Picture this: You wake up one morning, look at yourself in the mirror, and notice something troubling – thinning hair, a receding hairline, or even bald spots around your head. Hair loss is a common concern that affects both men and women and can significantly affect a person’s self-esteem and confidence. But fear not!
In this article, we’ll delve into the mysteries of hair loss, exploring its causes and providing expert-backed ways to prevent and treat it. From understanding the complexities of the hair growth cycle to adopting lifestyle changes that promote healthy hair growth, we’ll equip you with the knowledge you need to maintain (or, in some cases, regain) healthy hair. .
Common causes of hair loss
Hair loss occurs when the amount of hair loss exceeds the amount of hair grown. It manifests itself in many ways, according to Dr. Andy Goren, dermatologist. “Most people first notice hair loss when more than 50% of the hair is lost in a specific region, such as the top of the scalp. Another common sign of hair loss is excessive shedding in the shower or when brush the hair.”
As we age, our hair becomes thinner and more prone to falling out. This gradual thinning, known as androgenetic alopecia or baldness, can affect anyone. Genetic factors also play a significant role – a family history of hair loss makes you more likely to experience it. Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or menopause, can also disrupt the delicate balance of hair growth, leading to temporary or prolonged hair loss. Plus, whether it’s stress in the workplace or your chaotic love life, high levels of stress can take a toll on your mane.
Underlying medical conditions including autoimmune disorders, thyroid dysfunction and skin conditions can also cause hair loss. Even some medications, like those used for cancer treatments, can lead to hair loss as a side effect, Ray Nettles, MD, chief medical scientist at Stop and Regrow, tells SHAPE.
Related: If Your Hair Is Falling Out Like Crazy, Here’s the Deal
Understanding the hair growth cycle
To truly understand hair loss, it is essential to understand the complexities of the hair growth cycle. Below are explanations of the three phases of hair growth as described by Dr. Nettles.
The anagen phase, also known as the growth phase, is when hair actively grows for several years. Generally, this phase is between seven and nine years, although the duration can vary depending on individual factors such as genetics and general health. During this time, the hair follicle produces new cells and the hair shaft lengthens.
The catagen phase is the transition period in the hair growth cycle. It’s like a vacation for your strands, lasting about two to three weeks. During this downtime, the hair follicle shrinks and becomes disconnected from its reliable blood supply. While hair loss during this phase is as rare as finding a unicorn, certain underlying conditions or interruptions in the hair growth cycle can tip the scales and trigger an unexpected shedding.
An interesting caveat of the catagen phase is that during pregnancy, a person’s hair follicles tend to bypass it and remain in the anagen phase, explains Dr. Nettles. As a result, they don’t shed any hair during this time, resulting in luxurious, thick hair. However, all these hairs can begin to fall out immediately after giving birth.
This outpouring can be surprising to people who didn’t expect it. But it is simply the accumulation of hair that would have gradually fallen out over the previous nine to 12 months. So rest assured, it’s not the hair loss itself, it’s the natural cycle bouncing back.
In the final phase, better known as the telogen phase, the hair follicles rest for about two to three months. During this phase, the hair follicle remains dormant and the old hair eventually falls out. Hair loss during the telogen phase (a condition known as telogen effluvium) is the most common type of acute hair loss, according to Dr. Nettles.
Telogen effluvium can be triggered by a number of factors, including high levels of stress, hormonal changes (such as pregnancy, childbirth or menopause), nutritional deficiencies, certain medications, illness (such as post-covid hair loss) or surgery.
It is worth noting that the hair growth cycle is not synchronized for all hair follicles. Each hair on your scalp can be in a different phase at any given time. This is why you typically experience a daily shedding of around 100 to 150 hairs as part of the average hair growth and replacement process.
Ways to prevent hair loss
When dodging the hair loss bullet, it’s about playing detective and getting to the root of the problem, says Dr. Goren. Our experts also emphasize the need for personalized prevention tactics that target the specific cause of your hair loss.
Nutrition and Diet
While nutrition isn’t usually an underlying cause of hair loss, you shouldn’t underestimate its role in maintaining healthy hair, says Dr. Nettles. Adequate protein intake is essential as hair is mostly made up of protein, so include lean meats, fish, eggs, lentils and nuts in your diet. Also, make sure you consume enough vitamins and minerals like iron, biotin, zinc and vitamin E, which are crucial for healthy hair.
A diet high in protein, healthy fats, and vegetables provides the necessary building blocks for hair growth, Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, registered dietitian and author of The Flexitarian Diet previously reported to SHAPE.
Scalp and hair care
Keeping a clean and healthy scalp is vital for optimal hair growth. Regularly wash your hair with a mild shampoo and conditioner to rid your scalp of dirt, excess oil and product buildup. Also, avoid using harsh hair treatments, excessive heat styling, or tight hairstyles that can cause tension and breakage, recommends Dr. Goren.
Chronic stress is the archenemy of hair loss – so managing stress levels is key to preventing hair loss, our experts explain. Try to introduce some stress-reducing activities into your daily routine.
Get active with some exciting exercises, find your Zen with a little meditation, or immerse yourself in hobbies that make your soul sing. Even taking care of yourself is a healthy way to deal with stress. Not only will your hair thank you, but your overall well-being will reach new heights.
Medical interventions for hair loss
In some cases, medical interventions may be required to treat hair loss. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional or dermatologist to determine the most appropriate treatment option for your specific condition. They can assess your medical history, evaluate potential side effects, and recommend the best course of action. A thorough evaluation can also determine the underlying cause of your hair loss. Here are some options available if your condition warrants medical treatment.
Hair transplants have gained significant popularity in treating hair loss. However, it is important to understand that hair transplants do not stop the progression of hair loss. The procedure redistributes existing hair follicles, providing a more aesthetically pleasing appearance, explains Dr. Nettles. During a hair transplant, hair follicles are harvested from areas of the scalp with healthy hair, usually on the back or sides of the head, and implanted into areas with thinning hair.
It is crucial to manage expectations when opting for a hair transplant. The density achieved with the transplant can be much less than that of natural hair (around 50%) and several sessions may be necessary to achieve the desired result. In addition, it is essential to choose a qualified and experienced surgeon to ensure the best possible results.
Topical treatments and medications
Topical treatments such as minoxidil can effectively promote hair growth and slow down the progression of hair loss. Minoxidil (available over the counter) is applied directly to the scalp and stimulates the hair follicles, increasing hair growth.
This treatment option is FDA approved for both men and women, with a formula of at least 5% minoxidil that has been shown to be the ideal amount for hair growth. It’s important to note that minoxidil is the only drug approved for women, and it’s usually only 30% to 40% effective in that particular group, says Dr. Goren.
Another drug commonly used to treat hair loss is finasteride. This oral medication works by blocking the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the latter of which is a hormone associated with hair loss. Finasteride is primarily prescribed to men and requires a prescription.
Lifestyle factors that affect hair loss
Your daily habits can also have a big impact on your hair loss. Here are some things to address in your life.
To sleep: Getting adequate sleep is crucial for hair growth as it allows the body to repair and regenerate itself. During sleep, your body releases growth hormones (like melatonin), which are linked to promoting healthy hair growth. Lack of sleep can disrupt this process and lead to imbalances in hormone levels, potentially contributing to hair loss.
Exercise: Regular exercise improves blood circulation, which is essential for delivering nutrients to hair follicles. As explained earlier, it also helps reduce stress levels that contribute to hair loss. Physical activity also promotes overall well-being, which can translate to healthier hair growth.
Alcohol consumption: As much as you love happy hour or a bottomless mimosa brunch, your drinking habits can affect your hair growth. Alcohol is a diuretic that can lead to dehydration, including the scalp, also known as the foundation of healthy hair growth. Also, alcohol can disrupt hormone levels, affecting hair growth cycles. Limiting alcohol consumption or opting for healthier alternatives can help maintain optimal hair growth conditions.
If you notice excessive hair loss or significant changes in your hair pattern, do not hesitate to seek professional advice. Dermatologists and hair loss specialists can provide a thorough evaluation, diagnose the underlying cause of your hair loss, and recommend appropriate treatment options. With the right support and proactive measures, you can embrace a future with healthier, fuller hair and boost your confidence.
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Read the original article on Shape.