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21 Surprising Reasons What Can Cause Hair Loss

Discovering clumps of hair in your shower drain or on your pillow can be an unsettling experience. Hair loss, or alopecia, isn't just an issue that affects your scalp; it can impact your entire body. And while it's more prevalent among men, anyone can experience hair thinning or baldness. But what's really behind those stray hairs? If this is an issue for you it helps to know the various factors what can cause hair loss.

It's not solely a matter of heredity or aging; even your daily routine can be hurting your hair. Understanding the root causes of hair loss is the first step in addressing the issue and finding the right solution for you. Let's dive in what are the reasons your hair might be falling off.

What is Hair Loss

You may think of hair loss as a common issue among men, but female hair loss is more prevalent than you might realize. Alopecia, the medical term for hair loss, occurs when the natural balance of hair shedding and growth is disrupted. With the average person shedding 50 to 100 hairs a day, the impact of this loss is usually unnoticeable. But, when a significant imbalance occurs, and less hair grows back to replace what’s shed, the signs of hair loss become more apparent.

Types of Hair Loss

As a woman, you might experience several types of alopecia, each with distinct characteristics:

  • Alopecia Areata: This autoimmune condition results in unpredictable, patchy hair loss.
  • Telogen Effluvium: Often temporary, this condition is characterized by an increased number of hairs entering the resting phase, which leads to more shedding and thinning.
  • Anagen Effluvium: This type usually occurs suddenly and is commonly associated with chemotherapy. Regrowth may take time and is dependent on the severity of the damage.
  • Folliculitis Decalvans: A rare form of alopecia that involves scarring of the scalp, leading to permanent hair loss.

What Can Cause Hair Loss

As a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner (CFMP) I help get to the root cause of hair loss - take the HAIR LOSS QUIZ or check out the HealthyHairFix™ Roadmap

Multiple factors might contribute to hair loss so let's explore the 21 causes of hair loss:

Inflammation

Inflammation is your body's natural response to harmful stimuli, but chronic inflammation can damage hair follicles, leading to hair loss. Avoiding inflammatory foods and adopting a lifestyle that reduces stress levels and diabetes can help manage this condition.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Your hair needs a variety of nutrients to grow healthy and strong. Deficiencies in biotin (very rare), iron, zinc, and low protein can cause hair loss. Incorporating a balanced diet rich in these nutrients can make a big difference.

Food Reactions

Certain food intolerances or allergies can contribute to hair loss by causing inflammation in the body. Identifying and eliminating these foods from your diet can help your hair regain its strength.

Genetic

Genetics play a significant role in hair loss, especially in conditions like female pattern baldness. While you can't change your genes, understanding this cause can help you explore the right assistance options.

Crash Diets

Sudden weight loss or malnutrition can shock your body, resulting in hair loss. Maintaining a balanced diet is crucial for hair health.

Excessive Exercise

While exercise is beneficial for overall health, overdoing it can lead to physical stress and, so, hair loss. Moderation is key.

Trauma

Physical or emotional trauma can trigger a temporary hair loss condition known as telogen effluvium. Once stress is managed, hair usually begins to grow back.

Candida/Fungal

Overgrowth of candida or other fungal infections can cause scalp conditions that lead to hair loss. Managing these infections is essential for restoring hair health.

Hormone Imbalances

Changes in hormones, whether due to pregnancy, menopause, or thyroid issues, can cause hair loss. Getting your hormone levels checked is a good first step in addressing this cause.

Autoimmunity

Autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata attack hair follicles directly, leading to hair loss. While these conditions can be challenging, treatments are available to help manage signs.

Poor Digestion

Improper digestion can prevent your body from absorbing the nutrients your hair needs to grow. Focusing on gut health can improve both digestion and hair quality.

Heavy Metals

Exposure to heavy metals can lead to hair loss among other health issues. Reducing exposure and possibly detoxing are strategies to consider.

Chronic Insomnia

Lack of sleep can stress your body and contribute to hair loss. Implementing a healthy sleep routine is beneficial for your hair and overall well-being.

Pathogens

Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections can lead to scalp diseases that disrupt hair growth. Treating these infections is crucial for hair recovery.

Toxins

Environmental toxins can impact your hair just as much as they do your overall health. Minimizing exposure and enhancing detoxification processes can aid in hair health.

Infections/High Fever

High fever or infections can cause your hair to enter a resting phase, resulting in noticeable hair loss after recovery. This type of hair loss is usually temporary.

Stress

Chronic stress can significantly impact your hair, leading to thinning or loss. Finding effective stress management techniques is essential.

Covid Shed

Experiencing hair loss after a Covid-19 infection is becoming increasingly common. This is usually temporary and related to the stress the body undergoes during infection.

Gut Imbalances

An imbalanced gut flora can affect your body's ability to absorb nutrients, leading to weak hair growth. Focusing on gut health can help improve hair condition.

Medications

Certain medications can have hair loss as a side effect. If you suspect your - is to blame, consult your doctor about alternative treatments.

Poor Circulation

Poor blood circulation to the scalp can limit the nutrients your hair follicles receive. Promoting good circulation through scalp massages or exercise can encourage hair growth.

Aside from hereditary factors and hormonal changes, stress, certain hairstyles that pull on the hair, and even some medications can lead to alopecia. Understanding these causes (while debunking a popular myth) is key to addressing the issue and finding a path to improve hair health.

If having hair loss, check out the HAIR LOSS QUIZ or get the HealthyHairFix™ Roadmap

Exploring Deeper into Medical Conditions that Can Cause Hair Loss for Women

Hormonal Imbalance

Your body's hormones act as critical messengers that impact hair growth cycles. Hormonal imbalances can play a significant role in your hair health. Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) lead to the overproduction of androgens, which might cause hair thinning at the temples and front of your scalp. Likewise, hormonal shifts due to birth control cessation can also prompt temporary thinning.

Thyroid Problems

The thyroid is a silent yet powerful organ governing various metabolic processes in your body. Thyroid dysfunctions, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, can lead to hair loss due to disruptions in your body's hormonal equilibrium. Your hair's life cycle hinges on these hormones, so an underactive or overactive thyroid might manifest as thinning hair, a common concern among postmenopausal women. Monitoring your thyroid health is vital in ensuring your mane remains lush and full.

Scalp Infections

Scalp health is fundamental for hair growth. Fungal infections, such as ringworm, introduce a hostile environment for hair follicles, leading to hair loss known as tinea capitis. If you're experiencing itchy, painful sensations or noticing scaly patches on your scalp.

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune disorders strike when your body's defense system erroneously attacks healthy cells. Alopecia areata is a condition where your immune system targets hair follicles, often resulting in sudden, patchy hair loss. Another form, Folliculitis Decalvans, causes inflammation and scars on your scalp, which can permanently damage hair follicles. Early detection and assistance can help manage these conditions and potentially prevent further hair loss.

Nutritional Deficiencies Explained

Your hair needs a symphony of nutrients to flourish. Deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals can significantly affect hair health. A lack of iron, proteins, or vitamins, particularly biotin and vitamin D, has been linked to various forms of hair loss like telogen effluvium and Anagen Effluvium. Ensuring a balanced diet rich in key nutrients can help maintain normal hair growth and strength.

As a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner (CFMP) I help get to the root cause of hair loss - take the HAIR LOSS QUIZ or check out the HealthyHairFix™ Roadmap

Medications and Treatments

At times, the very treatments intended to improve you can take a toll on your hair. Certain medications, notably those used for cancer (chemotherapy), arthritis, depression, and heart problems, list hair loss as a potential side effect. Anagen Effluvium is a common consequence of chemotherapy due to its effect on rapidly dividing hair follicle cells. Consult with your healthcare provider if you notice hair loss after starting new medications, as alternative treatments may be available.

Lifestyle Factors that can Cause Hair Loss for Women

Stress and Anxiety

You're not imagining it—stress can contribute to hair loss. While temporary stress might not cause any noticeable changes, chronic stress increases cortisol levels, which can lead to conditions like telogen effluvium. In this condition, stress pushes large numbers of hair follicles into a resting phase, and within a few months, affected hairs might fall out suddenly when simply combing or washing. Stress might also trigger Alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition where your immune system attacks your hair follicles.

Poor Diet and Nutrition

The phrase "you are what you eat" holds true when talking about hair health. Nutrient deficiencies contribute to hair loss, notably when you're missing out on iron, folic acid, and essential minerals. These nutrients are important for hair follicles to produce hair naturally. Postmenopausal women are particularly susceptible to nutrient-related hair changes. Sudden weight loss, low-calorie diets, and an unbalanced diet can also lead to telogen effluvium. A steady, nutrient-rich diet supports the anagen, or growth phase, of your hair cycle.

Excessive Styling and Heat Damage

Your hair's health can suffer from excessive styling. Use of high heat tools like straighteners or curling irons, alongside chemical treatments such as perms and relaxers, can lead to Anagen Effluvium. This type of hair loss occurs during the active growth phase of hair follicles, where strands weaken and can easily fall out or break. It's best to minimize the use of these harsh treatments and protect your hair's integrity by reducing direct heat exposure.

Tight Hairstyles and Hair Accessories

Hairstyles that pull on your hair—tight ponytails, cornrows, or braids—can cause hair loss called traction alopecia. This type of hair loss occurs when there's a persistent pull on the hair. Prolonged tension on your hair can lead to damaged follicles and could even become permanent if not addressed early. Be mindful of the hair accessories you use, opting for those that do not pull tightly on your hair or scalp.

Improper Hair Care

Neglecting your hair care or using harsh products can make you more prone to hair loss. Fungal infections of the scalp, like Folliculitis Decalvans, can lead to hair loss if left untreated. Simple changes in your routine, such as using mild shampoos, avoiding harsh chemicals, and not over-washing, can help manage and preserve your hair's natural growth process. Remember, gentle care goes a long way in preventing unnecessary hair loss.

Androgenetic Alopecia

Understanding Androgenetic Alopecia is essential if you're experiencing age-related hair thinning. Commonly affecting up to 50% of women, this genetic condition is influenced by hormones and aging. In androgenetic alopecia, the androgen mechanism shifts, altering hair from its normal, thick state to a finer, shorter vellus type, which can be distressing.

This regression is not a sudden event but a gradual process that you might notice as a widening part or thinning across the top of your head. For many women, postmenopausal changes intensify the condition as hormonal balances shift significantly during this life stage. While it's not preventable, being aware of your family's history with hair loss can help you understand your risks better.

Here are some quick facts to keep in mind:

  • 80% of men are affected by androgenetic alopecia, highlighting its prevalence.
  • 50% of women will also experience this form of hair loss.
  • The risk may increase for postmenopausal women due to hormonal changes.

Beyond androgenetic alopecia, there are other culprits of age-related hair loss you should be aware of. Telogen effluvium is a condition that often follows stressful life events such as childbirth or severe illness. In this situation, a large percentage of hair follicles move to the resting phase, leading to an increase in hair shedding—up to 300 strands per day. Keep in mind that stress isn't just emotional; physiological stressors like severe infection can induce telogen effluvium too.

Autoimmune responses can also influence hair health. Alopecia areata, which can cause patchy hair loss, is linked to immune system dysregulation. Also, it's related to several autoimmune conditions, enlarging your risk if you have a history of diseases like lupus or thyroid condition

Conclusion

Understanding the multifaceted causes of hair loss for women empowers you to take charge of your hair health. Whether it's stress, dietary habits, or the way you style your hair, each factor plays a critical role. As you age, being mindful of conditions like Androgenetic Alopecia and other age-related changes is key. Remember, proactive management, including stress reduction and scalp care, can make a difference. Don't hesitate to seek help to navigate these challenges effectively. or check out the HAIR LOSS QUIZ

References:

Sagar, V. (2018). A Study of Non-Scarring Diffuse Alopecia. , 05, 13-18. https://doi.org/10.24321/2349.7181.201808.

Alomaish, A., Gosadi, I., Dallak, F., Durayb, A., Dallak, A., Hakami, J., Hakami, A., Alshamakhy, A., & Mleeh, N. (2021). Prevalence of alopecia and its contributing factors among primary healthcare attendees in the Jazan region, Saudi Arabia. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 10, 3851 - 3856. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_1070_21.

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