Is your hairbrush starting to look like a wild animal? Do you have the plumber on speed dial, because your shower drain keeps clogging? There are many reasons you may be losing hair, and while some hair loss may be unavoidable, but it can often be reversed, or at least halted before it gets worse.
But first, here are ten common reasons you may be seeing a bit more chrome on your dome.
Hair has a life cycle of growing, resting, and shedding phases. Stress caused by illness, injury, surgery, or severe emotional turmoil, can disrupt this cycle, causing a type of temporary hair loss known as telogen effluvium.
The hair loss may not become noticeable until 3-6 months after the traumatic event, and should resolve itself over a few more months as the body recovers from the trauma.
Male and female pattern baldness that develops with aging is usually hereditary. While men generally notice thinning at the crown, women tend to experience all-over thinning, and may only notice their part is wider or their ponytail is smaller.
What you eat has a profound effect on the amount and quality of hair you have. Diets which severely restrict calories will cause the body to go into self-preservation mode, focusing all of its resources on sustaining essential life functions, and hair growth is not one of them.
Excessive hair loss is very common amongst extreme dieters and those with eating disorders. Calories are not the only factor however. Hair is composed primarily of protein, so a protein-deficient diet causes the body to conserve it by shifting hair growth into the resting phase, followed by increased shedding.
4. Nutrient levels
The nutritional content of the food we eat is another way diet may be the culprit in hair loss. Deficiencies in vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, beta carotene, biotin, calcium, inositol, iodine, iron, magnesium, niacin, selenium, zinc, and several amino acids may result in poor growth, breakage, or excessive shedding. Conversely, an excess of vitamin A can result in hair loss.
5. Lack of sunlight
Vitamin D is primarily absorbed through the skin during exposure to sunlight, and it’s necessary for regulating the gene expression that promotes follicle growth, and also aids in the absorption of iron.
6. Iron deficiency
Low iron levels (ferritin) may not be the result of an iron-deficient diet, but rather due to blood loss from menstruation or bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, such as from ulcers. Iron deficiency causes inadequate red blood cells, known as anemia. However, low iron can cause hair loss long before clinical anemia. Iron levels are believed to affect the threshold at which a person may already be prone to hair loss, either from genetics or disease.
7. Hormone fluctuations
Hormonal shifts, such as seen in pregnancy, menopause, or when starting or stopping hormonal contraceptives, disrupt the hair cycle. Pregnant women often find their locks extra thick and lush due to a halt in shedding, but postpartum, all of that extra hair may start coming out by the handful. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an imbalance of both male and female sex hormones, causing thinning scalp hair and an excess of facial and body hair.
Thinning hair is a primary symptom of an underactive thyroid, known as hypothyroidism. Hair loss is also attributed to more than 80 autoimmune disorders. Three types of alopecia cause the most severe hair loss symptoms by specifically targeting hair follicles, causing circular bald patches, complete baldness, or loss of all body hair.
Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder which causes people to compulsively pull on their own hair, resulting in breakage and damage to the hair follicles.
Regularly subjecting your hair to harsh chemical treatments, high temperatures, and tight styles which pull at the root, such as braids, weaves, and corn rows can not only make your hair fall out, but also cause permanent damage to the root.
Many common medications have hair loss as a side effect. Frequent offenders are antidepressants, blood thinners, steroids, immune suppressants, beta blockers and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and chemotherapy.
The causes of hair loss are many, but so are the remedies. The early stages of hair loss are the best time for intervention. Some may be as simple as changing your diet or your habits, while others require medical intervention. If the cause of your thinning hair is less than obvious, consulting with a medical professional may help you restore and keep your locks.
Trost, L. B. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, May 2006; vol 54: pp 824-844. Leonid Benjamin Trost, MD, resident physician, department of dermatology, The Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. George Cotsarelis, director, hair and scalp clinic; and professor of medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia.