What Causes Hair Loss? Every Trigger Explained
Losing hair every day is perfectly normal. In fact, on average, people lose between 50 to 100 strands per day. (This might seem like a lot, but if you compare it to the estimated 90,000 to 150,000 a healthy human head of hair comprises, it’s not a lot.) As part of the hair life cycle, hair goes through four stages that eventually leads to shedding and new growth. Old, tired strands have to release themselves from your scalp in order for shiny new hairs to take their place.
However, if you notice visibly thinning hair or end up with big clumps of hair in your hands or drain after a shower, that’s out of the ordinary and is a reasonable cause for concern and a consultation with your doctor. Here's what you need to know about hair loss and what you can do about it. Plus, info on the best products to use for thinning hair.
5 Types of Hair Loss
When it comes to hair loss, it's not a one-size-fits-all situation, so it's important to see your primary care physician, dermatologist or trichologist for an accurate diagnosis. To give you an idea of what you might be dealing with, here's a quick look at the five types of hair loss that people experience.
- Alopecia areata: An immune system disorder that causes patchy hair loss and random bald spots.
- Anagen effluvium: Hair vanishes in isolated clumps, which can be caused by cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. AE can also result from toxin exposure or various infections.
- Telogen effluvium: Sudden shedding, which is a response to extreme shock (like childbirth or trauma), a serious illness or even a new medication you're taking.
- Androgenetic alopecia: A gradual, even thinning of your hair, which is caused by genetics and hormones.
- Traction alopecia: Hair that's thinning on the sides as the result of wearing too-tight hairstyles repeatedly.
Top Causes of Hair Loss
Now that you're familiar with the different types of hair loss, here are the specific triggers that can cause you to lose your precious strands.
The most common cause of hair loss is hormonal. Hereditary baldness, aka male or female pattern baldness, is primarily hormonal; it is referred to as androgenic alopecia since it is attributed to increased activity of male hormones. AA usually happens with age, with two-thirds of postmenopausal women and 85% of men at the age of 50 experiencing some hair loss.
However, there are other issues that can lead to increased androgen activity in the body, including endocrine conditions like hyper- or hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome and more. Thyroid disorders, in particular, can also lead to the loss of brow and lash hairs.
The body undergoes major hormonal changes during pregnancy, which at first seem great for your locks since they often become lush and shiny. But the hormonal fluctuations lead to hair loss after delivery and sometimes even eyelash loss during pregnancy or postpartum. Most hairs will go into their resting phase during pregnancy, so once the hormones normalize after delivery, much of that hair is shed. This hair loss is usually temporary, and soon enough, new hairs grow back. Hair loss during pregnancy, on the other hand, is not normal and may signal nutritional deficiency.
Related: How Much Hair Loss Is Normal?
Medical Conditions and Medications
Both medical conditions and prescribed medications can result in hair loss. Here's more about each.
Medical conditions can also result in the loss of your hair. They included the following:
- Thyroid disease, where your thyroid gland does not produce the right amount of hormones
- Alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease that attacks hair follicles)
- Ringworm or other scalp infections
Additionally, certain medications can lead to hair loss, usually by triggering nutritional deficiencies or hormonal imbalance. Chemotherapy drugs land at the top of the heap. However, there are other drugs that have hair loss as a potential side effect, including antibiotics, blood pressure medications and many more.
People rarely realize that inflammation, especially because of skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis, can also lead to hair loss. The irritation can damage both the hair follicles and the root of the hair, causing it to shed. The hair loss will usually stop once the inflammation is under control, but in some cases, the hair may not grow back properly if the hair follicle becomes damaged or scarred.
Extreme or chronic stress often leads to sudden hair loss (and not just because of the urge you might get to pull your hair out of frustration). When cortisol levels stay elevated during chronic stress, for example, it can cause problems; sustained high cortisol slows down cell regeneration, including the cells in your scalp. And long-term high cortisol levels decrease your metabolism and weaken your immune system, both detrimental to robust hair growth. The hair loss caused by stress will usually stop, and hair growth will go back to normal once the stressor goes away and the body stops overproducing cortisol.
Tight Hairstyles and Grooming
Traction alopecia is the hair loss caused by external pressure on the scalp, usually from very tight hairstyles or extensions. Putting the hair up into a tight ponytail every once in a while isn’t likely to cause hair loss, but doing so regularly or opting for very tight protective hairstyles can eventually lead to serious damage, especially if the follicle becomes scarred.
In the same vein, traction alopecia can also be caused by regularly pulling out hair, especially via tweezing and waxing. Additionally, people dealing with stress-related conditions that lead to hair-pulling, like trichotillomania, are also very susceptible to traction alopecia.
If you're losing more hair than normal, take a really honest look at your use of heat-styling tools. Granted, there's nothing like a bouncy, big-hair blowout or sleek flat-ironed hair. But there is a price to pay. Heat styling can damage hair that's already weakened and lead to breakage.
A poor diet can take its toll in a variety of ways, and hair loss from the scalp, eyebrows, or lashes can be one of them. There are a few different ways in which dietary deficiency can lead to hair loss, including overall caloric deficiency as well as protein deficiency. Hair loss is also a symptom of anemia, which can occur for a variety of reasons, including iron, vitamin B-12 and folate deficiencies.
Pump Up the Volume: Lash and Brow Volumizing Serum Combo
How To Combat Hair Loss
Since hair loss often signals more serious medical issues, it's important to seek a doctor’s help to rule out a serious hormonal disorder or nutritional deficiency. In most instances, once the underlying cause is treated, the hair loss will stop as well. However, a doctor’s focus will be your overall health (as it should be), so in the meanwhile, you can rely on complementary treatments that may also help.
The most common medication for hair loss is called minoxidil, and it is often recommended no matter the type of hair loss, despite the fact that its mechanism of action is not well-understood. A frequent problem with minoxidil is that it can also be irritating to the skin, and it can cause hirsutism in women. The second most frequently recommended medication is finasteride, a DHT blocker that can also have very serious side effects, including depression and birth defects.
Fortunately, there are natural ingredients that can inhibit 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT, like red clover and saw palmetto. The latter, in particular, has shown promise as a remedy for hair loss when taken orally.
DHT inhibitors can also work when applied topically. According to this study, applying red clover extract to the scalp may help reduce hair loss, especially when paired with a biomimetic peptide, which is how it was formulated in the GRO+ Advanced Hair Serum. This ingredient can also help brows look thicker, which is why it is key in the GRO Brow Serum.
Consider Topical Anti-Inflammatories
For hair loss caused because of physical damage to the hair follicle, it’s important to focus on healing the skin, in order to restore the follicle’s function to promote new hair growth. Doctors will often prescribe corticosteroid-based treatments in an attempt to stimulate the hair follicles, but those shouldn’t be used long term since they can thin the skin.
Internally, supplements with collagen and biotin can be really beneficial to strengthening the skin and follicles, while topically, anti-inflammatories like hemp can help encourage renewed hair follicle activity. For a soothing and calming effect to your scalp as well as increasing the appearance of thicker, fuller hair density, try GRO+ Advanced Hair Serum infused with hemp.
Commit To Using a Volumizing Hair Serum In Your Hair Care Routine
If you’re someone who struggles with excessive hair fall and breakage, or you're just looking for the best way to make your hair look thicker and more voluminous, incorporate VEGAMOUR's GRO Hair Serum into your hair care routine. While it doesn't contain hemp oil, it does feature phyto-actives that not only stimulate your hair follicles but may also inhibit the production of DHT while strengthening your roots. The result: increased hair density by up to 52% in as little as four months.
Avoid Heat Styling and Too-Tight Hairstyles
It goes without saying that tight hairstyles and heat styling can be extremely hard on hair. Too much strain and heat will result in dry, brittle hair that easily breaks, resulting in little to no length gains, so try to let your strands dry au naturel after showering. Avoid washing your hair every day, and be sure to do a hydrating deep conditioning treatment at least once a week until you see improvement. We recommend sleeping with a gentle pillowcase to help ease the friction of your hair rubbing against your pillow. This pillowcase is gentle, and it allows skin and hair to glide across the surface to reduce split ends and damage.
Focus on Diet and Nutrition
A diet lacking in fat or protein can cause your hair to grow slower and be susceptible to damage. Increase your iron and niacin intake (vitamin B-3) to boost blood flow to the scalp. Adding a biotin supplement into your routine can also encourage healthy hair growth. VEGAMOUR’s GRO Biotin Gummies for hair feature a unique combination of vitamins and minerals that strengthen strands, nourish the scalp and support healthy hair growth. Pop one vegan strawberry-flavored gummy a day to support hair wellness.
Get A Haircut
Although it can seem counterintuitive, regular visits to the salon are the best thing you can do for your hair. Even for those with thinning hair, it’s better to get a haircut on a regular basis and strengthen your ends than to visit the salon only a few times each year. Regular cleanups will give you healthy hair, and having clean, crisp ends give you the look of fuller hair. Win-win!
Take a Deep Breath and Focus on the Positive
Finally, choose to honor yourself. Focus on whole-woman wellness, and nourish your mind, body and spirit. Choose clean, green personal care products, including hair wellness solutions, and give space and time to thoughts, feelings and rest.
Laira Martin, Victoria Thomas and Cynthia Measom contributed to the reporting for this article.
More From VEGAMOUR
- How to Exfoliate Your Scalp for Healthier Hair
- How Much Hair Loss Is Normal?
- 9 Ways to Lower Cortisol Levels
- Can You Use Prenatal Vitamins for Hair Growth?
Photo credit: Andrew Neel/Pexels