“Why is my hair falling out?” is probably the question you ask yourself everytime you finish showering and hair clogs up your shower drain.
Hair falls out for a multitude of reasons—many of them mundane. In fact, you usually lose about 100 hairs from your head on any given day. This is nothing more than run-of-the-mill shedding, but if you are seeing a noticeable change to your hairline or your hair’s thickness, you may be experiencing actual hair loss.
Hair loss occurs when the hair growth cycle is disrupted or when hair follicles are destroyed. It can be the result of hereditary conditions, hormonal changes, medical complications, medications, and more. Here are a few of the top reasons that your hair may be falling out:
Genetics play the largest role 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, know that these genes can come from both your paternal and maternal side.
Hormones 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 disease can cause hair loss. The good news is that the hair usually returns once the underlying condition has been treated.
Diet can affect hair health. If your diet’s low on iron-rich foods, you may not be getting enough of the protein ferritin, which plays a critical role in iron storage and has been shown to impact your body’s ability to produce hair. Additionally, severely limiting calorie intake can lead to temporary hair loss. In other words: Eat up!
Medications can 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’ active growth (anagen) phase, and inhibits the matrix cells, which produce new hairs, from doing their job.
Autoimmune disease can cause alopecia areata, a condition that causes hair to fall out in round patches.
Infections and skin conditions can 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 is 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 scar is produced, hair will usually never regrow there.
Hair care can contribute to hair loss, too, even though it seems counterintuitive. 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 also 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.
As always, you should contact a doctor if you notice a change to your hair, and they can help you identify the root cause. The good news is that if your hair loss is hereditary (which is likely—male pattern baldness accounts for more than 95% of hair loss in men), there are two solutions that are proven clinically effective at preventing further hair loss and supporting hair regrowth: minoxidil and finasteride. If you think either of these medicines might be for you, it’s time to get started with Keeps.
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.
Finasteride is an oral medication used to treat male pattern baldness in men only. It is not for use by women. When used by men, finasteride is generally safe but it can also cause serious side effects, including but not limited to allergic reactions, sexual dysfunction, and high-grade prostate cancer. Most patients find that problems with sexual function resolve when they stop taking the medicine. For full prescribing information, view the drug label information. For full prescribing information, view the drug label information.
Image credit: Nicholas Grant