When your hair is beginning to fall off, it could be quite scary and confusing. You may ask yourself if you have some sort of underlying condition or if it’s simply your lifestyle. I’m going to be walking you through the top causes of hair loss in order for you to look at some possible reasons why you’re losing your lovely hair.
We lose about 50-100 hairs every day, which is completely normal. However, if you’re noticing a significant amount of hair loss, then there’s definitely some sort of explanation. It might be something that isn’t within your control.
There are many factors that contribute to having hair loss, which is also known as alopecia. It’s important to be aware of them in order to determine what actions you should take, if you need to take any. It’s advisable to see a doctor, just in case there’s a condition that needs to be treated.
Pattern baldness is also called “androgenetic alopecia”, and it is one of the top causes of hair loss in both men and women. Its key determining factor is genetics, which means that if any of your parents have this, you have chances of developing the same thing. Even though both genders experience this, it is more common in men.
Since we now know that it is strongly determined by genetics, how is hair loss actually affected by this? Not many of you could have asked yourselves this very question. However, for those that did, I shall gladly deliver information on this. Hold on tight, because we’re about to dive into some really cool science stuff.
The androgen receptor gene is responsible for making androgen receptors, and it plays a role in male and female pattern baldness. Now, let’s break this down. What are androgens in the first place? Well, these are your “male hormones” that are responsible for male sexual maturity. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re just in males. Women have them too, but in very little amounts.
The androgen that is really important in determining pattern baldness is dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is converted from testosterone. Now that we’ve covered the androgen aspect, what role do receptors have to play in this? The answer to that question, is that in order for DHT to work, it needs to connect to its receptor. If this doesn’t happen, it has no effect whatsoever.
The DHT receptors are on the hair follicles, and the androgen binds to them to solicit a response. How it works, is that it leads to miniaturization of the hair follicles. This means that it shortens the growth cycle, and when the hair grows, it gets shorter and thinner.
If the hair follicles are not sensitive to it even though the androgen is bound to them, then there won’t be hair loss. However, if there’s androgen sensitivity, then pattern baldness occurs. Thus, people who have female or male pattern baldness inherit the gene that is responsible for making the hair follicles vulnerable to dihydrotestosterone, from either of their parents.
We’re done with all that amazing science stuff, so let’s go to the symptoms. For the men, they could show signs of a receding hairline which forms an “M” shape and the hairline continues to recede until there’s no more hair growing. They could also begin to go bald at the crown of their head, which is at the top.
The women don’t have the same pattern as the men do. They don’t usually have receding hairlines or bald spots. What happens is that their hair gets thinner all over, which is known as diffuse alopecia.
A good percentage of people get ill. Sometimes your body acts up, leaving you in a state where your health isn’t at its best, and you may be experiencing some hair loss as a result of that. There are also times that you may be doing things to cause this, but you may not be able to control yourself. It doesn’t mean it’s your fault. It just means you need some medical attention. Here are some illnesses that could cause you to lose your hair;
- Autoimmune thyroid conditions: Did you know that your own immune system could actually attack your body? This is the case for autoimmune diseases, like those that do work on your thyroid that they’re not meant to be doing. There are no external factors. The cause of your entire problems stems from within your own body, and this could spell doom for your hair. There are different diseases that result from this;
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: In this case, your immune system is basically beating up and destroying your own thyroid gland-not good right? As a result of this, you develop a thyroid disease called hypothyroidism. How this condition affects your hair shall be explained in a moment.
- Graves’ disease: When someone has this, their immune system is sort of “enhancing” their thyroid gland. Trust me, this isn’t as good as it sounds. By doing this, it actually causes hyperthyroidism.
Now, let’s talk about these thyroid diseases and how they could ultimately cause your hair to fall off.
- Thyroid diseases: The thyroid gland is responsible for secreting Thyroxine (T4) and Triodothyronine(T3), which are hormones that regulate metabolic processes of the body, including hair growth. If these hormones are critically low or high, then you’re likely to have diffuse hair loss, which means that there would be thinning all over your scalp.
- Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland produces too much hormones. As a result, your metabolism increases and the hair on your scalp could move to the telogen phase of its growth cycle, which is the resting phase. At this stage, your hair falls off.
- Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, so your metabolism slows down. This makes your hair very dry and brittle, which means that it is breaks off more easily and therefore leads to hair loss.
- Other autoimmune conditions: Apart from your immune system affecting your thyroid gland, it could work its dark magic on other components of your body as well, which could potentially cause your hair to fall off. Let’s have a look.
- Lupus: This is a very serious condition that causes your entire body to be inflamed, and you could have hair loss as a symptom. Normally, your immune system makes antibodies that fight off the bad guys. However, this time your body can literally not tell the difference between the good guys (you), and the bad guys, so you end up being attacked. It could lead to you having diffuse thinning, or you having some bald spots.
- Alopecia areata: This autoimmune disease causes your immune system to be at war with the follicles of your hair and therefore attacks them. The scalp is usually a target, where the hair falls off in patches and therefore leaves bald spots. It could also be on other parts of the body with hair, like your eyebrows for example.
- Trichotillomania: This is a mental disorder that causes an individual to repeatedly pull their hair. The person could have really strong urges to do this especially if they’re stressed, and may simply be unable to control it. As a result, the person loses their hair, which could leave them with patches.
If you’re getting older and you realize that your hair isn’t as thick as it was when you were younger, you don’t have to worry about it. It’s absolutely normal to experience this, because just like age affects your body, your hair could undergo some changes as well.
The amount of hair that you have is clearly defined by your genetics, and as you age, your hair would begin to grow much slower, and it could get thinner. Due to the fact that age and menopause are linked, this is really common with women who are menopausal, with the average age of hitting menopause being 51.
These changes that you may notice with your hair could be at different degrees for different people. This means that even though the aging process is a factor, your experience may not be the same as another person’s, because we’re all different. However, it’s still important to meet your doctor to make sure there are no underlying issues.
What you consume or don’t consume could have a huge impact on the health of your hair. You might be experiencing hair loss because you’re probably not eating right. Here are some key nutrients that your hair needs to thrive;
- Proteins: How do you feel about eggs and chicken? Maybe some almonds? These are rich sources of protein, and there are others as well. The reason why you should try to incorporate protein in your diet as much as you can, is because it’s beneficial to the hair and helps to prevent it from falling off. Keratin is the name of the protein that our hair is made of, so it makes sense to eat proteins to keep it alive. Therefore, if your diet is lacking in this nutrient, it could be the reason why you’re losing your hair.
- Vitamin B12: If you have a deficiency of Vitamin B12, it could be the reason why you have hair loss. This vitamin which is also known as cobalamin, plays a very important role in forming red blood cells, which transport oxygen to the cells in your body in order for them to be kept alive. These cells include those that keep your hair standing. The foods that contain this vitamin are animal products, like beef, milk, eggs. Now, if you’re not into these, don’t fret. There are products that have been strengthened or fortified with this vitamin, just so you’re not lacking.
- Iron: This has a major role to play in the formation of red blood cells as well. There are people who have a condition called anaemia as a result of iron deficiency, and it’s very possible for them to have hair loss because of this. When the body doesn’t have enough iron, there won’t be enough formation of red blood cells, which would mean that there won’t be enough oxygen to go around. Because of this, people with the condition usually feel dizzy, and hair loss is something that some of them experience as a result of the anaemia.
It may come as a surprise to you that your method of styling your hair, could actually cause you to gradually lose it. This could happen if you’re usually fond of doing really tight ponytails or braids. Basically, anything that puts a lot of stress on your hair should be avoided as much as possible.
The type of hair loss that’s a result of this is known as traction alopecia, which is usually characterized by the edges of your hair getting thinner, or any other area where there’s tension. This means that if you suddenly look in the mirror and you’re wondering why your edges are not there anymore, you should probably reconsider your hairstyle.
There were times when I did really tight braids that just caused my hair to suffer unnecessarily. When I was back from the hair salon, I would always have to take some sort of painkiller and try to fall asleep, simply because the hairstyle I did gave me a really bad headache. In my head I would always say “beauty is pain”, just to make myself feel better, because I sincerely believed that. However, it wasn’t exactly true-not in that case at least, because in the process of trying to make my hair pretty, I was actually killing it-oops! At least now I know better.
The health of your scalp is an important factor that contributes to the strength of your hair. If it’s infected or inflammed, then your hair might give in and fall off. Here are some scalp conditions that could potentially cause you to lose your hair;
- Psoriasis: This is an autoimmune disease where your immune system causes a rapid growth of skin cells, leaving the affected area with plaques that are itchy and flaky. It could appear on anywhere on the skin, but it mostly shows on the scalp. On people with a light skin colour, the scales are thick and silvery, however on those who are dark skinned, the plaques are thick and dark. Hair loss occurs in the process of someone itching the scalp in order to relieve discomfort.
- Folliculitis: This is when the hair follicles are inflammed, which results in having hair loss. It could be caused by bacterial infections, yeast, or a buildup of oils which eventually causes the follicles to be clogged. It shows on light skin as itchy red bumps, while the bumps are dark for those who are dark-skinned. Hair loss as a result of this is usually temporary, but the longer the condition is left untreated, the more inflammed the hair follicles get, which means that it could get so bad that it may result in permanent hair loss.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: This is a really common condition that causes inflammation of the scalp and ultimately, hair loss. The exact cause hasn’t been discovered yet, but it’s been noted that there are different factors that come into play when someone has it. It’s usually found in areas of the skin where a lot of sebum is produced, like the back of the nose and the scalp, which is our area of focus. People who have it have a red itchy scalp, which is usually accompanied by dandruff. The condition can cause folliculitis, and it is also associated with the growth of yeast in that area.
- Ringworm: This is a fungal infection that plays a huge role in hair loss. Scientifically, it’s known as Tinea capitis. It can easily be got from someone else by physical contact or by sharing things like combs and towels. It forms rings on the affected area, which grows and covers more surface area with time. While it spreads, it leaves patches of hair loss, which means that this is something you would want treated as soon as possible.
Hormones control what goes on in your body, which very much includes keeping your hair healthy. This means that it is very important to make sure that they are in check and are functioning the way they’re meant to. They say too much of everything isn’t good for you-well, your hormones strictly adhere to that saying.
Too little or too much of certain hormones could cause you to lose a lot more than the average amount of hair you’re to shed every day. Here are some hormones that play a huge role when it comes to keeping your hair where it should be-on your head.
Estrogen & Progesterone:These are female sex hormones that are produced by the ovaries that help with the female sexual maturity, however, regardless of the term, they’re not just in females. There are little amounts produced in men as well which also helps with their sexual characteristics.
These two hormones work together, and one of their functions is to maintain the growth of your hair. The levels of estrogen and progesterone increase during pregnancy for example, and during this period, the women could experience having thicker hair. However, after pregnancy, estrogen levels drop, which could lead to hair loss. Women who are menopausal also experience hair loss as a result of a decline in the levels of estrogen production.
A woman who has just given birth could begin to lose her hair when the level of estrogen drops because estrogens are what balance out the androgens. These are the male hormones that promote hair loss, so when the level goes down all of a sudden, there won’t be enough to continue to balance the androgens out. However, the levels do come up after some time and everything goes back to normal.
There are times when the level of estrogen could rise to the point that it becomes higher than the level of progesterone, which means that it becomes excess. When this happens, hair loss could occur as well because there is no longer a balance between the estrogen and the progesterone.
Progesterone is a huge deal when it comes to preventing hair loss. This is because it inhibits an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, which is responsible for converting the androgen-testosterone, into a more potent form-DHT. This DHT is responsible for pattern baldness. All of this simply explains that if progesterone isn’t present at its right amount, the enzyme would be left to work on the conversion of testosterone, which isn’t really what we want.
Resistance to Insulin: Insulin is a hormone which is released by the beta-cells of the pancreas. It’s been discovered that your blood sugar levels actually contribute to having hair loss. When you have a meal, your blood glucose level rises, and then insulin is released to let your tissues take up the sugar in order for the levels to normalize in your blood.
It’s very possible that your body could resist the action of the insulin produced. Your blood therefore contains really high glucose levels, and with this your body produces even more insulin because the message which says that the amount of sugars in your blood is too high, is still sent to your brain. Your body is just not able to respond to it, and the fact that your blood contains too much glucose and that your body is producing too much insulin collectively spell doom for your hair.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: This is a condition that is caused by women having really high levels of androgens, which cause hair loss. It has also been discovered that these women tend to have insulin resistance as well. Insulin prevents the formation of a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG).
SHBG binds to hormones like testosterone and prevents it from doing what it’s meant to do. When this happens, the testosterone won’t be able to get converted to DHT and act on the hair follicles to cause hair loss. In other words, If you have insulin resistance, you won’t have SHGB levels that are high enough to combat the hair loss effect of DHT.
This might come to surprise a lot of people, but stressful events could actually cause your hair to fall off. This means that the more stressed you are, the more likely it is for you to lose your hair. This is because when someone is stressed, their hair growth cycle quickly shifts from the anagen stage which is the growing stage, to the telogen phase which is the resting stage. At this point of resting, you experience hair loss. Hair loss as a result of this is called telogen effluvium.
Here are some stressful situations that could potentially cause this;
- Emotional stress: If someone is stressed emotionally, they could experience some hair loss. It could be as a result of depression which can be caused by losing a loved one, anxiety, or any other reason for the depressed state.
- Physical stress: There are factors that contribute to putting stress on the body;
- Childbirth: During pregnancy, women usually experience having thicker hair, and then it could fall off after childbirth. A change in the level of hormones is highly responsible for this, however, the stress of the whole process of giving birth could be a contributing factor as well.
- Accidents or Surgical Procedures: When someone has an accident or a surgery, it puts their body under a lot of stress, and as a result, their body sort of goes into shock, which could lead to telogen effluvium.
- Drastic Weight Loss: When someone loses a lot of weight within a very short period, that’s really stressful for the body. As a result of this, the person could have some hair loss for a while.
- Medical Treatments: Cancer patients undergo chemotherapy in order to attack the cancer cells and kill them. The procedure could also involve them taking medications in order for the treatment to be more effective. This definitely hurts the body, and patients usually experience a high level of hair loss because of the treatment. Apart from chemotherapy medications, there are others that people take for other forms of ailments, which could also have hair loss as a side effect.
It should be noted that hair loss due to telogen effluvium could last for months, so your hair isn’t permanently falling off. If the stressor is dealt with, with time, your hair does grow back.
Words Of Advice
Losing your hair could be a really traumatic event. I know that personally, it would be a really big deal. It’s always advisable to seek medical advice whenever you notice something isn’t right with your hair. As I have shown you, there are many things that could cause you to lose it. I hope you’ve found this informative. Cheers!