Worried about your thinning hair? Before you leap into a course of treatment, look at what might be causing your hair to fall. Here are a few common reasons why people lose hair (listed in order of the control an individual can exercixe over them, and how common these conditions are):
- Hair treatments and styling
- Disruption of the hair-growth cycle
- Skin diseases
- Chronic diseases
- Side effect of drug
People who suffer from trichotillomania (which is classified as a psychological disorder) pull out their hair, mostly as a result of stress – some people actually do it so compulsively they even go bald. Usually, their hair is lost in patches. Sometimes the hair shaft is broken, and occasionally the follicle itself is damaged and scarred. The more the scarring, the less the chance of hair re-growth.
The best solution for this is to realize that that you are pulling out your own hair and then stop doing it!
If you feel you are unable to stop the uncontrolled hair pulling in spite of knowing that the habit is seriously thinning your hair, seek professional help from a psychotherapist.
2. Hair treatments and styling
Hair treatments with hot oils or irons, and perming, coloring, bleaching, or straightening, will weaken your hair and cause it to break off.
Even using blow dryers weakens hair, and can thin hair out over the years if you use the dryers on the hottest setting all the time.
One type of hair style – pulling the hair tight into pony tails or braids - can lead to hair being pulled out of its roots in some women. This kind of hair loss can actually be permanent if the style has been worn a long time and the hair follicles are scarred – which means they will not produce new hair.
If you are going bald, or thinning out,
and your parents and grandparents haven’t had great ‘coverage’ either, chances are your hair loss is genetic. The culprit hormone behind most hair loss (DHT or, dihydrotestosterone)
is produced in different quantities by different people, and hair follicles seem to have different susceptibilities to the effects of this hormone – these differences are programmed into our genes,
That does not mean that you can do nothing about it. A lot of ‘male pattern baldness’ or androgenetic alopecia
responds to well to the latest medicines being developed to treat it.
4. Disruption of the hair-growth cycle
Life stresses like pregnancy, surgery, or severe illness or trauma
can lead to hair loss.
Usually the major part of hair loss happens two or three months after the event – because even though the hair may stop growing at the time of stress, the root dies and the hair falls out only later. During pregnancy, hormonal changes cause the body to hold on to hair that will be normally shed. When the pregnancy is over and hormones return to their ordinary levels, this hair will fall out.
Most people recover from this kind of hair loss naturally (so long as the stressor is a short-term event).
5. Skin diseases
Some people lose hair in small patches over the scalp – a condition called alopecia areata. This is believed to be a kind of auto-immune disease which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue. The patches sometimes disappear spontaneously, but treatment with medicines is also an option.
Some skin diseases like ringworm and psoriasis, when they affect the scalp, can cause hair fall. The hair fall usually stops once the disease is controlled.
6. Other diseases and malnutrition
Sometimes hair fall can be a symptom of an underlying disease like diabetes, lupus, or polycystic ovaries.
If you have thyroid disease – whether your thyroid is overactive or underactive – you will have poor quality hair that falls easily.
Hair fall can also be a sign of nutritional deficiencies. Iron deficiency can cause hair fall, and people whose diet does not have enough protein and calcium will also lose hair. This is why women on a crash diet, or those who have disorders like anorexia or bulimia, often lose a lot of hair.
7. Side effects of drugs
Most people know that severe hair fall (that may sometimes even lead to baldness) is a side effect of chemotherapy drugs for cancer. But what most people do not know is that medicines for depression, bipolar disorder, and acne can also cause hair loss. Any medicine containing amphetamines – often prescribed for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders and also present in diet pills – can cause your hair to fall.
The good news is that once you stop these medicines, your hair should grow back automatically.
If you can clearly pinpoint the reason why you are losing hair, choosing the right treatment course becomes a lot easier. Accordingly, you can introduce desirable lifestyle or fashion changes and if required, consult a doctor.
Susan Vinodh Pandian