One of the most challenging things about hair loss is figuring out why it’s happening. The list of causes ranges from genetics to medication to lifestyle. While it can be hard to pinpoint the cause right away, knowing the possibilities can help you figure it out.
Most of us can blame Mom and Dad for thinning locks, says Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, clinical instructor in dermatology at University of California, and a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss in women.
“Heredity is the most common cause of hair loss,” she says. “The gene can be inherited from either the mother’s or father’s side of the family, though you’re more likely to be affected if both of your parents had hair loss.”
Telogen effluvium, a common type of hair loss, translates to excessive shedding. (It’s normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day.)
This type of hair loss can happen after your body goes through stress, says Amy McMichael, MD. She’s the chair of the dermatology department at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston Salem, N.C.
Possible causes include:
- general anesthesia
- a change in medication
- a high fever
- severe anemia
- extreme psychological stress
Women with telogen effluvium typically notice hair loss between 6 weeks to 3 months after the stressful event. At its worst, handfuls of hair may come out.
Diet can play a role as well. Shortfalls in protein and iron can bring on telogen effluvium. So can extreme weight loss, says Paradi Mirmirani, MD, a dermatologist with Permanente Medical Group in Vallejo, Calif.
There are no tests for telogen effluvium, but your dermatologist may ask you about recent life events and look at the root of hairs you’ve shed. Club-shaped bulbs are a tell-tale sign, says Mirmirani, who’s also a member of the North American Hair Research Society. The bulbs mean your hair has gone through a complete growth cycle, which may have sped up due to stress.
Problems with your thyroid gland can lead to hair loss.
“Hypothyroidism – too little hormone – may cause a host of symptoms, and hair, nails, and skin may become more brittle and break more easily,” says Mirmirani. “With hyperthyroidism – too much hormone – hair loss can appear as metabolism speeds up.”
Blood tests can confirm whether you have a thyroid problem. Thyroid hormone medication may return your hormone levels to normal and help with hair loss and other symptoms. Your doctor will check every 6 weeks or so to see if you need to change your dosage.
Underlying Scalp Conditions
Hair loss can be caused by a fungus, psoriasis, or dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis).
The most common fungal infection affecting the hair is ringworm – the same thing as athlete’s foot. It requires an antifungal medication. Seborrheic dermatitis makes your scalp shed, resulting in greasy, yellowish scales in the hair. Causes include hormonal changes or excess oil in the skin. It can be reversed. Treatment is usually a medicated anti-dandruff shampoo, a prescription antifungal cleanser, or steroid cream.
Psoriasis, an autoimmune condition, produces thick white scale on the scalp that can bleed if pulled off. Treatments include steroid creams, salicylic acid, coal tar, anti-inflammatory drugs, and biologics that suppress your immune system.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin disease that causes hair loss on the scalp and body. It usually starts with one or more small, smooth circular patches on the scalp. It can progress to total hair loss.
Menopausal Hair loss
Hair loss during menopause is usually a direct result of fluctuating hormone levels. Two main hormones are involved in hair growth: estrogen and testosterone. In estrogenic alopecia, the most common type of hair loss for menopausal women, hair loss is directly attributed to a fall in estrogen levels. Estrogen helps hair grow faster and stay on the head longer, leading to thicker, healthier hair.
Estrogen is not the only hormone that comes into play menopausal hair loss. Androgens, or male hormones, increase as estrogen levels decrease. This causes androgenic alopecia, another form of hair loss. An androgen known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), appears to bind to hair follicles and force them to go into their “resting” phases, or telogen, sooner than normal, causing the new hairs to grow ever thinner with each cycle of hair growth. Testosterone also shrinks hair follicles, causing hair loss on the head but a greater production of hair on the face.
What can you do?
- In some cases, such as pregnancy or major surgery, reassurance and time is the best remedy.
- If medication is the culprit, talk to your doctor about lowering your dosage or switching medication.
- If it’s stress-related, reduce anxiety by means of meditation, relaxation exercises like stretching, and normal physical exercise like walking, swimming, running, cycling, etc.
- And if you have a bad diet, take steps to improve it. Follow the Manna Diet as depicted in the free e-book.
- If you are in menopause, take the all-natural Manna Menopause Support supplement to increase estrogen levels without any side effects.
- If you have a skin condition, take the Manna GUT Support to reinstate healthy gut bacteria and digestive enzymes, because most skin problems can be related to poor gut health.
Hair can start to regrow in about 6 months, if the cause of the problem is resolved.