place would be a much better strategy.
Excessive hair cutting. If long, lush, healthy locks are what you crave, I have good news for you. According to Dr. George Michael, long hair is healthier than short hair. He contends that the longer you grow your hair, the stronger your roots. It is possible that the hair follicles thrive from the tension produced by the weight of a heavy hair shaft in the same manner that muscles and bones respond to exercise. So cut your hair less and get more out of your hair.
Estrogens and Healthy Hair
Estrogens are female hormones that inhibit the growth of facial hair (with the exception of eyelashes) and body hair (with the exception of underarm and pubic hair), while stimulating scalp hair. Estrogens counteract the effect of androgens. That is why a hormonal shift can have a profound effect on a woman’s hair:
Extreme exercise. Severe exercise tends to reduce estrogen and raise testosterone. This hormonal shift can stop the menstrual cycle. It may also lead to brittle bones and hair thinning or loss. While there are many positive aspects of exercise, there can be too much of a good thing.
Sudden hormone shifts. Hair loss can intensify after a woman gives birth or discontinues oral contraceptives. In these cases, I recommend a brief therapy with hair stimulators; they can usually restore hair to its previous condition. Such hair stimulators include copper peptides, and other supplements such as MSM, and Flaxseed Oil.
Effect of menopause. Pre-menopause and menopause is associated with a progressive decline of estrogen level, which can result in hair loss. In this case, herbal supplements containing phytoestrogens such as red clover, soy, flaxseed, pomegranate and others can be recommended.
Improving Hair Vitality with Copper Peptides
While recent studies hold promise, copper peptides are not the panacea for hair loss. A more important future use of copper peptides may be as a regular scalp treatment or hair tonic, used once or twice weekly, for the enhancement of hair and scalp health. Copper peptides have numerous actions that may improve the hair and scalp. These include:
Reducing DHT formation in hair follicles. An enzyme which converts testosterone to DHT, (5-alpha reductase (5-AR)), damages hair growth. It exists in two forms: type 1, which functions in hair follicles, and type 2, which acts in prostate tissue. Follicle-damaging DHT is produced in the hair follicles. Propecia (finasteride), a prescription treatment for hair loss in men who have male pattern baldness, inhibits 5-AR throughout the body and improves hair growth. But it works best on the type 2 form and is better suited for controlling prostate enlargement. It also must be administered by pills that spread the drug throughout the body. A superior way to inhibit the type 1 5-AR that damages hair growth may be to increase copper ions in the skin. Sugimoto et al found that copper (II) ions could give up to a 90 percent inhibition of type 1 5-AR. At 1.2 micrograms copper ion per milliliter, type 1 5-AR activity reduced by 50 percent, but copper (II) ions were 10-fold less active on inhibiting the type 2 prostate form. Thus, copper ions are more specific inhibitors of 5-AR than Propecia. Human transdermal studies have found that concentrations of up to 0.50 micrograms per milliliter of copper ion can be introduced into the skin with copper peptides without irritation. For comparison, the blood plasma copper level is approximately 1 microgram per milliliter (Sugimoto et al 1995).
Blocking TGF-beta Formation. Copper peptides help block production of TGF-beta, a cytokine closely involved in the processes that lead to miniaturization of hair follicles. Copper peptides also inhibit TGF-beta directly by stimulating the production of decorin —a molecule that also inhibits TGF-beta production (See References).
Improving microcirculation to hair follicles. Hair follicles have extreme rates of metabolic activity. However, morphological studies of aged follicles often find an inadequate capillary circulation. As a result, some researchers have suggested that the reduced nutrient flow may cause hair shafts to thin as we age. Copper peptides have angiogenic activity (growth of new blood cells from pre-existing vessels) that may correct this problem. See References
Protective anti-inflammatory actions. The final event in the sequence of degenerative changes produces non-functional hair follicles which have involuted, (rolled inward). These changes cause tissue damage, auto-immune inflammation and free-radical reactions around the follicle. Copper peptides reduce inflammation and free radical formation in hair follicles since they block the inflammatory actions of both interleukin 1 and Transforming Growth Factor beta 1. Also during tissue injury, the release of ferrous iron from ferritin increases the formation of tissue-damaging free radicals, but copper peptides block the release of iron from ferritin. Finally, only about 50 percent of copper zinc superoxide dismutase is activated due to a lack of copper in the protein. copper peptide topicals can supply additional copper to zinc superoxide dismutase and increase its antioxidant effectiveness as well. Autoimmune damage causing hair loss exists in conditions such as alopecia areata, diabetes, vitiligo, certain types of thyroid disease, and pernicious anemia. Physicians normally treat these conditions with a short course of any cortisone-type drug, which often restores hair growth. However, when we inject cortisone into bald spots, the hair regrowth is temporary. Here’s the problem: corticosteroids inhibit skin repair, thereby producing thinner, less functional skin left unable to support hair follicle functions. In studies on nickel allergic patients, Zhai et al wrote that copper peptides were effective in reducing redness and inflammation after allergic reactions while also stimulating skin repair. See References
Enhancing the skin’s subcutaneous fat layer and thickening of the scalp. Newborns and small children have ample padding of subcutaneous fat underneath scalp skin, which protects their little heads from injuries. As we age, some of us grow stubborn and thick headed while our scalps get thinner. None of us mind a thin waistline—but a thin scalp? The scalp becomes thinner in part because the subcutaneous fat layer that surrounds hair follicles diminishes with age. Pathologists have noted that large subcutaneous fat cells are associated with large, healthy hair follicles and have postulated that the fat cells provide nutritional support to the follicles. Conditions that cause hair loss, such as cancer chemotherapy, are associated with a sharp decrease in the volume of subcutaneous fat cells. Copper peptides increase both hair follicle size and the amount of subcutaneous fat. Copper peptides also help increase skin thickness by boosting the dermal levels of collagen, elastin, and the water-holding proteoglycans (carbohydrate molecules linked to protein) and glycosaminoglycans (unbranched polysaccharide molecules composed of many carbohydrates). See References
Reviving hair follicle stem cells. Copper peptides have been shown to restore the vitality and reparative ability of skin stem cells (See References). Since hair, just like skin, requires an adequate supply of stem cells in order to grow, stem cell health is an important attribute of long and lustrous hair.
Repairing damaged scalp. Women often lose hair as a result of numerous assaults inflicted by relaxers, permanents, coloring chemicals, and excessive heat from blow dryers and hot oil treatments. Copper peptides also help work wonders to speed up the repair of scalp damage after various hair procedures.
Reducing graying of hair. Hair grays with age, but the speed at which this occurs may depend on the availability of copper in the scalp. Melanin and other hair pigments are produced from the amino acid tyrosine by the action of tyrosinase, a copper-containing enzyme. Additional scalp copper might slow the graying process. Individuals often report the re-pigmentation of gray hair after using copper peptide products.
Using Copper Peptides to Improve Hair Health
My research in the 1980’s led to my earlier inventions with products such as Tricomin™, which was demonstrated to increase hair growth in humans, and GraftCyte™, which was proven to increase hair transplant success in humans. For more specifics, See References. My latest inventions, take hair repair to the next level.
The newer copper peptide skin repair cream was tested in the Dermatology Department at the University of California San Francisco. A 41-year-old woman with severe hair loss tried the skin repair cream on her head because nothing else had worked to restore her lost hair. Over the next two-and-a-half months, she regained all of her lost hair. Word spread and other people began using the skin repair cream to counter hair loss. In time, copper peptides have emerged as distinct products designed to repair hair. Their biological effect is similar to the results achieved by my earlier line of hair products; however this new generation appears more effective as demonstrated in my basic tests on hair function.
Many use copper peptide topicals to calm help scalp tissue irritated by other hair growth stimulators, such as minoxidil and retinoic acid.
My Hair Regrowth Recommendations
I recommend the following products and procedures, based on reports, to help restore lost or thinning hair. Women often lose hair as a result of stress or hormonal shifts caused by menopausal changes or after they discontinue birth control pills. Another frequent cause of hair loss is extreme dieting that can result in hormonal shifts (sometimes to the point of even disrupting the menstrual circle) and essential nutrient deficiency. Fortunately for women, their hair loss is easier to reverse than for men.
1. Apply a copper peptide product consistently over a period of time. The recommended frequency is four to five times a week applied as a light coating before bedtime. Many report that such use markedly reduces hair loss in about three weeks, improves scalp health, reduces irritation, and results in a thicker head of hair in about four months.
2. Apply emu oil. The combination of copper peptides and emu oil often produces drastic reductions in hair loss and increases hair growth. Recently, Dr. Michael Holick of Boston University Medical Center reported a clinical study that found emu oil accelerated skin regeneration and also stimulated hair growth. He wrote, “The hair follicles were more robust, the skin thickness was remarkably increased... Also, we discovered in the same test that over 80 percent of hair follicles that had been ‘asleep’ were awakened and began growing hair.”
3. For added stimulation, apply minoxidil (2 to 5 percent). Start by using 2 percent minoxidil and progressively increase to 5 percent. At times minoxidil can irritate the scalp. If this occurs, stop using the product and only use copper peptides until your scalp health is restored. Then, resume the use of 2 percent minoxidil, and eventually 5 percent if your scalp remains healthy.
Hideo Uno, who wrote the textbook on Rogaine®, found that both copper peptides and minoxidil work synergistically to improve hair health. While minoxidil primarily stimulates new vellus hair growth, copper peptide topicals prove more effective in thickening the hair shafts.
4. Retinoic acid (0.01 to 0.05 percent) also stimulates hair follicles. Retinoic acid helps produce thicker hair shafts when combined with minoxidil, but this combination may irritate the scalp. When used lightly, copper peptide products can greatly reduce the irritation.
5. If your hair thins or falls out as the result of low estrogen caused by menopause or other hormonal shifts, you may benefit from estrogen supplements. However, be mindful that recent studies have shown that there is a link between hormone replacement therapy and certain cancers, so make sure you talk to your doctor first (Sugimoto et al 1995). Phytoestrogens such as soy isoflavones or red clover may soften the sharpness of estrogen decline and reduce hair loss. Since subcutaneous fat becomes an important site for estrogen synthesis in pre-menopause and menopause, steer clear from extreme dieting and consider keeping a few extra pounds instead of trying to slim to the bones. Larger terminal hair follicle produces fine hair Size increased, thicker hair produced Dormant, small miniaturized hair follicle.
6. For those who prefer an all-natural approach, there are several non-drug DHT blockers. These include saw palmetto oil, pygeum and nettle root extract, the soybean isoflavones genistein and daidzein, ginkgo biloba, and gamma linoleic acid. Saw palmetto oil has been used for more than 400 years as an herbal treatment for enuresis, nocturia, atrophy of the testes, impotence, inflammation of the prostate, and as a mild aphrodisiac for men. Women used the berries to treat infertility, painful periods, and problems with lactation. Extracts of two plants, pygeum bark (Pygeum africanum) and nettle root (Urtica dioica) are widely used to treat prostate hyperplasia. Isoflavonoids, such as genistein and daidzein, are weak estrogens and may lessen the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. Several studies have found that isoflavones can protect against the development of cancer. The Chinese report that daidzien exhibits hair-growth and hair-color-promoting activity. Ginkgo biloba is a popular herb used worldwide to improve cerebral blood flow and general blood circulation.
Copper Peptide Shampoos and Conditioners
Copper peptide Shampoos and Conditioners are relatively low pH products, designed to clean hair with the minimum amount of damage and then tighten up and re-seal the hair shafts. The addition of copper peptides help enhance the vitality of the hair follicles and scalp.
Hair contains a high sulfur content from the amino acid cysteine and can easily form cross-links to other cysteines in the hair molecule. These bonds keep the hair tough and strong and thus able to resist abrasion. The cross-links hold the hair fibers together. As long as this organization is not disrupted, the fiber remains robust and appears “healthy”.
Shampoos with a high alkaline pH may work better to clean the hair and scalp, but they also strip away too many natural scalp oils and extract the “glues” that help hold the hair shafts together. Shampoos should not contain “flash-foamers” or foaming chemicals that add lather (which does nothing for the hair and damages the hair shafts and scalp).
Conditioners should be formulated to re-acidify the hair after shampooing. When you restore this natural acid environment to the hair and scalp, you keep your hair proteins hard and thereby prevent the growth of foreign bacteria. The best conditioners contain the highest-quality amino acids and pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5) to re-seal the hair cuticle. It is designed to help de-tangle the hair and add a lustrous shine. Copper peptides should be added to help enhance the health and vitality of the hair, scalp, and hair follicles.
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