February 17, 2020
Talk about a bad hair day. When a woman realizes that her hair is no longer as thick and lustrous as it used to be—in fact, it has become downright thin in certain spots, or worse yet, overall—it can be a cause for panic.
Most of the time minor hair loss is just a sign that your body is growing new, healthy strands to replace the old, according to a report by Self magazine. In fact, losing up to 100 hairs per day is totally normal.
But, “if all of a sudden you’re noticing a lot more in the brush or the drain, or your ponytail is thinner, or you’re seeing more scalp,” then you may be losing more hair than you should, Francesca Fusco, M.D., dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City and assistant clinical professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, told the news outlet.
Figuring out why you’re suddenly losing more hair than usual can be tricky. For example, hereditary hair loss (androgenetic alopecia), isn’t really something you can control; you get the hand you’re dealt.
But other types of thinning, such traction alopecia or temporary hair shedding (a very common condition called telogen effluvium), can be managed or even reversed, if caught early. Making things even more complicated, some causes of hair loss in women result in sudden shedding while others may become progressively more noticeable over time.
According to Self, if you’ve noticed your hair is falling out more than usual, looks thinner, or seems to be growing more slowly, one of the following may be the reason:
1. Genetics: When we think of hereditary hair loss, we usually go straight to male pattern baldness. But people of all genders are susceptible to hereditary hair loss. In women the hair loss is usually concentrated at the crown of the head (especially noticeable at the hair part), while it’s more likely to affect men along the hairline, the American Academy of Dermatology notes. Although you can’t prevent this type of hair loss entirely, there are treatments available—such as over-the-counter minoxidil or finasteride (propecia)—that can slow it down and make hair stay fuller longer. So the sooner you start treatment, the better.
2. Childbirth: During pregnancy, most women notice their hair going into rapid growth mode. “That’s when everything is in a grow, grow, grow phase, because there are surges of hormones [estrogen] that make hair grow,” Dr. Fusco notes. Not only is the growth stage kicked into high gear, but also it lasts longer than normal, meaning that normal shedding doesn’t occur. However, once estrogen levels go back to normal after delivery, hair resumes its normal growth cycles and starts to shed all of those extra, luscious strands
This type of hair loss (technically, hair shedding) is called telogen effluvium, and it can occur months after a stressful or major life event like childbirth, Bethanee Schlosser, M.D., assistant professor of Dermatology and director of the Women’s Skin Health Program for Northwestern Medicine, told Self recently. “Shedding peaks about four months after the incident” that caused it, she explains.
3. Changes in birth control: Going off hormonal birth control or changing to a different type of hormonal contraception can also cause hormone-induced shedding. “Whether you’re just starting it, discontinuing it, or changing brands, your body can react by causing the hair to go into an increased shedding mode,” Dr. Fusco says. This is another form of telogen effluvium, which means that it’s usually temporary. You can rely on volumizing products and styling tricks while you wait for your hair to regain its fullness.
4. Nutritional deficiencies: Creating and maintaining healthy hair relies on getting appropriate nutrition. In particular, deficiencies in iron, zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), and protein have all been linked to various types of hair loss. Treating a nutritional deficiency usually starts with a chat with your doctor and a blood test to accurately diagnose your issue. Then your doctor may treat your deficiency with prescription supplements or may refer you to a dietitian. for further guidance.
5. Medications: Some “medications can cause chronic shedding,” Dr. Schlosser says. In particular, those used to manage high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, and depression are known to cause hair loss issues, according to the Mayo Clinic.If you think your medication may be causing hair loss, check in with your doctor. In many cases, this type of hair loss is temporary. But if your hair loss becomes chronic, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medication that doesn’t cause this side effect.
6. Dandruff or scalp psoriasis: When the skin on the scalp is inflamed and itchy, it’s obviously tempting to scratch it. But that may cause your hair to shed more than usual. Dandruff is the most easily treated cause of hair loss, Dr. Fusco says, because you can treat it with over-the-counter oo and conditioner you like enough to use regularly. But other conditions can also cause itchiness and scalp flaking, including seborrheic dermatitis (a more severe version of dandruff caused by a buildup of yeast and oil) and psoriasis (an autoimmune condition that causes thick patches of skin). If you think you have one of these conditions, check in with a dermatologist, Self advises.
7. Intense emotional or physical stress: When you’re experiencing something stressful or traumatic—not your average day-to-day stress, but something big and life-altering like a divorce, a death in the family, a significant job change, or a big move—you may experience a temporary halt in hair growth as your body puts its efforts into getting you through said big event.
“Hairs don’t all grow at the same rate,” Dr. Schlosser told the news outlet. “Some are growing, some are resting, and some are actively being shed. When you have these conditions, your body halts hair growth, and then things get restarted and all these hairs that have been halted start to get pushed out at the same time.” The same thing can happen with physical stress and trauma, like having a big operation, being hospitalized, or even losing a significant amount of weight very quickly. St
8. Autoimmune diseases: “An autoimmune condition makes the body recognize its own hair follicles as foreign and it attacks them and makes the hair fall out,” Dr. Fusco explains. This could be a condition like alopecia areata, in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles. Sometimes people with alopecia areata do see their hair grow back (although it may fall out again). But if not, dermatologists can help by prescribing various treatments, like corticosteroid injection to stimulate hair growth, the AAD says.
Conditions that primarily affect another part of the body—like thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or sickle-cell anemia—can also cause hair loss as one of many symptoms. Additionally, Dr. Schlosser notes that lupus can cause some scarring of the hair follicle, resulting in permanent hair loss.If you think your hair loss may be connected to an underlying issue like an autoimmune condition, it’s important to talk to your doctor.
9. Wearing too-tight hairstyles too often: Tight hairstyles can cause traction alopecia, Dr. Schlosser says. “Classically, this happens when people wear tight braids chronically, but I’ve seen it with tight ponytails too,” she explains. It can cause progressive thinning of the hairline, and if you do it for long enough, the hair loss may actually become permanent. It’s considered a scarring process, which can damage the hair follicle beyond repair.
10. Heat-styling your hair regularly: Fusco says that women will come to her and tell her they have hair loss, when really they have something called trichorrhexis nodosa. This is a condition in which damaged, weak points in the hair shaft cause strands to break off easily. The cause? Thermal damage to the hair from things like using hot tools and overbleaching. In this case, the hair loss “is not necessarily from the root but it’s from somewhere along the shaft,” she explains. Treatment for trichorrhexis nodosa usually involves finding and avoiding the source of the damage, which could be hot tools, harsh chemicals, or aggressive brushing. Instead, opt for gentle brushing techniques and gentle, soothing hair products.
11. Overprocessing your hair: Getting frequent perms, chemical straightening procedures, or relaxing procedures—basically anything that uses harsh chemicals on your scalp and hair—can damage the hair follicle and cause permanent hair loss. “After repeated insults, the hair follicles just won’t grow back,” Dr. Schlosser says. This can cause hair to appear thinner, and may be especially noticeable on the scalp. If you want your hair to grow back, you’ll likely need to enlist the guidance of a board-certified dermatologist.
Overall, unless your hair loss is caused by a product or lifestyle change, or a hereditary condition, remember to treat your hair gently, take the proper nutrients, and eliminate harsh products from your daily routines. Your good hair days may outnumber the bad ones sooner than you think.
Research contact: @Selfmagazine