What Causes Hair Loss?
Over 50% of the population will deal with hair loss at some stage in their lifetime.
An average person will lose around 50 – 100 hair strands a day, which is healthy and has no cause for concern.
We will take a look at some of the most common reasons for hair loss and what you can do to prevent it.
Firstly let’s talk about hair growth.
There are 3 stages in the hair growth cycle:
Anagen – growing phase
The anagen phase can last for 2 – 6 years but in some people, it is much less, which can result in much shorter hair lengths. Some people can grow hair that stays in the anagen phase, which means longer hair lengths – An average hair strand will grow at a rate of around 1/2 an inch per month.
Catagen – a transitional phase
The catagen phase is when the hair prepares to rest and eventually fall out and can last for approximately 10 – 14 days. During this phase, the hair is still held in place in the hair follicle but will stop growing. The follicle slightly collapses in preparation to release the hair, so it falls out.
Telogen – falling out phase
The telogen phase is after the catagen resting phase. The hair is released and falls out of the hair follicle. The follicle then remains inactive for roughly 3 months. The whole process is repeated, starting again at the anagen phase.
The Main Factors That Contribute To Hair Loss
- Hormonal changes
- Diet and Nutrition
- Health conditions and medication
Our genetics can have some influence over our hair behaviour but not entirely, say your grandmother experienced baldness this factor alone doesn’t automatically mean that you will go bald too. We inherit genes from both parents, not just one side, however, the fact that she did could mean you are at a higher risk of your hair thinning, falling out etc…
Hereditary pattern baldness is a condition that has a combination of factors including genetics, age and hormone levels.
Learn more about the condition here
A huge factor when it comes to our hair. When our bodies go through emotional changes and unexpected shock it affects our hormone levels causing hair to become weak and disrupting our normal hair growth cycle.
There are 3 levels of hair loss associated with elevated stress levels.
- Telogen effluvium – Hair follicles go into the resting phase, after a few months the hair falls out.
- Trichotillomania – Having the urge to pull out your hair in response to an uncomfortable situation, boredom or frustration.
- Alopecia Areata – The immune system starts attacking the hair follicles causing the hair loss
These types of hair loss are not permanent and should only be temporary as long as you work on how to reduce your stress levels. Your hair growth cycle should resume back to normal but If things don’t, then it would be advisable to speak to a health practitioner as this could be a sign of an undiagnosed health condition or deficiency, they would be able to carry out tests and help establish the root cause.
HOW TO REDUCE YOUR STRESS LEVELS
Try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night
Do regular exercise
Only eat a nutritious well-balanced diet
Meditate or do breathing exercises when stressed
Try to reduce your caffeine intake
Keep a mood diary to highlight what’s causing the stress
Treat yourself to some me-time.
Listen to relaxing music
Have a bath and light scented candles
Take a short walk
Stay connected with friends and family
Brighten up your workspace with flowers
Most women experience hair thinning or loss during pregnancy due to the rise in oestrogen and progestogen levels needed to support the growth of the baby. This is usually temporary and will return to normal once the baby is born, however, a lot of women experience hair loss from 6 months up to a year which is rather common and not any cause for concern, although it can be very upsetting.
During menopause, when your ovaries stop producing eggs your body goes through hormonal imbalances, the lower levels of oestrogen and progestogen cause an increase in the male hormone androgens which are responsible for shrinking the hair follicle resulting in hair loss.
Hair loss affects over 70% of women over the age of 70. This can be a very stressful and embarrassing time in a women’s life and research has shown it can sadly lead to depression but reducing stress levels, eating well, and use of over the counter treatments have been known to help.
For some women HRT – hormonal replacement therapy is the last resort, once they have tried all the other options without any success.
HRT works by replacing the hormones that a woman’s body no longer produces because of menopause, it can help slow down and alleviate the hair loss phase as well as tackle the hot sweats, moods, irritability etc.. during menopause.
This treatment isn’t a fix-all or for everybody but is worth discussing with your GP to determine if it’s right for you.
An interesting read if you are looking into HRT https://www.hshairclinic.co.uk/news/will-hrt-help-prevent-my-hair-loss
Diet & Nutrition
Your diet is the only aspect you can fully control.
When your body doesn’t get the right balance of protein, vitamins and minerals, and essential fatty acids this can cause deficiencies, however, over-supplementation of certain nutrients such as selenium, Vitamin A and Vitamin E have been linked to hair loss but there is no concrete evidence to support this claim.
Let’s talk about the most common deficiencies that can affect the growth of hair
Iron – Women are at higher risk due to blood loss during menstruation, vegans and vegetarians are also at risk as a result of no meat or fish in their diet.
Zinc – An essential component in the pathways that govern hair follicle morphogenesis – normal formation of the hair follicle
Vitamin D – The sunshine vitamin responsible for the formation of the hair follicle, Vegans, darker skin colour, or if you live in a northern latitude can cause you to lack this vitamin.
B12 – A Lack of B12 is usually common in vegetarians and vegans as again attained from animal produce.
Free radicals play a key role in hair loss, some of these include but are not limited to:
Exposure to toxins
The particulate matter which is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets containing dirt, dust found in the air causes the levels of the protein Beta-catenin, a protein vital for hair growth to drop and therefore increasing the risk of hair loss.
Exposure to these sorts of free radicals not only disrupts your normal hair growth cycle but causes brittle, damaged and weak hair.
CoQ10 is a great supplement to support those with busy lifestyles and offers protection against free radicals.
Health conditions & Medication
The use of certain medications can cause unwanted side effects – one of them being hair loss.
Thyroid disorders – Underactive/overactive thyroid – can be solved by changing medication.
Cancer treatment – Temporary hair should grow back after treatment.
Contraceptive pill – Switching to a different type eg combined or progestogen-only can resolve this.
Anti-fungal medication – Temporary until the condition has gone.
Steroid Medication – Switch to a lower dose or different medication.
Hair Loss Medical Conditions
Alopecia Areata is a hereditary autoimmune disease often passed down from generation to generation resulting in bald spots on the scalp but can also be caused by other health conditions such as asthma or Down syndrome.
An autoimmune disease is when your body mistakenly attacks part of your body.
The cells in your immune system surround and attack your hair follicles causing the hair to fall out as explained in more detail here https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/types/alopecia/causes
Male pattern hair loss
This refers to the loss of hair on the scalp known as androgenetic alopecia, it usually occurs as the hormone levels change over the course of a man’s life. It can be very distressing and embarrassing for most men but is a completely common and natural part of the ageing process.
Genetics play a huge role in this condition as it’s highly likely you would have inherited these genes.
MPHL male pattern hair loss often indicates a sensitivity to DHT – testosterone produced hormone that causes the hair follicle to shrink over time and then stop growing altogether, however, the follicle stays alive suggesting that it is possible to grow new hair.
There are many treatments available to help stimulate the hair, a popular one being Rogaine which is a topical treatment used to stimulate the hair follicle and encourage new growth but it’s not permanent as if you stop using it the hair will go back to how it was before.
Hair transplant is another costly yet effective treatment it works by removing parts of the hair that still grows and placing them in the areas where balding. It’s highly popular today but can cause scarring.
Depending on how many follicles you need replacing the price for this procedure can vary see below
My 10 Top Tips To Prevent Hair Loss
Use Coconut oil – massage into your scalp at least twice a week, it will promote hair growth and is rich in minerals.
Make sure you are taking the right amount of vitamins and minerals your body needs – Biotin – B7 is really good for hair strength.
Try and reduce your stress levels (see tips above)
Use natural paraben and sulphate free shampoos.
Avoid the use of heat styling tools.
Increase your omega 3 fatty acids intake.
Take a collagen supplement.
Increase your protein Levels.
Be gentle with your hair.
Keep hydrated – your hair needs water to grow.
If none of these work for you and you are still losing more hair than normal, it would be good to get checked with your GP to rule out any underlying medical conditions.