This post was written by Elizabeth Barnes and examined by Prof. Lorna Johnson and Dr. Kelechi Onuoha.
Without a permanent cure, coping with hair loss can seem like a never-ending battle. Hair loss can occur in individuals of all ages, so you are certainly not alone if you are experiencing hair loss. Sometimes hair loss can be a sign of a serious medical condition, and any sudden changes, especially in children, should be promptly discussed with your doctor.
Hair Loss: Causes and Cures
One of the most common causes of hair loss, especially in women, is an overabundance of male hormones or androgens. Janus Kinase inhibitors and other hormone balancing drugs can get those levels under control. Quitting nicotine can also help tremendously with keeping those androgens under control. Usually, hair regrowth will pick up as soon as hormone levels are normalized.
Thyroid disorders can also trigger a hormonal imbalance and result in thinning, brittle hair. These can be diagnosed via a simple blood test, and usually, a daily hormone regulating drug will need to be taken. Once those thyroid hormone levels return to normal, your hair should as well.
Illness and Disease
Autoimmune diseases are disorders in which the body attacks itself as it would a pathogenic invader. Sometimes these autoimmune diseases cause the body to attack the hair follicles themselves, causing severe inflammation eventually leading to the death of the hair follicle.
Treatment consists of Corticosteroid injections directly into the scalp, the orally taken steroid Prednisone with Drithocreme (Anthralin) applied topically to minimize the inflammation. Dipheneyprone can also be applied topically to stimulate regrowth.
Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as syphilis, can target the hair follicles resulting in hair loss. Fungal infections, including ringworm, will also result in a loss of hair. Usually, after undergoing the normal treatment for the infection, the hair will naturally begin to grow if the pathogen is gone from the body. Also, scalp psoriasis can hinder hair growth and cause bald spots if left untreated. It is important to see a dermatologist to get psoriasis under control. Once the psoriasis has been treated, the hair typically grows back in full.
Sometimes the life-saving treatment for an illness can unfortunately trigger a loss of hair. Chemotherapy and radiation can result in a complete loss of all body hair. You can ask your doctor for a cooling cap to help prevent some of this loss. Important drugs such as blood-thinners, blood pressure regulators and even birth control pills can also cause some level of hair loss. You may want to discuss with your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits of any medications you are on, as well as any alternatives that may not put your hair in as much jeopardy.
Malnutrition and Eating Disorders
Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, such as iron anemia, can trigger thinning and hair loss. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for the body to operate in peak condition and perform the many tasks that keep you alive and healthy. Anorexia or poor eating habits are usually to blame for nutrient deficiency. Pregnancy and menstruation can also leach the body with iron. A simple blood screen can illuminate many of these issues. There are numerous over-the-counter supplements that can boost low vitamin or mineral levels. Being low on protein can also contribute. Be sure to eat a balanced diet with at least three complete meals a day to combat malnutrition and get your hair growth back on track.
Physical and mental stress are both known to result in hair loss. Physical stress may be due to the body fighting an illness such as flu or the recovery process from childbirth. Usually, with a little time and TLC, the body will bounce back, and so will your hair.
Mental stress is common. If left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on your body and your hair. Severe mental anguish can even result in the pulling of one’s hair. If you are experiencing severe stress levels, it is important to reach out to friends, family or enlist a therapist to help. Cutting out sources of stress while incorporating healthy outlets such as drawing, hiking, writing and yoga can contribute to a healthier body and a more luxurious head of hair.
Genetics and Age
If your grandfather or grandmother experienced hair thinning and balding, unfortunately, you are likely to as well. While most people experience a normal thinning of hair as they age, some experience this to a more extreme degree resulting in complete baldness. If predisposed to baldness, the most important thing to do is prevent hair loss in the first place. This may mean taking it easy with cosmetic treatments such as dyes and relaxers while minimizing stress and optimizing your health and nutrition. Hair transplant or laser procedures may be required but do not always work. Hence preventing it in the first place is the best course of action.
Cosmetic Procedures and Styling
A visit to your local hair salon can put your scalp in contact with countless toxic chemicals. Bleach, relaxers, gels, dyes, and even hair sprays can cause irreparable damage to your hair. Over time, if used in excess, these chemicals can destroy the quality of your hair. The body will struggle to keep up with hair loss from breakage and stunted hair growth due to irritated hair follicles. The occasional cosmetic treatment may be fine, but it is important to monitor the health of your hair. Natural hair is healthy hair. You may have to choose between having the exact style of your choice and having healthy, full-bodied hair.
Besides chemical treatments, the way your hair is styled daily can also be a contributor to hair loss. Frequently making tight braids and updos can cause bald spots and major thinning. Try to mix up your style and incorporate many more relaxed, natural styles into your beauty regimen. Over time, the hair should come back in full if the styles that caused the loss are avoided.
Heat-related styling tools will degrade the proteins that make up your hair resulting in breakage and brittle, frayed ends. Avoid over-using straighteners, curlers, and blow dryers. If you must use these, certain hair oils such as olive, coconut or argan oils can reduce some heat-related damage. Try to embrace the natural flow of your hair and allow time for your hair to recover.
Burns and Injuries
Burns to the scalp can destroy the hair follicle completely. Depending on the burn severity, the follicle may never recover, and the hair never returns. Other injuries such as cuts, scrapes, and trauma from a fall or car accident can also damage the scalp. As with burns, taking great care to facilitate healing and prevent infection will give your scalp a fighting chance at growing your hair back in full.
Unfortunately, with severe injuries and burns, scarring will be inevitable. In this case, hair transplant procedures may be necessary. This involves removing healthy hair follicles and implanting them into the bald spots. An easier, less invasive alternative may be consulting a hair replacement salon for hair extensions and wigs, which are extremely realistic and can even be made from natural human hair.
Looking after your Locks
Prevention is certainly better than any cure. It can be far easier to prevent hair loss in the first place than to treat the condition once it has occurred. In some cases, as is with hereditary hair loss, hair regrowth can be impossible, extremely costly, painful and difficult. Fortunately, caring for your strands can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. Taking measures now to protect your hair can have a much greater impact than hair-regrowth treatments you may seek in the future.
If you value your hair, treat it with kindness; choose gentle, organic hair products whenever possible, and avoid constant up-dos and tight braids (especially on relaxed hair). Limit trips to the salon for bleach, dyes and other treatments and your hair will soon thank you. Use a wide-tooth comb and limit brushing when hair is wet because the hair is mostly vulnerable during this time. Going natural as often as possible and allowing your hair to air-dry is one of the best things you can do for your hair. Avoiding prolonged sun exposure or UV rays can also be of help.
The health of your body is often reflected on the outside. Limiting exposure to harmful toxins such as nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, or other illicit substances can greatly impact hair health. Eating a varied and balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and meats can boost your hair’s volume and shine. Include in your diet sources biotin, iron, protein, and zinc, often found in whole, unprocessed foods. Mental health is just as important to maintain as physical wellbeing. It is crucial to limit stress as much as possible and seek treatment for any disorders such as anxiety, depression, and anorexia.
Hair Loss Outlook
Thanks to modern medicine, hair loss and balding are by no means a final sentence. Countless steps can be taken to facilitate hair regrowth and get back what was lost.
Remember, hair loss is completely normal and can often result from circumstances beyond control. There is no need to panic at the onset of hair loss. CribMD doctors or dermatologists will be able to guide you and help set up a treatment plan to get your hair growth back on track. From medications to laser treatments or even natural human hair wigs, there are always solutions that will have you feeling and looking your best.