Why is my hair falling out? It’s a question countless men and women have asked themselves, and there are many possible answers. Here are 14 reasons why you may be experiencing hair loss.
The most common culprit when it comes to hair loss is your family's hair loss history. Known as androgenic alopecia, or male-pattern and female-pattern baldness, it can be passed through the bloodline regardless of sex and despite persistent myths that only one parent's genes are to blame. If your family has a history of early hair loss on either side, your chances of also losing hair are increased. Typically, androgenic alopecia occurs as you age in recognizable patterns such as receding hairlines and bald spots.
2. Medical Conditions
Those who have diabetes are more likely to develop alopecia areata, a form of alopecia in which hair is lost in small patches. The stress of living with diabetes and the medicine that stabilizes insulin can also contribute to hair loss.
Lupus causes widespread inflammation and frequently affects the scalp. The hair of the scalp slowly thins out, though some people with lupus experience hair loss in clumps. Hair loss from lupus can also occur on other parts of the body, including the face and lower extremities.
Alopecia areata is an immune system condition that causes a variety of problems, including patchy hair loss. Infections of the scalp such as ringworm can be to blame for losing hair when the fungus spreads to the hair follicle, causing hair to become brittle and break easily.
The hair-pulling disorder trichotillomania can lead to thinning hair and hair loss. Thyroid disease may also contribute to balding or thinning hair when production of the hormones necessary for hair growth is disrupted.
3. Hormonal Changes in Women
Hormonal changes typical to women who are currently or recently pregnant or going through menopause can lead to hair loss. During pregnancy, many women experience a glow that extends to their hair, which can appear thicker and healthier. Prenatal vitamins taken during pregnancy can add to this, helping hair to look glossier. Then when the baby is born, prenatal vitamins are stopped and new hormones can actually cause hair loss. It’s a complex balance as a woman’s body goes through extreme changes inside, and hair loss, thinning, patchiness, and even new growth in unexpected places are all common during pregnancy and after giving birth.
Hormonal imbalances that occur during menopause can also lead to hair loss. Production of estrogen and progesterone decrease during menopause, causing hair to grow slower and thinner. The lack of these hormones causes an increase in androgens, which are male hormones, that can stymie hair growth. The same male hormones that cause hair growth to diminish on the scalp, though, can increase hair growth in more traditionally masculine areas, such as the chin and cheeks, which is why women going through menopause sometimes notice fuzz or stray hairs on their faces for the first time.
4. Medications and Supplements
Hair loss is often thought of as a result of medications or treatments for cancer, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, both of which can lead to balding regardless of sex. Bone marrow transplants used in treating cancer can also cause hair loss.
Additionally, hair loss can be a side effect of many drugs, including those that treat depression, heart issues, blood pressure and arthritis. Check the side effects of any medicine that you may be on to see if hair loss is listed as a potential side effect and speak with your doctor about the likelihood of your treatment causing hair loss.
High stress can lead to hair loss. Periods of unemployment or overworking can both be to blame for thinning hair, as can an unfolding divorce or difficulties in a relationship. A singular stressful event can also play a part in losing hair, with those experiencing the death of a loved one or a traumatic incident frequently reporting temporary hair loss afterward. In cases of stress-induced hair loss, the hair is likely to grow back normally once the source of the stress has been eliminated or enough time has passed for it to no longer impact the body.
6. Heat Tools
Excessive use of heat tools such as hair dryers, straighteners and curling irons can damage the hair leading to hair loss. Because the heat dries out your hair, it causes it to become more brittle and prone to breakage. The hair shaft is weakened through repeated use of these heat tools, and often becomes dryer and frizzier because of it. This frequently results in even more time spent using the heat tools trying to tame the damaged hair and perpetuating the cycle.
7. Aggressive Brushing
While brushing your hair is an important tool in stimulating the scalp and encouraging hair growth, overdoing it, doing it at the wrong time or using the wrong kind of brush for your hair type can lead to hair loss. Purchase a brush designed specifically for your hair type so that it does not cause extra stress on your hair when you try to pull it through the strands. Also, brushing hair when it’s soaking wet, such as immediately after you get out of the shower, damages your hair, so try to avoid it when possible or use a brush designed specifically for wet hair to reduce negative effects.
Particularly if you are using bleach as part of your hair dyeing process, dyeing your hair too frequently can lead to hair loss. The overprocessing of the hair weakens it and makes it prone to breakage, causing it to lose its elasticity. Make sure to wait an adequate amount of time between bleaching and dyeing and take breaks from coloring your hair when possible to give it time to heal.
9. Season Change
Many people experience hair loss related to the seasons changing. The humidity and heat that can come with spring and summer can deprive hair of moisture, making it weaker and more likely to break. UV rays can also deteriorate the protein in hair, encouraging breakage.
In the fall and winter, the dry air can cause your scalp to get dry, too, causing flaking and leading to hair loss. The stress of the holidays, many of which are celebrated this time of year, can be difficult for many and also contribute to the loss of hair.
10. Traction Alopecia
This type of alopecia occurs as a result of repetitive stress or tension on the hair itself which causes it to be unable to sustain healthy hair strands. Repeated use of tight ponytails, braids, weaves and hairpieces are usually to blame. When the hair follicles are repeatedly stressed and in a state of tension, they become more likely to break down, causing the blood flow and nutrients from the bulb to slow or stop reaching the rest of the strand of hair entirely.
Women of African descent are especially at risk for traction alopecia because of the natural fragility of African hair follicles and the tradition of elaborate hairstyling to express and celebrate individuality.
Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia or CCCA is also common in those of African ancestry. It frequently presents as patches of scarring hair loss, typically in a circular pattern on the scalp. While there is probably a genetic component to CCCA, it is exacerbated by the use of tools such as hot combs and chemical relaxers and by the repetitive use of intricate braiding and extensions.
There has been some correlation found in studies between cigarette smoking and hair loss. Because smoking restricts blood flow and hair follicles need circulation to get the nutrients they need, it can lead to hair loss.
13. Significant Weight Loss
Restrictive diets, weight loss surgery and other means of losing weight can cause nutrient deficiencies, hormonal changes and bodily stress that can lead to hair loss. Specifically, sudden weight loss has been found to cause a condition called acute telogen effluvium (TE), which is a common cause of hair loss on the scalp.
14. Poor Nutrition
Hair loss can also be attributed to certain lifestyle choices and eating habits. Poor nutrition can lead to thinning hair, especially a lack of vitamins D and B12. Protein is also important to maintaining healthy hair, so not getting enough can cause hair to diminish in structure.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, there’s equally as often no single cause. Hair loss is heterogeneous, but there are many ways to treat it.
Shapiro MD can help you get a personalized treatment plan from the comfort of home, like a dermatology visit done virtually. You can order online and a physician will determine the right combination of prescription and consumer solutions for your condition, if appropriate. Then, it’s all shipped to your door. Get started today with our free hair quiz and begin your regrowth journey with Shapiro MD.