For some people, thinning hair or even balding can begin to appear during puberty. It is caused by a change in the hormonal balance, with the main culprit being an overabundance of androgen. Heredity is the predominant factor in male pattern baldness as it determines which “target follicles” will be susceptible to these powerful androgens. Hair loss in women generally occurs after menopause, reflecting decreased levels in estrogen, and thus comparatively higher levels of androgens in the system.
There are a number of contributing factors causing hair loss which, if treated, are reversible:
- Nutritional imbalance
A vitamin (especially vitamin B) and protein deficient diet provides inadequate nutrients for the scalp, thus affecting hair growth. For example, crash diets often cause excessive hair loss. If you don’t get enough protein in your diet, your body may ration protein by shutting down hair growth. Anemia (iron deficiency) can also cause hair loss. Too much vitamin A may also lead to hair loss.
- Hormonal imbalance
Just as pregnancy hormone changes can cause hair loss, so can switching or going off birth-control pills and it may be more likely if you have a family history of hair loss. The change in the hormonal balance that occurs at menopause may also have the same result. The androgen receptors on the scalp becoming activated and the hair follicles will miniaturize and then you start to lose more hair. Hypothyroidism is the medical term for having an underactive thyroid gland. This little gland located in your neck produces hormones that are critical to metabolism as well as growth and development and, when it’s not pumping out enough hormones, can contribute to hair loss. Polycystic ovary syndrome is another imbalance in male and female sex hormones that may lead to hair loss. Also the use of Anabolic steroids will cause hormonal fluctuations.
Any kind of physical trauma – childbirth, surgery, a car accident, excessive anxiety, a sudden shock, excessive weight loss or a severe illness may also cause hair loss. This can trigger a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium, in which the shock on the hair cycle, pushes more hair into the telogen phase. Hair loss often becomes noticeable 3 to 6 months after the trauma. Normally when the stress is eliminated, the hair grows back on its own – without any special treatment.
Emotional stress is less likely to cause hair loss than physical stress, but it can happen, for instance, in the case of divorce, after the death of a loved one, or while caring for an aging parent. More often, though, the emotional stress manifests in the physical in that eating, sleeping or exercise patterns are altered.
If the scalp is very tight, blood circulation to the follicles is reduced and the hair “starves.” There are several factors which contribute to making a scalp tight. They include changes in climate, medication, discontinuing birth control pills, and postpartum hormonal imbalances. Use products that nourish and stimulate the scalp to improve circulation and blood flow.
- Externally caused damage
Washing your hair with a shampoo that is too strong can gradually strip it of its natural oils and lead to hair loss. In some cases, hair preparations and shampoos can also cause allergic reactions. Vigorous styling and hair treatments over the years can cause your hair to fall out. Examples of extreme styling include tight braids, hair weaves or corn rows as well as chemical relaxers to straighten your hair, hot-oil treatments or any kind of harsh chemical or high heat. Because these practices can actually affect the hair root, your hair might not grow back.
- Side effect of medications or treatments
Certain classes of medication may promote hair loss. More common among them are certain blood thinners and the blood-pressure drugs known as beta-blockers. Other drugs that might cause hair loss include methotrexate (used to treat rheumatic conditions and some skin conditions), lithium (for bipolar disporder), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen, and possibly antidepressants. Treatments such as chemotherapy destroy rapidly dividing cells. That means cancer cells, but also rapidly dividing cells like hair.
There is a difference between Hair Loss and Hair Breakage. With Hair Loss the hair that is falling out will have a little white bulb on the end. This white bulb is not the hair root. Rather, it is a part of the hair nearest to the root. Since the active hair root doesn’t come out with the hair, there is always the possibility for new growth. On the other hand, if the fallen hair does not have a white bulb at the end of it, then the hair is broken. This can be caused by blow dryers, perms or chemical processes. Specific treatment shampoos and conditioners can be used to correct this problem.