Understanding Your Hair Loss
Causes, Treatments, & Prevention
Read Time: 12 Min
Hair loss is a human issue, affecting both men and women, especially as they age.
In fact, 53% of men will deal with significant hair loss before their 50th birthday. Meanwhile, over 50% of women will deal with the problem by the time they turn 80. Despite how prevalent this problem is, there are still ways to put an end to hair loss and regrow your hair.
Understanding Hair Loss
Hair loss and balding are natural effects of getting older. While various other factors such as genetics, medical conditions like COVID, medications, stress, even drugs and alcohol can all exacerbate this problem and make it worse, it is still a normal condition that a majority of people will struggle with as they age.
While it can be concerning to experience hair loss, understanding the common signs of hair loss and causes will help you better understand how you can grow back your hair or prevent hair loss in the first place.
Signs of Hair Loss
While hair loss can appear suddenly, or at least feel like it has, there are several warning signs
that will give an indication that you are dealing with a hair loss issue. There will be signs and symptoms of hair loss throughout the process, but it is most important that you look for and focus on the symptoms that will present themselves early on.
Some of the early signs of hair loss can include:
- Thinning on top of head – This is the most common type of hair loss. Men will see their hairline start to recede while women will see the thinning occur at the part in their hair.
- Circular and/or patchy bald spots – For some, hair loss will begin with a few circular or patchy spots on the scalp. The skin may also become itchy or painful before hair begins to fall out.
- Loosening of hair – Following a traumatic experience or physical shock, the hair can become more loose, making it easier to fall out or come out when running your hand or a brush through your hair.
These are just a few of the common early signs of hair loss, to get a better understanding of if your hair may be thinning, take a closer look at your own scalp with a 10x mirror or maybe even ask your barber if they are noticing a receding hairline or less hairs on the top of your head.
How Much Hair Loss is Normal?
Generally, people tend to lose between 50 to 100 strands of hair each day – this is normal and usually isn’t noticeable as new hairs are constantly growing simultaneously. Major hair loss will occur when new hairs aren’t growing fast enough to replace the hair that has fallen out.
Hair Loss Causes
There are a number of potential causes and reasons for hair loss, but you can typically break the causes down into four distinct categories: genetics, medical conditions, lifestyle, and temporary hormonal changes.
Genetic Causes of Hair Loss
1. Pattern Baldness (Androgenic Alopecia) - This is a genetic condition that can affect both men and women and is generally referred to as “male pattern baldness” or “female pattern baldness”. This is what most people think of when talking about hair loss in general. Typically you can predict if you’ll have this type of hair loss based on your relatives hair growth.
2. DHT (a form of testosterone) - Dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, is a hormone in the body that occurs naturally when testosterone is mutated by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase.
Essentially, DHT is a derivative of testosterone that contribute to male sex characteristics such as a deep voice, muscle mass, fat deposits on the body, and more. However, DHT can also have a profound effect on an individual’s hair.
Once DHT makes its way to your bloodstream it can attach to receptors on hair follicles and cause them to shrink – leading to less hair on your head. The hair growth cycle lasts between 2 and 6 years, but when DHT is introduced into these receptors, it can shrink the follicles as well as shorten the cycle leading to thinner, more brittle hair that falls out faster.
3. Reduced Blood Flow - As with all things in the body, hair follicles need a sufficient supply of blood and nutrients to perform at their full potential. However, men and women with high levels of DHT or who have pattern baldness have shown to have reduced blood flow to the hair follicles, shortening the growth phase and increasing how often hair falls out.
4. Oily Hair (Overproduced Sebum) - Sebum is an oily substance that is produced by the body’s sebaceous glands. Unfortunately, this substance can build up over time and lead to an excess in the body. When this happens, it gets trapped in, clogs the pores, and hardens in hair follicles on your body. This leads to problems with the hair growth cycle, thinner hair, and hair that falls out easier.
It is important to understand that sebum is a good thing in moderation, you just need to ensure that the body is not overproducing the substance. One way to do that is to reduce how often you wash your hair. It is good for the body to release its natural oils, especially for the hair. If you are washing your hair too often, the body may begin to overproduce sebum to compensate.
Medical Conditions Causing Hair Loss
1. Alopecia Areata – This is an autoimmune system problem in which the immune system attacks the hair, leaving bald circular patches on the scalp. This problem affects people of all ages, but generally Alopecia Areata begins in adolescence or early adulthood.
2. Tinea Capitis (Ringworm) - Ringworm of the scalp is a fungal infection causing small patches of itchy, scaly skin and is highly contagious. Once treated, hair loss should stop, but in serious cases, scarring can lead to permanent bald spots.
3. Thyroid Disorders - When the thyroid over or under produces specific hormones it is known to cause brittle hair that is more likely to fall out. However, after finding the right treatment, hair loss will likely subside.
4. Medication - The medicine taken to treat a number of conditions is known to cause hair loss, including: cancer, high blood pressure, depression, arthritis, and more.
5. Addiction - Substance abuse can cause hair to thin or fall out as many drugs and alcohol change the structure of your cells, dehydrate the body, and introduce toxins into the bloodstream. Hair loss from alcohol and drugs is often temporary.
Lifestyle Choices Harming Your Hair
1. Stress (Telogen Effluvium) – Stress can do a lot to the body, including cause the hair growth cycle to suddenly stop and force a number of hair follicles into a resting state -- known as telogen effluvium. Once hair enters the resting state it falls out and thus, can lead to significant hair loss following stressful periods.
Stress can also lead to hypertension (high blood pressure). While the link is not fully understood, according to the New York Times, “a number of studies have suggested a relationship between blood pressure and men’s baldness.”
2. Poor Nutrition - Even eating on a “healthy” nutrition plan can mean you’re missing critical vitamins to support hair growth. As you age, the lack of vitamins A, C, D and E, zinc, B vitamins, iron, biotin, protein and essential fatty acids will cause your hair to become more brittle and fall out.
It is also worth noting that various dietary changes, like vegan diets can also lead to hair loss.
3. Smoking - Numerous studies have found a link between smoking and early onset hair loss/graying. While the exact cause is not known, it’s believed that tobacco both speeds up the aging process and harms the hair follicles when smoke enters the scalp.
Temporary Causes of Hair Loss
1. Post Pregnancy – Women who are postpartum have experienced increased hair loss due to the influx of hormones during pregnancy and sudden reduction postpartum. In essence, pregnancy freezes a woman’s hair and can lead to new moms losing upwards of 400 hairs a day after their baby is born!
2. Menopause - Women in particular are susceptible to temporary hair loss due to hormonal fluctuations, “The Change” being yet another cause of hair loss. Typically, after hormones balance out hair loss will stop. However, as it’s typically older women experiencing menopause, they may not be able to regrow the hair they lost without taking a few steps themselves.
Who is At Risk of Hair Loss?
Hair loss is a problem that doesn’t discriminate. Men and women of all ages can deal with problems related to hair loss or hair thinning. While there are treatment options and things you can do to help grow your hair back, it is important to understand those who may be more at risk of the problem and what is increasing this risk.
Hair Loss in Men
With over 50% of men past the age of 50 dealing with some sort of hair loss issue, hair fall out and going bald are common worries among men of all ages -- including young men. Despite how prevalent the problem is for men, it is still something that can have a profoundly negative effect on a person’s self-esteem. Hormonal imbalances, lack of testosterone, aging, and genetics are all normal causes of hair loss in men.
Hair Loss in Women
While most commonly thought of as a male problem, hair loss is an issue that affects women as well and can be catastrophic to a woman’s confidence. While female hair loss does occur as they age and can happen as women experience menopause, it can also occur in some instances in young women. Similarly, women who recently gave birth often deal with postpartum hair loss problems.
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How to Prevent Hair Loss
While some risk factors, like your genetics, are simply unavoidable, there are certain preventative measures you can take to mitigate any potential hair loss or thinning that might occur as you age.
Be Cautious With Your Hair – As mentioned above, overstyling is one problem that can lead to increased hair loss issues. Certain hairstyles that pull your hair tight can lead to weakened hair while some hair treatments like hot oil or perms can cause hair to actually fall out. When you are styling your hair try and be gentle.
Avoid Certain Medications – We’ve all seen the commercials. All the actors are smiling and happy, some may be dancing. The product their selling is to help with depression, erectile dysfunction, or some other problem. Then, toward the end of the 30-second time slot, they take about 2 seconds to rattle off the long list of side effects that this medication is known to cause. One common side effect that some medications can cause is hair loss. Consult with your doctor if you think you may be dealing with hair loss caused by medication.
Stop Smoking – One thing many don’t consider when looking at causes of hair loss is their smoking habits. Several studies have found that cigarettes and tobacco can lead to early onset hair graying and hair loss. It is also something that is of greater risk with increased smoking. If you are a smoker, quit. It will not only improve your hair health but your lungs and heart will thank you as well.
These are various preemptive measures that you can take to reduce hair loss problems; however, some issues like aging and genetics can still lead to thinning and hair falling out. So, how do you combat that?
How to Stop Hair Loss
While you will likely not be able to stop all hair loss completely, you can help ensure that not only will hair follicles complete their life cycle but that new hair growth will be there to replace the follicles that do fall out.
Along with the preventative measures that we have taken, there are other lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce the amount of hair fall you see and encourage new hair growth. There is no silver bullet to overcoming hair loss, it is more of a comprehensive and orderly process than you may believe. It’s best that you commit your time and efforts to making lifestyle changes that are conducive with growing healthy hair and reducing hair loss. Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to help you on your journey.
Destress to prevent Hair Loss
Stress is a commonly overlooked problem that can actually have detrimental overall effects on your health – it is something that also can lead to increased hair loss. While some stress can be beneficial, too much can be debilitating and lead to various physical health consequences. To overcome this and manage your stress, try and make changes to help you relax. This can include meditation, yoga, working out, running, or simply taking a day or two to destress and unwind every so often.
Diet for Hair Loss
When it comes to stopping hair loss, diet is one of the key pieces of the puzzle. What you are doing on the outside of your body to combat this problem is just as important as what you’re doing on the inside. When it comes to changing your diet for reducing hair loss, you want to focus on a few key nutrients including:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B
Some foods that are rich in hair-healthy nutrients include spinach, berries, fatty fish like salmon, nuts, and more. It is also important to note that switching diets to something new, like a vegan diet, can lead to initial hair loss.
Supplements for Hair Loss
Along with your daily meals, you can start taking various vitamins and supplements to ensure that you are getting all the proper nutrients and vitamins that you can to reduce hair loss and encourage new hair growth. There are many supplements designed specifically for this purpose of regrowing your hair.
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Best Hair Loss Treatment
Along with things that you are doing to reduce hair loss, they can also help improve hair growth. However, there are other strategies and products that you should also consider when looking into hair loss treatment. Let’s take a look at some of the common hair loss treatments and remedies that are out there to help.
Laser Caps and LLLT
Hair loss laser caps are devices that you place on top of your head that expose your scalp to lighting that encourages blood flow, and in turn, hair growth on the top of your head and the rest of the scalp. Many laser caps, like illumiflow products, are cleared by the FDA and have shown to be effective in increasing hair count.
Derma Rollers for Hair Loss
Derma rolling and microneedling is a strategy used to help stimulate the scalp to encourage blood flow to certain areas. Studies have shown that dermarollers can help stimulate hair follicles and help those dealing with androgenic alopecia who may not respond well to conventional treatment options.
Hair Transplant Surgery
Along with the above treatment options, hair transplant surgery is another, albeit more expensive, potential solution. It will generally range from $4,000 to $15,000 and most people will generally notice new hair growth 2 to 3 weeks after the surgery, with 60% of new hair growth 6 to 9 months after the surgery.
You may be looking at all these remedies and wondering which one you should try, well when it comes to overcoming hair loss, your best bet is to take a comprehensive and complete approach that includes implementing multiple strategies. Using a laser cap along with a dermaroller while also taking supplements and altering your diet for hair growth will yield you much better results than just using one potential solution.
While this all may be overwhelming, you don’t have to make all these changes at once. You can start with one change and slowly make small alterations to your life to work and create a complete hair loss mitigation strategy.
Hair Loss Treatment at Home
While some people may be interested in surgical procedures like hair transplants to overcome hair loss, others want the luxury of treating their condition in the comfort of their own home.
The first steps you can take to at-home hair regrowth are:
- Buy a Laser Cap
- Use a Derma Roller
- Massage your Scalp
- Practice Meditation
- Eat Hair Enriching Foods
- Take a Multivitamin
When you buy a laser cap from illumiflow we give you a free book on how to regrow your hair at home (a $37 value!) We've included everything from at-home serum recipes to the best exercises to increase blood flow to the scalp.
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