The average human loses between 50 and 100 scalp hairs every day. It’s not uncommon to find a few littering your shower drain, for example, and your hairbrush can hold on to a few too.
If, by contrast, your sink starts to look like you’re sharing a bathroom with Bigfoot, it may be time to talk to your doctor about hair loss. It’s often the first thing men and women notice when genetic hair loss starts to set in.
In most cases, hair loss in men and women is called androgenic alopecia or pattern baldness, the term for a genetic predisposition to certain hormones (testosterone and DHT) weakening and damaging hair follicles over time.
Prevention is paramount when it comes to preserving your hair, and effective solutions exist that can help slow, stop, and even reverse your hair loss. Here are nine signs of hair loss to look for if you think you’re shedding more strays than you should. Some of these signs of hair loss are obvious…some less so.
1. Small Patches of Smooth Skin on Your Scalp
If you find a circular spot of bald skin on your scalp, it may be the work of alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. These spots often go unnoticed until they’re about the size of a quarter. In many instances, the affected area may be itchy or feel painful prior to the hair falling out. This type of hair loss may affect the eyebrows and beard as well.
While there’s no cure for alopecia areata, it often goes away on its own. Still, it’s imperative that you speak with a dermatologist pronto. Typically, alopecia areata only affects a few small patches of skin, but it can lead to more significant hair loss. There are several treatments that your doc may suggest to kickstart the hair regrowth process, and because this is an autoimmune condition, it could require help from a rheumatologist.
2. Thinning Eyebrows
They say that the eyes are the windows to your soul. Mentioned far less frequently is the fact that your eyebrows can be a window to your scalp. Spot hair loss or thinning in your eyebrows and it may suggest you’re losing hair–or could lose hair–elsewhere, too.
A little thinning is common with age, but if you suddenly go from Eugene Levy to searching for an eyebrow pencil, speak to a dermatologist. Two of the main causes of eyebrow hair loss are alopecia, other inflammatory or autoimmune issues, and thyroid disorders.
3. Iron Deficiency
A lack of iron can lead to hair loss in men and women of all ages, and here’s why: Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin. Your blood uses hemoglobin to deliver oxygen throughout your body, like the world’s tiniest Uber. One of the stops on that route includes the cells that make your hair grow. No iron, no tiny blood-oxygen Uber.
Hair loss due to iron deficiency often looks like female- and male-pattern baldness. You may notice more hair than usual tangled up in your brush or your shower drain, for example. In more severe cases, you may find bald patches on your scalp. Fatigue and shortness of breath are also common symptoms of iron deficiency, so be sure to mention those to your doctor if you experience either.
Fortunately, hair loss due to low iron is usually temporary. One way to reverse its course is to add more iron-rich foods to your diet, as well as foods that are full of vitamin C, which helps your body absorb all that iron more effectively. Avoiding heat styling tools and hair products containing harsh chemicals can also prove helpful. Ultimately, your doctor can provide the best treatment plan after first confirming that you’re iron deficient via a simple blood test.
4. Thyroid Trouble
If it seems like your thyroid is ground zero for a motley crew of health issues, it’s because it is — and one of them is hair loss. Both hypo- and hyperthyroidism can cause your hair to fall out.
Talk to a dermatologist or endocrinologist if you suspect your hair loss involves your thyroid. Note any changes in your mood, weight and/or energy levels, and be sure to mention them at your appointment. As with iron deficiency, your doctor will use a blood test to confirm that your thyroid is the culprit and discuss treatment options from there.
Your body and mind are more connected than you might realize. When you’re on an emotional roller coaster or navigating a protracted and stressful situation such as a divorce or the death of a loved one, emotional and mental pain can morph into physical pain and suffering. If you stop eating well or sleeping regularly, for example, your entire body suffers — including your scalp. Stress hormones contribute to weakened hair growth, poor immune function, and more.
If you suspect that stress is behind your hair loss, don’t wait to talk to a health professional. He or she can evaluate your stressors and formulate a treatment plan to prevent or reverse hair loss, depending on your unique situation.
6. Tight Hairstyles
Think you're losing your hair? Your braids may be to blame. Ditto for your bun or another tight hairstyle. This goes double if you spot hair loss around your frontal hairline and temples. When braids and other hairstyles are regularly worn too tight, they tug at your hairline. After a while, that never-ending pull can cause your hair follicles to give up and abandon ship.
This type of hair loss, called traction alopecia, can be permanent, though you’ve got to be pulling pretty severely for traction alopecia to occur. It’s important to speak with a dermatologist promptly. He or she can propose treatment options to stop the hair loss’s progression ASAP.
7. A Bigger Forehead
Frontal fibrosing alopecia may sound like a quirky spell from the “Harry Potter” universe, but in truth, it’s another form of alopecia that causes hair loss at the frontal hairline. In this instance, your immune system thinks the hair follicles framing the top half of your face are trying to attack, so it forces them out.
Since alopecia can be an inflammatory condition, your dermatologist can determine the best course of treatment to reduce inflammation and slow the hair loss behind your expanding forehead. If left untreated, hair loss generally worsens with time.
8. A Wider Part
It doesn’t matter if your part is off to the left, off to the right, or straight down the middle of your scalp: when you start noticing a wider gap, it may signify hair loss — especially if you’re a woman. Female signs of hair loss are often easiest to spot along the line where you part your hair, as the individual hairs there thin and shrink, allowing more and more scalp to peek through. If your ponytail seems slight or your hair becomes finer, these may also be signs of female-pattern hair loss.
Fortunately, modern medicine offers a variety of treatment options for this type of loss. Talk with your dermatologist to see if your part predicts a thinner-haired future.
9. An Extremely Itchy Scalp
When your scalp feels like it’s on fire and that fire is covered in ants and those ants are wearing jalapeño-wool booties, you’re likely experiencing some sort of inflammation. That particular inflammation is likely psoriasis.
Psoriasis and similar inflammatory skin conditions can cause painful, scaly and super-itchy patches on your scalp. The bad news is that, if left untreated, they can make your hair fall out. The good news is that psoriasis is typically easy to diagnose, and there are several types of treatment that your dermatologist may suggest.
Whether you have a mountain of curls or a tight faux hawk, early detection is key to preserving your hair. Waiting typically only leads to a smoother scalp. If you’ve begun to notice signs of hair loss, Shapiro MD can help. We provide all of the most effective prescription and non-prescription medications for hair loss, delivered to your door.
It begins with an online quiz to find the right plan for you. If prescription formulations are a good fit, our online consultations are fast and free, done from the comfort and convenience of your own home. Get started by clicking here.