There are so many reasons why a person may lose their hair. And if you have done an internet search to learn about hair loss, you have undoubtedly been bombarded with numerous different reasons why this is happening to you. But most cases of hair loss fall into four categories: stress, genetics, hormones, and medical conditions. Here, we take a deep dive into these scientifically proven reasons behind hair loss and how you can make changes to see improvement in your hair density.
One of the most common causes of hair loss that can affect anyone is stress. Indeed, most of us will, in fact, experience stress-induced hair loss at some point in our lives. Hair loss caused by stress is called telogen effluvium. Essentially, a surge in stress hormones, coupled with other factors related to elevated stress hormone levels like poor nutrition and lack of sleep, force more hair follicles into the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. Following the resting phase, hair sheds to make way for new growth. Because a larger number of follicles abruptly switch into telogen, people see a significant increase in the hair they shed for several weeks to months.
What you can do → Fortunately, stress-induced hair loss can be reversed, as there is no chronic or genetic cause behind this form of hair loss. Most people notice that their hair returns within six months to a year following a particularly stressful event (like surgery, a car accident, or losing a loved one). Some people who are under chronic stress may see sustained hair loss. However, as you wait for your hair to return, do what you can to reduce your stress levels overall, eat a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet, get plenty of sleep and exercise, and take extra care of your remaining locks with healthy hair practices.
Unlike stress, there is little you can do about hair loss related to your genetics. And unfortunately, most cases of chronic hair loss come down to your DNA. The most common cause of permanent hair loss is androgenic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern hair loss. In this type of hair loss, men can experience thinning in particular areas of the head, including the hairline and crown. Women are likely to see a widening part line and thinning about their temples and ears.
The primary cause behind androgenic alopecia is thought to be a sensitivity to DHT, a derivative of testosterone that can cause hair follicles to shrink. Eventually, the follicles shrink so much that they no longer produce hair. For this reason, one of the early signs of androgenic alopecia is hair that is particularly fine.
What you can do → The most common treatment both men and women can try is a topical medication that encourages hair growth. Minoxidil and Nanoxidil are topical solutions that can increase hair growth with few side effects. Men have an additional option in taking a medication called finasteride, but it can have a few unpleasant side effects that may make a topical solution more appealing.
Hormones are chemical messengers that the body uses to communicate between cells. When there are not enough messengers, or too many, it can deliver faulty information to the body’s organs. The hair and skin are particularly receptive to hormone fluctuations in the body, especially in women. For this reason, hormonal problems are often one of the leading causes of hair loss (and, incidentally, hair growth) in women.
One of the biggest hormone triggers for temporary hair loss in women is childbirth. Many women experience postpartum hair loss about 3-6 months following birth. This shedding is a natural side effect of the hormonal shifts during birth and may also be due in part to an increase in stress from the event itself and also from the adjustment period following delivery. Menopause is another common hormonal shift that can cause hair loss. During menopause, estrogen levels fall to where a woman no longer ovulates. In this shift, women can see a decline in their hair growth that will continue for the rest of their lives.
While there are numerous hormonal reasons a person may experience hair loss, it is important to also highlight the role that thyroid hormones can play in hair growth. Both men and women can experience hair thinning due to an unhealthy thyroid, but it is more common in women than in men. An underactive and overactive thyroid can lead to hair loss, and both conditions are treatable, so it is necessary to have your thyroid checked if you are struggling with hair loss.
What you can do → If you suspect hormones may be to blame for your hair loss, one of the best things you can do is see your doctor for a blood test. Aside from this, they can also look at any other symptoms and compare your medical history and age to see if there is indeed a hormonal component to your changing hair density. Many hormone issues (unrelated to natural causes like childbirth and menopause) can be treated with medication, so it is helpful to see a medical provider to have a health check-up.
#4 Medical Conditions
Hair loss is surprisingly related to numerous health conditions, including those related to your cardiovascular health, digestive health, and immune system. For example, diabetes, autoimmunity, nutrient malabsorption, and peripheral vascular disease can all lead to hair thinning and loss. What is more, some of the medications we take can also cause hair loss. Furthermore, mental health conditions and their subsequent treatments can also lead to hair loss. Depression, in particular, can cause you to lose some of your hair, and some medications used to treat depression m further hair loss.
What you can do → Seeing your medical provider is the first place you will want to turn if you suspect or have a medical condition that may be causing hair loss. If you have just started a new medication, that too may also cause hair loss, so it may help to consult your doctor to see if it is a temporary problem or if there is another medication alternative. If hair loss is just a part of your health condition, there are solutions you can try to encourage hair growth, including topical solutions, medications like finasteride for men, and surgical treatments.