We all naturally shed 50 – 100 hair every day but with the average number of scalp hair being around a hundred thousand, this minor hair fall has no noticeable effect. As you grow old, however, your hair may start to become thin and brittle, and may even succumb to hair loss. There are plenty of reasons why an individual may suffer from hair loss including genetic, hormonal, medical etc.
What Causes Hair Loss?
#1 Physical Stress – Physical trauma such as undergoing a surgery, being in a car accident, suffering from a severe illness such as pneumonia – can lead to hair loss. Physical stress causes the onset of a type of hair fall known as telogen effluvium. Basically, intense physical trauma shocks the hair cycle in a way that pushes a large number of your scalp hair into the shedding stage. You will begin to notice hair loss usually 3 to 6 months after the physical strain. The good news is that hair loss caused by physical stress is temporary and usually reverses after the body has recovered.
#2 Pregnancy – Pregnancy is a typical example of the physical stress described above which leads to hair loss. Besides the physical stress, hormonal changes in a pregnant women also contribute to hair loss. Usually, the hair loss is observed after the baby is delivered since the physical stress of labor is quite considerable. Just like with other physical stress, the hair grows back after a couple of months.
#3 Too Much Vitamin A – The American Academy of Dermatology says that excessive consumption of vitamin A supplements or medication that has vitamin A in it can also lead to hair loss. 5 thousand International Units are the daily limit for people over the age of 4 – and supplements can have between 2500 to 10000 IU. Thankfully, this form of hair loss is also reversible and stops once excessive vitamin A consumption is ceased.
#4 Lack of Protein – As reported by the American Academy of Dermatology, when your body doesn’t get enough protein from diet, it might ration protein stores by halting hair growth – you will usually notice hair loss around two or three months after reduced* protein intake. You can stop this hair loss by restoring protein content in your diet by consuming foods such as meat, fish and eggs as well as several vegan foods pulses, green peas and chick peas.
#5 Male Pattern Baldness – Almost two in every three men go through hair loss as they approach sixty years of age – and the most frequent culprit is male pattern baldness. Caused by a combination of genetics and sex hormones, it occurs in a typical pattern with hair thinning at the temples, resulting in a hairline resembling an M-shape. This type of hair loss can be treated using topical creams containing minoxidil or oral drugs like finasteride which stopper hair fall and may even cause hair to grow back. You may also consider a hair transplant if the situation gets out of hand.
#6 Heredity – Androgenetic or androgenic alopecia is the female counterpart of male pattern baldness. Typically, those women who come from a family where females have a tendency to lose* hair after a specific age are prone to female pattern baldness. It doesn’t cause the M shape as in men, but leads to the widening of the hair parting and visibly thinner hair. Women suffering from this type of hair loss should also use Minoxidil to grow back lost hair or, at the very least, keep it from getting worse.
#7 Female Hormones – Hormonal imbalance, due to pregnancy, menopause, or by changing / stopping birth control pills, can lead to telogen effluvium, which means the woman’s hair follicles will shrink and hair loss will become pronounced. If you have recently switched over to a new birth control drug and noticed the problem, go back to the old one. Stopping the use of oral contraceptives will cause hair loss but this will be temporary.
#8 Emotional Stress – Extreme emotional stress such as death of a loved one, divorce or an aging parent can lead to hair loss. The hair loss is temporary and reverses once the emotionally challenging situation is taken care of or the person learns how to deal with it.
#9 Anemia – Anemia is quite common in women between 20-49 years of age. Caused by a deficiency of iron, it leads to hair loss that can be easily fixed once the condition is diagnosed and iron supplements prescribed.
#10 Hypothyroidism – This refers to the condition of having an underactive thyroid gland which produces hormones essential for metabolism, growth and development. If these hormones are not produced in adequate amounts, hair loss results. This problem is fixed by restoring thyroid levels back to normal through synthetic thyroid medication.
#11 Vitamin B Deficiency – Another correctible cause of hair loss, it can be treated by consuming a diet rich in vitamin B such as starchy vegetables, meat, fish and non-citrus fruits.
#12 Autoimmune – Related Hair Loss – Known as alopecia areata, this type of hair loss is caused by an overactive immune system which mistakes the hair as foreign objects and targets them for removal. Steroid injections as well as drugs such as Rogaine are usually used to treat* it, however the condition is unpredictable as hair fall and growth may cycle randomly.
#13 Lupus – Lupus is an example of an autoimmune disease that leads to hair loss due to an overzealous immune system that attacks the hair. Hair loss caused by this condition leads to scarring which means it will be permanent.
#14 Dramatic Weight Loss – A sudden drop in weight, even when it is necessary for your health, is an example of a physical stress that causes hair loss. It is an auto-corrective condition which fixes itself after a six month hair loss period.
#15 Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells i.e. cancerous cells but this also includes healthy hair cells. Once the treatment stops, hair will grow back albeit often with a different texture or color.
#16 Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – This condition is an example of a hormonal imbalance that causes serious changes such as ovarian cysts, diabetic risk, weight gain, menstrual changes, infertility and thinning of hair. This condition is treated by targeting the hormonal imbalance using drugs as well as lifestyle changes which may reverse the hair loss.
#17 Antidepressants, blood thinners, and more – Drugs such as blood thinners, blood pressure medication (beta blockers), methotrexate (for rheumatism and skin problems), lithium (for bipolar disorder), ibuprofen and antidepressants can all lead to hair loss. Consult with your doctor if you suspect a medication is causing hair loss so that they may lower the dose or change the medication altogether.
#18 Overstyling – Intense styling / hair treatments used for several years can damage the hair / cause hair loss permanently by affecting the hair root. Tight braids, cornrows, hair weaves, hot oil treatments, chemical relaxers or any other harsh treatment can lead to this hair loss. You should avoid using the aforementioned hair styling techniques as much as possible and use conditioner after shampooing your hair.
#19 Trichotillomania – This is an impulse control disorder characterized by compulsive pulling of hair by an individual. This condition can be treated using antidepressants or behavioral modification therapy.
#20 Aging – As women grow old, their hair may naturally begin to thin or fall out. Experts say that this condition should not be treated, rather it should be camouflaged using wigs, scarves or hair styles. The focus should be on maintaining healthy hair using adequate nutrition to prevent breakage rather than growing them back.
#21 Anabolic Steroids – This type of steroid is abused by body builders for muscle growth but can lead to hair loss due to hormonal imbalance similar to polycystic ovary disease discussed above. Stopping the consumption of this steroid will improve* the hair problem.
#23 Cosmetic procedures
#24 Medical conditions
There are plenty of reasons why your hair may be falling out. Before you jump to a conclusion and start undergoing an expensive treatment, it is recommended that you thoroughly research potential causes for your problem by comparing your lifestyle and health to the causes detailed above. Moreover, consultation with an expert physician is also necessary in order to eliminate* all margins of error and treat* the correct cause for hair loss.