There are many reasons why you may be losing your hair. And while you might not know when exactly it started thinning or when that bald spot started growing, you’re reading this article today because you know it’s happening and want it to stop — ideally yesterday.
We hear you. And that’s why we put together this simple list of common causes that might explain what’s going on and what might be the problem
But first, let’s talk about what we mean when we talk about hair loss.
Fact: On any given day, you typically lose about 100 hairs from your head. This doesn’t actually impact the thickness of your locks because, while some hairs shed, others are simultaneously growing in their place.
The real issue — hair loss — occurs when this regrowth and replacement cycle is disrupted or when hair follicles are destroyed.
We wanted to clarify this because there’s a difference between noticing a few extra hairs on your pillow one morning and seeing less hair on the top of your head. If you’re in the latter group, keep reading to learn more about the causes of thinning hair (and if you’re in the former, stop stressing).
So, what causes this disruption and destruction? Well, hair loss is most often the result of hereditary or genetic conditions (thanks, family!), but hormonal changes, medical complications, and medications can also play a role.
Let’s break it down:
Let’s start with the big one: hereditary hair loss. Genetics are the biggest factor in how susceptible you are to androgenetic alopecia (also known as male pattern baldness), which is the most common form of hair loss. But before you play the blame game with Mom, know that these genes can actually come from both your paternal and maternal side.
In fact, a recent study found that there are actually 287 genetic regions that contribute to male pattern baldness. So check your family history (it’s as easy as looking at a photo) to see if hereditary hair loss runs in your family.
Male hormones also have a hand in hair growth — or lack thereof. For instance, abnormal levels of androgens (hormones that primarily influence the development of the male reproductive system) can contribute to hair loss.
Medical conditions, including — but not limited to — anemia, diabetes, eating disorders, iron deficiency, lupus, and thyroid problems can cause hair loss. But the good news is that the hair usually returns once the underlying condition has been treated.
Diet can affect hair health, as well. For instance, if you don’t eat a lot of iron-rich foods, you may not be getting enough ferritin, a protein which plays a critical role in iron storage and has been shown to impact your body’s ability to produce hair. Meanwhile, weight loss and weight gain can also lead to temporary hair loss.
In other words: Consider this added incentive to eat right and make smart food decisions.
Certain medications or medical treatments come with side effects that disrupt the normal cycle of hair growth, leading to two types of hair loss: telogen effluvium and anagen effluvium. Telogen effluvium, which is the more common of the two, causes the hair follicles to go into their resting (telogen) phase and fall out prematurely.
Drugs that can cause telogen effluvium include blood thinners, beta-adrenergic blockers to control blood pressure, and birth control pills. Anagen effluvium, which affects cancer patients who are taking chemotherapy drugs, takes place during the hairs’ anagen phase (a.k.a., active growth phase ), and inhibits the matrix cells, which produce new hairs, from doing their job.
Infections and skin conditions can also do a number on the scalp, leading to hair loss. If ringworm (a fungal infection) develops on the scalp, it can cause patches of hair loss called “tinea capitis.”
If it’s severe enough, folliculitis (inflammation of hair follicles) can permanently destroy hair follicles and leave small bald patches in its wake. Piedra (a hair disease caused by fungus) deposits hard nodules on hair fibers, weakening them and making them susceptible to breakage.
Injuries and burns are yet another hair loss culprit. This is usually temporary, and once the wound has healed, normal hair growth will resume. However, scars and hair don’t play: If a scar is produced, hair will usually never regrow there.
Hair care can contribute to hair loss too, even though it seems counterintuitive. In fact, it’s a common enough issue that it’s another type of alopecia: traction alopecia. (Bet you didn’t know you’d pick up so many new medical terms today!)
For instance, if you use hot tools (think flat irons or blow dryers) to style your hair, you can make it weak and brittle over time. Likewise, certain hairstyles, such as very tight braids and hair extensions, can cause tension that eventually leads to hair breakage.
Stress, too, can impact the health of your hair. It’s not uncommon for people to experience a (temporary) thinning of hair for several months after undergoing a significant emotional or physical shock.
This list is long (and certainly not exhaustive)—so we get it if it leaves you feeling a little overwhelmed. There is, however, good news: Most of these issues only cause temporary hair loss, so once you address the underlying cause, you will likely see your hair return to its former (luxurious) state.
And if you are one of those people experiencing permanent hair loss, like androgenic alopecia? Your hair story isn’t over yet, either — you just need to find the right solution to keep it going.
That’s where Keeps comes in. We’re here to help you keep your hair and stop that receding hairline through education and treatment. You can get started on your treatment path today by checking out our offering and you can keep picking up knowledge by reading the next article: 10 Myths About Hair Loss It’s Time to Stop Believing.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Image credit: Nicholas Grant