Hair loss can be as psychologically upsetting as it is physically. It can affect the scalp and other areas of the body, leading to complete loss of hair in more severe cases.
It’s important to understand the cause of your alopecia as early as possible to know the options that are available to you.
What Are The Different Causes of Hair Loss?
Hair loss can occur in men and women due to any one or more of the following:
One of the most common causes of hair loss in both men and women is genetics. Together with the influence of sex hormones, it leads to the development of androgenetic alopecia or pattern baldness.
In females, on the other hand, the top and crown are usually affected, starting with the widening of the part. The hairline itself remains intact.
Keep in mind that this kind of hair loss caused by genetics is permanent. Your hair follicles will miniaturise and thin, and you’ll end up with large bald spots on your scalp.
There are many changes that our hair experiences as we age. Their greying is the first thing that most people notice.
However, the normal hair growth cycle is also affected; the duration of the anagen phase decreases, so the hair doesn’t grow as much anymore.
The hair becomes thinner and thinner, and eventually, some follicles do not produce any hair at all.
Ageing is another common cause of hair loss in men and women. Almost everyone experiences a degree of thinning. This may occur in conjunction with androgenetic alopecia.
Health problems can also affect the growth of hair on your head.
For instance, in autoimmune conditions, healthy hair follicles can become the target of the body’s immune system. As a result, you can end up losing your hair.
You can take lupus as an example of it. The formation of discoid lesions can cause irreversible damage, leading to permanent lupus hair loss.
There are other health problems that can also cause hair loss, such as:
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Thyroid disorder
- Infections (syphilis, HIV, tinea capitis, etc.)
- Mental illness (trichotillomania, depression, eating disorders, etc.)
Regrowth can be possible, but if it results in scarring, the damage is permanent.
Your lifestyle can also have an effect on your hair growth.
For instance, you might think that not having enough sleep shouldn’t affect your hair, but it can. There are different ways in which it can do that.
Lack of sleep can cause stress, hormonal imbalance, and nutritional deficiency while weakening your immunity. And all these factors can indirectly make you lose your hair.
Other poor lifestyle choices like crash dieting can also cause hair loss. It can happen due to the shock that the body experiences because of the diet. And it results in what’s known as telogen effluvium.
Additionally, since you might not be getting enough nutrition, that too will cause you to lose your hair.
It is also believed that smoking may lead to hair loss by damaging the DNA of hair follicle cells, restricting blood flow to the follicles, and increasing inflammation.
Drinking too much alcohol can also cause indirect damage to your hair. It can cause malabsorption of nutrients that your body needs to grow healthy hair.
Before taking any medication, it’s best to discuss its possible side effects with the doctor. For instance, hair loss can occur when taking medications for:
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Blood pressure
It is possible to reverse the hair loss after you stop taking the medication.
However, certain medications that cause hormonal changes in the body can result in hair loss that is permanent.
For example, the intake of anabolic steroids for a long time can cause permanent hair loss due to androgenetic alopecia.
Nutritional deficiency can cause hair loss by shocking the body, but it also causes hair loss by not providing building blocks for hair.
In the case of iron deficiency, the hair is not getting enough oxygen.
In addition, it is linked to other causes of hair loss, such as alopecia areata and androgenetic alopecia.
Vitamin D can affect the immune response. Therefore, its deficiency increases the risk of alopecia areata. Its deficiency has also been linked with pattern baldness.
Lastly, since 85% of the hair is simply protein, if you’re not getting enough of it, you’re going to lose your hair.
That’s why certain diets that restrict the intake of proteins have people experiencing hair loss due to this, in addition to telogen effluvium.
Here, you should also note that if your doctor has advised supplements for a nutritional deficiency, that should be fine.
But if you start taking them when you don’t have a deficiency, to begin with, overloading on supplements can also harm your hair.
Stress is another common cause of hair loss in both men and women. And it also affects the hair in different ways.
Stress can make you want to pluck your hair out. It’s a condition known as trichotillomania. Additionally, stress may trigger an abnormal immune response (like in alopecia areata) and cause bald patches of hair.
It can also disturb the hormonal imbalance in your body and shock it – both of which can make you lose your hair.
Another common yet preventable cause of hair loss is over-styling.
You can very easily incur heat and/or chemical damage by:
- Overusing styling tools (like straighteners, curlers, blow dryers)
- Frequently bleaching, dyeing or chemically relaxing your hair
If you use too many hair products (dry shampoo, serum, setting sprays, etc.), that too can clog the pores on your scalp and end up causing hair loss.
But to offset that, you also shouldn’t start shampooing your hair excessively. That can also make your hair dry and prone to breakage.
And lastly, tight hairstyles can be very damaging to your hair. They can even cause permanent hair loss through what’s known as traction alopecia.
Hormonal imbalances in the body are another cause of hair loss.
Unfortunately, these changes are accompanied by hair loss as well. And it’s not always reversible.
Hormone imbalance can also occur as a result of various health problems, such as PCOS, thyroid disorder, and diabetes, among others. Of course, hair loss can occur in this case too.
Both physical and emotional trauma can cause hair loss.
On the other hand, even emotional trauma like a layoff, divorce, or death of a loved one can trigger hair loss due to the shock.
It can also make you want to pull or pluck your hair out.
Cancer treatments – chemotherapy and radiotherapy – also cause hair loss. In chemotherapy, hair loss can affect any area of the body, no matter where the treatment is taking place.
However, in the case of radiotherapy, hair loss occurs in the area where the treatment is taking place.
While chemo hair loss is rarely permanent, radiotherapy hair loss is more common depending on the level of radiation you’ve received.
There are different substances, the toxic levels of which can result in hair loss. These include:
The long-term inhalation or ingestion of certain substances in an industrial setting can also cause hair loss.
What Causes Male Hair Loss?
Pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss in men.
However, they can also lose hair due to illness, medication, ageing, stress, and unhealthy lifestyle, among other factors.
In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, alopecia is more common in men, and that’s mainly because of genetics.
What Causes Female Hair Loss?
Pattern baldness is also the most common cause of hair loss in women. They also lose hair due to ageing, stress, poor lifestyle choices, medication and underlying illnesses, among other reasons.
There are, however, certain hormone-related hair losses that are unique to them, such as those caused by childbirth or menopause.
Hair loss due to over-styling and tight hairstyles is also more common among women.
To Sum Up
Regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, hair loss can be a very distressing experience both emotionally and physically.
Knowing the different causes of hair loss may help you identify the one which you may be suffering from.
In any case, you need to consult a dermatologist about this as soon as possible, as your hair loss may be indicative of an underlying health condition.
Moreover, in some cases, a lack of early intervention can make hair loss irreversible. But if it is permanent, depending on the affected area, you may benefit from a scalp, eyelash, beard, moustache, or eyebrow transplant.
Reviewed and Approved by Trichologist Yaprak Yazan