Thinning hair and hair loss is a common problem that affects men and women. There are many reasons for it and there are different patterns when it happens. For example the two most common are male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss. They are both mainly based on aging, hormones and genetics. The male pattern hair loss commonly starts presenting as a V - shaped front hairline and thinning hair at the temples. The female pattern hair loss usually presents as an overall thinning of the hair without big changes in the hairline. Sometimes hair loss is due to genetics and sometimes it can be due to an underlying medical condition or a particular lifestyle habit. Here are some of the most common reasons for hair loss and what you can do about them.
1. Low vitamin D levels Here is quote from WebMD - "Vitamin D is metabolized in the skin by keratinocytes. These are skin cells that process keratin, a protein in hair, nails, and skin. When the body doesn’t have enough vitamin D, keratinocytes in hair follicles have trouble regulating hair growth and shedding." This can lead to excess hair shedding or alopecia areata (an autoimmune disorder where hair loss happens on patches around the body and causes bald spots). If you use a lot of sunscreen, and/or live in a place which doesn't get enough sunlight it's worth checking your vitamin D levels as this vitamin is important not only for your hair but also for your bones and mood. Speak to your health care provider as you might benefit from supplementing with vitamin D or increasing your sunlight exposure.
2. Low iron levels Iron deficiency is a common reason for hair loss in menstruating women. If you are not receiving enough iron from your diet (red meat, liver, kidney beans, nuts), you might experience fatigue, cold intolerance and other symptoms. It's worth mentioning that some foods can interfere with the absorption of iron. For example tea and caffeine, calcium in dairy, cereals and grains. On the other hand vitamin C (orange juice, peppers, strawberries, etc.) aids iron absorption. It's good to combine iron rich foods with foods which aid iron absorption. It's best to check your iron levels and speak to your doctor if you are suspecting low iron levels to be the cause of hair loss. You might be prescribed iron tablets to supplement or in very severe cases - intravenous iron infusion.
3. Stress Stress has been linked to a variety of health conditions and hair loss is not an exception. The good news is that stress related hair loss is most likely to be temporary and hair usually grows back after the stressful period is over. Although, regrowth is slow and can take more than 6 months before improvements in hair thickness are observed. Hair loss from stress can be due to physical stress, like surgery/recent illness or emotional stress, like coping with a loss of a loved one. The most important thing is to tackle your stress. You can try different techniques such as meditation, exercise, journaling, therapy, a relaxing hobby. It's best to speak to your doctor to figure out what would be a good option for you.
4. Menopause During menopause estrogen and progesteron levels drop significantly and this causes hair thinning and slow hair growth. When production of these "female hormones" decreases, it can trigger an increase in the production of male hormones (androgens). They have a shrinking effect on hair follicles which can also result in thinning hair. It's possible to try supplements (like omega-3 fatty acids, biotin, and folic acid). Minoxidil, used topically, which is the only FDA - approved drug to treat female pattern hair loss, can also be found helpful. Speak to your health care provider about ways to treat menopause related hair thinning and hair loss.
5. Having a baby recently Another reason for hair loss is being pregnant and having a baby recently. It falls in a way into the stress category because it is a big physical stress and it's not easy on your body. Good thing about it is that it is temporary and hair regrows back after the pregnancy.
6. Genetics If you look at your closest relatives (parents, grandparents, older siblings) you can get an idea of whether your hair loss is hereditary. This type of hair loss is harmless, although it can cause distress. There isn't much you can do about it but you can take measures to slow it down, for example with Minoxidil. The sad thing about this drug is that once you stop using it, hair loss begins again.
7. Aging Shani Francis, MD, a dermatologist at the University of Chicago who specializes in hair disorders, explains that human hair goes through three stages - growth, transitional and resting. As we get older our hairs spend more time in the resting stage, where they are being shed. This means hair is falling out faster than it is growing. It is a normal part of life but again, there are things that can be done to slow it down (supplements, drugs, etc.)
8. Autoimmune disease Some autoimmune diseases can be associated with hair loss. Examples include: - Alopecia areata, which we mentioned earlier; - Lupus, autoimmune disease that is expressed with wide spread inflammation which could target joins, internal organs, skin, etc.; - Hashimoto thyroiditis, a condition in which the body's immune systems attacks the thyroid gland - Psoriasis, a condition which causes rash and skin scaly patches. Hair loss usually comes from too much scratching and is often temporary. As usual, my advice is to speak to your doctor if you experience any of these conditions together with hair loss as the internet is full of all kinds of information (right and wrong) and self-treating could be a dangerous thing.
9. Tight hairstyles Tight braids or ponytails, often used as a natural "facelift" can put too much pressure on your hair and cause traction alopecia - a condition in which the hairline retracts backwards, as well as thinning hair at the temples. If you think this could be the cause of hair loss, try to keep your hair down more often and avoid tight hairstyles. Hair loss from tight hairstyles is reversible if you stop wearing your hair in the way which caused it in the first place. But if you continue, it could become permanent.
10. Too much hairstyling Dying your hair, bleaching your hair, burning it with hot irons and curlers can severely damage your hair. This can cause hair breakage and make your hair appear thinner. Not only that but it can speed up shedding of your hair which again - hair loss. If you are treating your hair too often and suspect that this is making it thinner and lifeless, try giving it a break from heat and other chemical treatment and try homemade hair masks to give it a boost. As a final note, some studies suggest the positive effect on hair growth from rosemary oil and rosemary water as well as peppermint oil. Other studies prove coconut oil to help prevent hair damage from combing and retain protein in damaged and undamaged hair when applied pre- and post-washing. Thank you for reading! Resources: Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: a randomized comparative trial - PubMed (nih.gov) Promotion of hair growth by Rosmarinus officinalis leaf extract - PubMed (nih.gov) Peppermint Oil Promotes Hair Growth without Toxic Signs - PMC (nih.gov) Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage - PubMed (nih.gov) Vitamin D Deficiency and Hair Loss: Everything You Need to Know (webmd.com)