While thinning hair and hair loss used to be a worry more commonly associated with men, in this day and age, hair loss in women is becoming shockingly more prevalent.
David Adams, consultant trichologist and cofounder of FourteenJay salon in New York City, says he has noticed a significant increase in female clients coming to him with hair-loss concerns. “People are very reticent to talk about their scalp and thinning hair issues, as if they are embarrassed about it,” says Adams. “I also think they are not really sure where to go for advice.” Adams says women often head to their dermatologist’s office first, but that’s not necessarily the best place to start. “A lot of dermatologists are not interested in dealing with scalp and hair issues, so quite often the guest is not getting the best advice and treatment available to them.” That’s why Adams, who has been a colorist for several decades, decided to pursue a degree in trichology, the branch of dermatology that deals specifically with the scientific study of the health of hair and scalp. “At FourteenJay, we talk about scalp and hair issues during the course of a normal hair consultation. We have a scalp camera in the salon, and we take a picture of the scalp and explain to the guest what the picture is showing us. When the guest sees the picture, it really opens up the whole conversation.”
“People are very reticent to talk about their scalp and thinning hair issues,” says Adams. “I also think they are not really sure where to go for advice.”
He notes that often times hair loss is not caused by just one problem, but by a combination of two, three, or even more factors that affect the hair cycle. In order to properly treat hair loss, it’s essential to first recognize the specific reasons that may be responsible for why someone is losing hair. That, and pay more attention to your scalp; it needs to be treated differently from the hair. “Most people do not think about their scalps until there is a problem,” he says. “Hair grows from the scalp, be kind to your scalp and start to have scalp treatments once every three or four months.” If you are experiencing hair loss, pay attention to these seven causes:
Heredity or genetic influences on the hair follicle are the most common causes of hair loss in both men and women. While genes passed down to you from your parents play a big role in hair loss they are not guaranteed to make you lose your hair. Obviously, if most of the people in your family, whether on your mother’s or father’s side, are losing hair, then you have an increased chance of also losing hair. That said, some scientific evidence suggest that about 20 percent of people exhibiting genetic hair loss don’t have any known family members with the condition.
The health of your hair is a barometer of your overall health, meaning that there are many health factors that can influence your hair cycle. For example, surgery requiring anesthesia can disrupt the hair cycle, as can a high fever, specifically a temperature greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
In addition, numerous other general health factors can be important, such as pregnancy and postpartum depression, menopause, diabetes, or polycystic ovary syndrome. Someone going through any serious illness such a cancer treatment, thyroid issues, and any autoimmune disease such as Lupus cause hair loss. The most important health influences are often the ones that occurred approximately four to 16 weeks before the hair loss even became noticeable.
Published research has shown that your hair needs a plentiful supply of protein, energy-producing molecules (glucose), and certain vitamins and minerals for optimal growth to occur. As the hair follicle is a nonessential tissue and, therefore, one of the last tissues to receive nutritional substances (or one of the first to have them reduced), any long-term deficiencies may lead to hair loss.
Protein deficiency can be a frequent cause of hair loss, because protein helps the body build hair fibers, which consist of 80 to 95 percent protein (this is especially relevant for vegetarians). For those who eat infrequently, the amount of energy available at your hair-growth site may be deficient, causing the fair to fall out prematurely. The most common nutritionally related hair loss occurs while dieting. Severe weight loss due to dieting or substantial weight gain can often cause a temporary increase in hair shedding (telogen effluvium) due to metabolic changes in the body. Eating three meals a day is important, as is the intake of protein, such as red meat, fish, and chicken. Vitamins and supplements may be required for those not eating well.
Stress can affect your hair cycle, and losing your hair can also cause a lot of stress! Under most circumstances, as with many other hair-loss causes, increased hair shedding occurs between four and 16 weeks after the trigger has occurred. Yet most people attribute an increase in hair shedding to what happened yesterday or last week, not a couple months ago. Although it can be difficult to pinpoint a specific stress episode as the cause of hair loss, there is evidence that acute and chronic stress may precipitate hair loss conditions such as genetic hair loss, telogen effuvium (hair shedding), alopecia areata (patchy hair loss), and trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling). Being stressed can also result in a bad diet and lack of sleep, also causing hair and scalp issues. Finding a way to deal with stress is vitally important. Whether it is exercising, meditation, or simply finding a quiet place to relax.
Taking certain medications can cause hair loss in some people while the same medicine may not cause hair loss in others. Stopping a certain medication can also cause hair loss in some, but not in others. In addition, certain medications can cause hair loss the first time they are taken, but not subsequent times (once the body adjusts to the medicine, the hair loss stops), or they don’t cause hair loss the first time but do subsequent times (possibly due to the medicine accumulating in the body).
It’s difficult to categorically say that one particular medicine causes hair loss and another doesn’t, as medicines can react differently in different people. However, some of the medications most commonly reported to cause hair loss are: chemotherapy medications, antidepressants, thyroid medicines, oral contraceptive pills, and cholesterol medicines. The hair-loss condition often caused by medications is called telogen effluvium. It may be a good idea to ask your doctor if there are alternative medications that do not have such side effects.
Hormones control hair growth to a large extent, and there are many hormonal irregularities that can affect the hair cycle. Often these produce other symptoms that can indicate their presence, although even if there is an absence of any other symptom, it does not rule out that a hormonal factor is present. Men using anabolic steroids (either for medical or recreational purposes) may experience increased hair loss. For women, hormonal influences on their hair may be indicated by irregular menstrual cycles, polycystic ovarian syndrome, an over-active or under-active thyroid, menopause, pregnancy, and postpartum depression. Hormonal problems can contribute to certain hair loss conditions, in particular, heredity hair loss and telogen effluvium (hair shedding).
Although not technically hair loss from the scalp, losing hair through breakage (traction alopecia) can cause hair thinning and slow growth. Breakage can occur due to chemical over-processing and/or incorrect styling, drying, or brushing techniques. For example, using a dryer that is too hot can cause the hair to burn, often so much so that you can smell it burning as you dry. Vigorous brushing can also cause the hair to break. Aggressive chemicals on the scalp caused by perming, bleaching, or relaxing the hair can cause cicatricial (scarring) alopecia.