Losing hair is not only frustrating and embarrassing, but also alarming: is this just age or is something else wrong?
While it is most often a result of aging, sudden or severe hair loss may be a symptom of an underlying health problem.
What is causing my hair loss?
Types of Hair Loss
Age-Related Hair LossAlso known as involutional alopecia, this type of hair loss is very common. Hair growth naturally slows down as we get older, so most people notice their hair thinning over time.
Male or female pattern baldness is a genetic form of hair loss often related to hormones called androgens. While men may start losing hair as early as their teens or 20s, women usually notice their hair thinning during their 40s.
There are a number of less common types of hair loss, including alopecia areata (patchy hair loss in children and young adults), alopecia universalis (hair loss all over the body), and scarring alopecias, which result from physical trauma.
Understanding What Hair Loss Looks Like
Why do we lose hair?
Multiple Factors Can Trigger Massive Hair Loss
Your family history is one of the biggest predictors of hair loss.
Abnormal or fluctuating levels of androgens can stress your hair follicles and cause hair loss.
Mental or physical stress from illness or childbirth often leads to hair loss.
While most people are aware that chemotherapy can lead to hair loss, other drugs such as blood thinners and birth control are also common culprits.
Burns and other types of injury to the scalp can damage the hair follicles enough to cause hair loss. If scar tissue forms, the hair typically won’t grow in that area again.
Fungal infections, thyroid disease, iron deficiency, anemia, and autoimmune disorders are often tied to hair loss. In most cases, treating the condition is enough to stop the problem.
Dyeing, bleaching, or even shampooing your hair too often can contribute to hair thinning and leave you more prone to hair loss.
Just how common is hair loss?
*American Hair Loss Association
What Can You Do to Minimize Hair Loss?
Avoid tight hairstyles that pull on the scalp, such as braids, buns, or ponytails.
Gentle Hair Care
Treat your hair gently. Use wide-toothed combs that do not pull out your hair and avoid over-use of hot rollers or curling irons.
Ending Bad Hair Habits
Try not to compulsively twist, rub, curl, or pull your hair. Excessive pressure on the scalp can contribute to hair loss.
What do you do if you’re already losing hair?
Confirm Your Condition with a Diagnosis from a Doctor
Medical history & blood test: Your doctor will first review your medical and family history to see if there are any genetic factors at play. Next, they may order a blood test to check for medical conditions.
Pull test: Your doctor will also likely pull several hairs to see how many come out. This can help determine the degree of hair loss and which stage you have reached.
Is there anything you can do about hair loss?
While You Can’t Replace a Full Head of Hair, You Can Slow Hair Loss
This topical medication stimulates new hair growth and slows down hair loss. Applied twice daily, it is most effective in younger patients who have only just started to lose hair.
This daily pill is specifically used to treat male pattern baldness. Because it can cause birth defects, it is not recommended for women who want to have children.
This surgical procedure places grafts of tissue and healthy hair onto balding areas.
For certain patients, office- or home-based treatments using laser combs or caps can stimulate new hair growth.
Where do you go from here?