Health & Fitness 8 common hair loss causes and how to thicken your hair
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Shedding the oddis part of every day life and most people will notice a few strands in the shower or whenever you brush your hair. It's normal to lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day, often without even noticing. But if your tresses starts coming out in clumps or you notice your drain blocking in record time, you might be alarmed.
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Thinning hair can cause embarrassment, concern and emotional distress. But thanks to a number of potential triggers, it can also be difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why your hair might be falling out. To help you remedy your hair loss woeslooks at common hair loss causes, and what you can do to make your locks as thick and healthy as possible:
The scalp hair life cycle
All of the hairs on our head have a normal life cycle, with most scalp hairs lasting for about three years before they fall out and are then replaced with a new hair. Hair grows from tiny pouches in the skin known as hair follicles, and at any one time all the scalp hair follicles are at different stages of their cycle.
This means about one per cent of scalpare always at the end of their natural life cycle and about to fall out – this is why we all see a few hairs in the bath or shower whenever we wash our hair. Most of us lose around 50-100 hairs every day in this way.
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There are three stages to the life cycle of a hair:
- Anagen: the anagen phase is the active growing phase when the hair strengthens and thickens.
- Catagen: in the catagen phase, there is a short resting period when the hair stops growing.
- Telogen: during the telogen phase the hair is gradually pushed upwards before being shed naturally and replaced with a new anagen cycle hair.
What is thinning hair?
Thinning hair is different to baldness (male or female pattern hair loss), and refers to only mild to moderate hair loss in areas rather than on a widespread basis.
If more than normal amounts of hair fall out, this condition is called telogen effluvium, and causes a general thinning ofhair but with a healthy scalp. This is the most common cause of thinning hair and typically occurs about 1-3 months after a significantly stressful life event such as after childbirth, an operation or a significant illness.
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Stress is known as the leading cause of hair loss, so it comes as no surprise hair loss has been linked to COVID-19, dubbed COVID Fallout. Telogen effluvium is the name for a common cause ofStress is known as a leading cause of hair loss. So it comes as no surprise that hair loss has been linked to COVID-19 - referred to as dubbed COVID Fallout - as those who have suffered from the illness find themselves stressed, tired and anxious.
In most cases, no treatment is required and once the stressful event has passed the hair gradually thickens back up to normal with no long-term consequences.
Hair loss diagnosis
Doctors can usually give a quick diagnosis about the cause of thinning hair and hair loss with few if any tests being required. They usually ask questions about diet,, existing medical conditions and any family history of medical conditions causing thinning hair.
If tests are needed these include blood tests to check for anaemia, thyroid problems, vitamin levels and autoimmune conditions and less commonly may send hair or scalp samples for testing.
8 common hair loss causes
There are a number of potential triggers for hair thinning and hair loss:
1. Hair treatments
Without realising it, many people can treat their hair quite badly! Over-treating it with harsh hair products such as colour treatments, relaxers, bleach and perm solutions can all cause damage to the hair, as can extreme-hold hairsprays and gels. Pulling the hair into a very tight bun or ponytail can also put excessive strain onto the hair, breaking it away from the hair follicles in the scalp. Repeatedly pulling on the hair follicles (such as may occur when wearing braids) can cause the condition traction alopecia where hair thins in the area it is under most stress from being pulled.
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2. Anaemia and iron deficiency
In women, one of the most common causes of hair thinning and hair loss is iron deficiency, typically caused by menstrual blood loss but which may also occur due to dietary deficiency. Iron is essential for producing healthy hair and so low levels can impact on both the strength and quantity of scalp hair.
3. Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12, along with folic acid and other minerals, is very important for healthy hair since low levels of it affects the health of the oxygen-carrying red blood cells needed for healthy hair growth.is most commonly seen in vegans, as the primary source of dietary B12 is through animal protein although it can also be obtained through fruit and vegetables.
Along with the telogen effluvium hair loss linked to significantly stressful life events, general low-level uncontrolled stress causes high levels of hormones such as cortisol which can damage the growth of new hairs developing in scalp hair follicles, as well as raising male hormone levels that in turn can accelerate hair loss. Stress can also trigger conditions such as eating disorders, dandruff and digestive problems which themselves can then impact on healthy hair growth.
The normal hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy may also impact on hair growth, resulting induring the later stages of pregnancy and for a few weeks after birth. This typically grows back normally without any treatment in the months and weeks afterwards.
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6. A poor diet
Because the body needs a full supply of nutrients to allow hair to grow normally and healthily, any deficiency in these can cause hair to thin. These include proteins and vitamins, and signs of poor nutrition include brittle hair that is dry and dull, sometimes with associated scalp dryness and dandruff.
7. The menopause
Going into, or through thecan cause hair to thin because of falling levels of female hormones. Other symptoms of the menopause include hot flushes and sweats, altered periods, mood changes, vaginal dryness and altered libido.
8. Dramatic weight loss
Crash dieting – especially if you have lost 20 pounds or more in a short period of time – can cause hair thinning to occur several weeks later. This can also occur with eating disorders.
Hair loss home remedies
Although simple home remedies are unable to reverse hair loss due to serious medical problems, they may be helpful in thickening hair when it has thinned because of lifestyle factors. These include:
✔️ Eating as healthy a diet as possible
Because good nutrition is essential to hair growth, increasing your intake of hair-healthy food is very important. Such foods include:
- Eggs - rich in protein and B vitamins.
- Oily fish and nuts - .
- Red meat - rich in iron.
- Fortified foods such as milk and cereals - rich in vitamin D.
✔️ Massaging the scalp
Scalp massage can help to promote blood flow to theand so, in turn, hair growth. Using essential oils at the same time such as lavender or peppermint oil has also been reported to stimulate hair follicles although there is little scientific data to confirm this.
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✔️ Aloe vera
Aloe vera has long been used for treating thinning hair by reducing scalp inflammation and unblocking hair follicles. This can be applied in pure form as a gel to the scalp and hair or as a shampoo and conditioner that contain aloe vera.
✔️ Anti-thinning shampoos
Althoughmay not prevent hair loss, they can create the appearance of thicker hair by providing volume to individual hairs. They also contain vitamins and amino acids which can help improve scalp health over time but to achieve the best results they need to be used every day.
Hair loss medical treatments
For simplerather than male or female pattern baldness, most doctors would not consider prescription treatment for hair loss unless it was causing major psychological distress. But if they were found to be necessary, available hair loss treatments include:
- Minoxidil – applied daily as a liquid or foam, this can take 3-4 months to work.
- Finasteride - taken as a daily pill.
- Steroid cream - if hair thinning is due to significant scalp inflammation, steroid creams may be used to reduce this.
When to see a doctor about hair loss
In most people with thinning hair, this is self-limiting and the hair will normally grow back to normal thickness over time with no treatment being necessary. If you lose a lot of hair for no obvious reason – especially if you start to develop- see your doctor. If required, they can refer you to a dermatologist for further assessment or do some initial tests themselves.
For most people it is natural for hair to lose strength and volume as they get older. In many cases, simple home remedies and a healthy diet can help keep the hair as thick and healthy as possible.
Last updated: 30-03-2021
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