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Hair Loss: Characteristics, Causes & Treatment

Hair Loss
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What is Hair Loss?

About 80 million people in America have congenital hair loss (alopecia) (x). It may only affect the hair on your head or all hair upon the entire body. While excessive hair loss is more common in older adults, it can also occur in kids.

We tend to lose 50-100 hairs every day (x). Of course, that loss is insignificant, as your scalp has more than 100,000 hairs. New hair usually replaces lost hair, but that’s not always the case. Hair loss can progress gradually over several years or happen suddenly. It can be temporary or permanent.

It’s impossible to know how much hair you’ve lost on any given day. You could be losing more than the normal amount if you see hair clumps in your brush or lots of hair in the drain. You may also see thinning areas of hair or even baldness.

If you notice you’re shedding more hair than is normal, be sure to discuss the issue with your physician. An expert can identify the underlying cause and recommend the right treatment program.

Hair Loss Characteristics

Signs of hair loss vary between adults and children, but everyone can see more hair gathering in the drain, brush or comb.

The symptoms of hair loss in men can include (x):

  • Receding hairline
  • Decreasing hair on the head
  • Horseshoe-shaped pattern that exposes the top of the head

Symptoms of hair loss in women can include (note that it’s very rare for women to develop total baldness):

  • Widened hair parting
  • General hair decrease, especially at the crown (top) of the head

Symptoms of hair loss in young adults and children can include:

  • Total loss of all body hair
  • Sudden loss of areas of hair
  • Incomplete loss of hair on the scalp or eyebrows and areas of broken hairs
  • Excessive hair shedding, but not total baldness, after various ailments and drug treatments, stress, anemia or rapid weight loss

When to Call Your Doctor

Sudden loss of hair can indicate an underlying medical problem that needs diagnosis and proper treatment. Always visit a reputable hair restoration specialist or hair loss clinic. Call your doctor if:

  • You notice you’re losing areas of hair rapidly rather than gradually
  • You experience an unexplained hair loss on any area of the body
  • You’re concerned about losing hair and want expert advice on your treatment options

Causes of Hair Loss

Hair loss doesn’t only occur on the scalp. Certain medications and illnesses can lead to balding over the whole body, although genetics are responsible for most cases of hair loss on the scalp (x).

Genes

Genes from both parents can affect your predisposition to male/female pattern baldness.

Hormone Imbalances

In women, hormonal changes from pregnancy, birth control pills, childbirth, hysterectomy or menopause can induce more than normal hair follicles to enter the dormant stage.

Harsh Hair Treatments or Styles

Hairstyles that always use rollers, barrettes or rubber bands, or pull your hair into taut styles like cornrows can scar and inflame hair follicles. Wrongly used chemical products like straighteners, dyes, bleaches or permanent wave solutions can also exacerbate the problem. Based on the extent of damage, the resulting hair loss may be permanent.

Injuries, Burns and X-rays

These may trigger temporary loss of hair. In such situations, normal hair growth typically returns when the injury heals, as long as there’s no scar.

Illness or Surgery

Sickness or surgery may cause stress, which can cause the body to suspend nonessential tasks like hair production. Certain conditions can also trigger hair loss, including syphilis, thyroid disorders, lupus, severe infection or iron deficiency. An incurable autoimmune disorder known as alopecia areata causes rapid hair loss all over the body.

Nutritional Deficits

Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can temporarily make hair follicles stop growing, which may also occur due to inadequate protein, mineral or vitamin intake.

Medications and Vitamins

Chemotherapy is a common cause of hair loss (x). It attacks hair follicles when attempting to get rid of all fast-growing cells all over the body. Other side effects of medications include hair shedding, like some that treat gout and high blood pressure. Excessive amounts of vitamin A can also contribute to hair loss (x).

Aging

Slowed hair growth is a natural consequence of aging. Women normally don’t go totally bald, but they generally lose hair on the crown or temples. Men tend to go totally bald and lose hair on the temples.

Hair Loss Causes

Living with Hair Loss

It can be devastating to lose your hair. Many people see a healthy mane as a symbol of vitality and youth. So losing your hair — no matter your age — can leave you feeling old and less attractive. It may knock your overall self-esteem.

Keep in mind that it’s alright to feel the way you’re feeling. It’s also fine to find a way to stop or even reverse your hair loss. Loving your hair doesn’t mean you’re conceited. You shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to sort out your loss of hair.

If you don’t find the right treatment for your kind of hair loss, it may be wise to try different wigs or hairstyles, hair weaves, hairpieces or synthetic hair replacement.

Hair Loss Treatment

There are many different hair loss treatments out there. Dermatologists recommend treating it right away before you lose a large amount of hair. It’s more difficult to treat hair loss if it is a significant case.

One or a few of these treatments can be part of your hair loss treatment plan:

Non-Prescription Treatment

Minoxidil

This medication is used on the scalp. It may stop hairs from becoming thinner and induce growth of hair on the crown of the head. Minoxidil is approved by the FDA to treat hair loss in men and women. Your dermatologist can combine it with another treatment.

Laser Devices

Combs, brushes and other hand-held gadgets that release laser light can encourage hair growth. These gadgets can make hair look younger in some people. Since these products are classified by the FDA as medical devices, they don’t undergo the thorough testing that medications go through. The long-term safety and effectiveness of these devices is not known.

Prescription Medicine

Spironolactone

This is a pill taken once a day to stop the male hormones under the skin that trigger hair loss. Spironolactone is sometimes used to treat pattern hair loss in women.

Corticosteroid

If inflammation within your body caused your hair loss, a dermatologist might inject a corticosteroid medication into your scalp to stop the inflammation associated with alopecia areata.

Finasteride

This medicine is approved by the FDA to treat hair loss in men. It’s available as a pill and helps slow down hair loss in the majority of men. It helps induce hair re-growth in around 65 percent of men. Finasteride stops the body from producing a male hormone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that infamously disrupts hair growth (x).

Medical Procedures

The procedure that your dermatologist suggests will depend on the extent of your hair loss. For the best results, your dermatologist might use at least one of these procedures.

Scalp Reduction

In this procedure, the bald scalp is removed surgically and the part of the scalp with hair is brought nearer together to decrease balding. Scalp reduction can be done along with hair transplantation or alone.

Scalp Expansion

This involves inserting devices below the scalp for 3-4 weeks to stretch out the skin. Scalp expansion can be done before scalp reduction to relax the scalp a bit more. It can also be done exclusively to stretch areas with hair, which decreases balding.

Natural Hair Loss Remedies

You can also quickly improve your hair growth with dietary improvements, lifestyle changes to combat stress and other natural remedies.

Dietary Changes

A nutrient-rich, whole food diet is vital for supporting healthy growth of hair. There are lots of food options that may help to stave off hair loss, including:

Seeds: Pumpkin seeds are one of the main foods loaded with zinc, which is needed for healthy hair growth. Research also shows that a lack of zinc is associated with hair loss and hypothyroidism (x). Super seeds like hemp, flax and chia seeds are packed with healthy fats and fiber that can also help stimulate hair growth.

Fish: Wild-caught fish such as salmon contain lots of omega-3 fats, which lower inflammation while promoting hair growth and thickening.

Tea: Tea helps with detoxification and has antioxidants that support hair growth. It can also stop testosterone from being converted into DHT.

Organic Foods: Organic foods contain no chemicals, so be sure to choose them over “normal” foods. Chemicals can interfere with hair growth.

Caffeine: Caffeine is technically not a food, but it’s been shown to promote hair growth. Research shows that caffeine helps hair shafts grow faster by neutralizing the effects of DHT (x).

Reduce Emotional Stress

Hair loss can also be caused by emotional stress. Get adequate sleep and schedule periods of fun and rest into your week. You can also try therapeutic massage as much as possible, as well as other natural ways to relieve stress.

Massage not only helps lower your stress levels, but it also helps improve your circulation in general, including blood flow to the scalp. Improved blood flow to your scalp helps stimulate hair growth.

Remove Dandruff

Removing your dandruff problem can help your hair grow naturally. Dandruff has been shown to contribute to increased hair loss, so solving any dandruff issues can have a positive impact on hair growth (x). Fortunately, there are plenty of effective natural remedies for dandruff (x).

Supplements for Hair Loss

Here are some of the best supplements for hair loss. While none promise instant results, in time you may just achieve them.

Pure Biotin (Vitamin B7)

This essential nutrient is believed to benefit hair, nail and skin health. Take 1 mg daily of pure biotin powder. Use a milligram scale for an accurate measurement.

Pure L-Methionine Powder

This amino acid is believed to boost digestive health and has antioxidants that fight off harmful free radicals. Take 500 milligrams of pure L-methionine powder once or twice daily.

Pumpkin Seed Extract Powder

This supplement inhibits the formation of DHT all over the body and has fatty acids that promote thick hair. Take 550 milligrams of pumpkin seed extract powder daily, or as instructed by your healthcare provider.

Saw Palmetto

A 24-month study found that taking saw palmetto assisted men with pattern baldness to increase their hair growth (x). The subjects took 320 milligrams of the supplement daily for the entire period of the study. At the end of the study, the subjects experienced hair growth mainly in the back, the vertex, or the top of the scalp. Many men go bald in these areas. Take 500 mg of saw palmetto daily, or according to your doctor’s directions. 

Ginkgo Biloba

This antioxidant is believed to enhance focus, mood and overall mental health. Take 175 milligrams of gingko biloba up to thrice daily. Never exceed 525 milligrams under any circumstances.

Vitamin A and C

Both vitamin A and C contain antioxidant properties. In particular, vitamin A may promote skin health. Take 30 milligrams of vitamin A once daily. As for vitamin C, take 1,000 milligrams a day to benefit from its true healing effects.

Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed oil is believed to help boost overall cardiovascular health, which is vital for hair growth. Take 1-3 soft gels (1,000-3,000 milligrams) of flaxseed oil daily with food, or according to your physician’s instructions. Take lots of water, too.

Zinc

Hair loss is one of the symptoms from a lack of zinc (x). Zinc also supports your gut health and strengthens your immune system. Take 90 milligrams of zinc glycinate powder daily with food, or according to your doctor’s directions.

Folic Acid

Folic acid is useful for maintaining a healthy nervous, digestive, and immune system. Take 500 micrograms to 1 mg of this supplement daily. Don’t exceed 1 mg under any circumstances.

The Bottom Line

We all lose hair. It’s estimated that we lose around 50-100 hairs daily. If you see lots of thinning, or bald patches, you may be having hair loss. Many triggers can cause hair loss. People under loads of stress may notice it visibly. Women may lose their hair after giving birth. Some medical treatments and diseases can trigger it as well.

Symptoms of hair loss vary from person to person. However, anyone may notice lots of hair collecting in the drain or in hairbrushes. The most common traditional hair loss treatments include oral finasteride, minoxidil, oral or topical steroids and hormones, hair transplants and even surgery (x).

Making use of some natural remedies and looking after your hair can help increase its growth and thickness. If you’re worried by your hair growth or loss, make sure to talk to a dermatologist.

About the author

Haron Omaita


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