THE MAIN CAUSES BEHIND HAIR LOSS
We uncover the main culprits behind hair loss. Identifying the common causes can help with create a plan of action for regrowth.
We all loses hair. It happens when your washing your hair, when you’re giving it a quick brush, even when you wake up and see a strand or two on your pillow from last nights toss and turn–that’s normal. During the exogen phase of our hair growth cycle, we all shred about 50 – 100 hairs a day on average. This doesn’t cause an alarm since we’re typically growing new hairs at the same time (anagen phase), so it doesn’t leave a visible trace.
Hair loss occurs when our normal hair growth cycle is disrupted, or when hair follicles are destroyed and replaced with scar tissue. There are numerous reasons why hair loss could occur in both men and women, but there are some common ones.
Hereditary (Androgenic Alopecia)
This is the most common cause of hair loss. Androgenic alopecia (male/female pattern baldness) affects both men and women. It is an inherited form of pattern hair loss which causes hair thinning and complete hair loss over time. There are some cases of alopecia that is caused by malnutrition, and can be slowed down with dietary supplements containing essential vitamins (especially B complexes like biotin, riboflavin, and thiamine), and minerals.
Stress (Telogen Effluvium)
When an individual is faced with an overwhelming amount of stress (ex: divorce, childbirth, death) the body might start to divert resources away from the hair and shifts the hair growth cycle phase from the growing stage (anagen) to the resting stage (telogen).
At this point, hair loss may not be noticeable since the transition phase (catagen) takes 2-3 weeks, but after or during the trauma, increased hair loss maybe begin. It can last up to 18 months for your hair follicles to completely recover. Having a low deficiency in nutrients like vitamin D and B complex, iron, zinc, magnesium, essential fatty acids, and protein can worsen the problem, so maintaining a healthy diet, using adequate supplementation, and taking care of yourself will be extremely vital for hair stability and growth.
Poor diet plays a role in hair loss. For healthy hair growth the body needs a diet rich in protein, vitamins and minerals to nourish your hair follicles. Since hair follicles are vital tissues, when the body is low on nutrients it rations what it does get, and can shut down hair growth if the nutrients are needed for other parts of your body.
- Protein is a very important nutrient that plays a crucial role in the building block of every tissue in youtr body including your hair and scalp. Hair is made of 80%-95% protein, so it can’t be emphasized enough how important a diet rich in protein has on growing healthy hair. When the body doesn’t get enough protein, within 2-3 months signs of hair loss will start to become visible. Meats, eggs, and fish are good sources. Vegetarians can get protein from sources like nuts, seeds, cheese, and beans.
- Iron is an essential mineral for men, and especially women as they lose blood and iron during their menstrual cycle. Not getting enough can lead to hair loss. Iron is critical for producing hemoglobin, a protein that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout your body. Without it, your entire body, not just your hair, suffers.
- Other Minerals and Vitamins like zinc (aids in maintaining the oil-secreting glands), copper (aids with the formation of hemoglobin), vitamin b-complex (aids with distribution and metabolization of energy to the scalp), vitamin c (aids with collagen production, which hold hair tissues together), and essential fatty acids (with blood circulation and cell growth) play a role in healthy hair growth. Deficiencies in any of these could lead to hair loss, or hair thinning.
Everyone has some hair loss with aging. The rate of hair growth and thickness from your follicles slow down as your grow older.
Certain medications play a role in hair loss, and occasionally affect healthy hair growth. These include:
- Blood thinners
- High-dose vitamin A
- Arthritis, antidepressants, gout, heart problems, and high blood pressure medication
- Birth control pills
- Anabolic steroids
During pregnancy, most women have shiny, healthy hair due to older hair not falling out at normal level, giving their mane a thicker appearance. After childbirth it’s common for woman to experience hair thinning/loss. This is due to falling estrogen levels where most women lose the extra hair their body was “holding” during pregnancy. This is usually temporary, and hair grows back within a few months. Once estrogen levels balance out, hair shedding returns to its normal rate.
Hair Care (Traction alopecia)
Some hairstyles and hair products can damage your hair and follicles, leading to temporary or permanent hair loss. Products like bleach, permanents, dyes, gels, relaxers, and hair sprays can cause hair breakage. Frequent use of blow dryers, flat irons, and curling irons tend to damage hair an can also cause hair breakage due to the high heat.
Holding hair tightly with hairpins, clips, rubber bands can also lead to hair breakage. Hairstyles that pull on hair and put a strain on your follicles like ponytails, cornrows, braids, locs, and weaves can lead to hair loss commonly known as traction alopecia.
Majority of these causes are temporary, but if bad hair care practices persist, the damages could one day become irreversible. Once your hair and scalp has had too much stress, the hair follicle permanently shrinks, scars, and dies.
Smoking can inhibit healthy hair growth. Smoking restricts blood flow and oxygen to your hair follicles. The lack of nourishment leads to hair loss.
In women, the menopause stage can play a role in hair loss. This is often temporary. Other hormonal hair loss problems could be caused by an imbalance of thyroid hormones, pregnancy, or certain medications like the ones listed above.
In men, testosterone which converts to DHT (dihydrotestosterone) plays a major role in hair loss. DHT’s one goal is to kill hair follicles. It does this by binding to receptors in scalp follicles. At the end of a telogen (shedding) phase, DHT shrinks hair follicles, making it harder for healthy hair to grow during the next anagen (growth) phase