Whether it’s straight, wavy or curly, our hair is part of what makes us who we are. Hair also says a lot about our overall health. When the body goes into defense mode, energy that’s put into hair growth is redirected to other cells in the body.
Sometimes, hair loss or stunted hair growth is the first sign of an underlying health issue.
Common Reasons for Hair Loss
We’ve got about 100,000 hairs on our heads and losing 50 to 100 hairs daily is considered normal and mostly goes unnoticed. Hair also begins to thin out with age. Here are more reasons why men and women typically lose their hair:
More commonly known as male or female pattern baldness, it’s mainly caused by the predominance of the male sex hormone, testosterone (which is found in trace amounts in women), and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Testosterone converts to DHT, which gradually shrinks hair follicles, making it impossible for healthy hairs to survive. This process happens in both men and women, however, women have far lower levels of testosterone and even lower levels of DHT in their bodies. Women also have higher levels of estrogen (the female sex hormone) which balances out the effects of the male hormone.
When undergoing extreme stress, the adrenal gland becomes overworked in its attempt to produce more cortisol, which is the body’s natural stress hormone.
Women can experience hair loss during and after pregnancy due to hormone changes. This thinning and baldness is temporary and hair can be expected to grow back naturally. However, if the hair doesn’t grow back within one year, additional treatment could be needed for an underlying issue.
Women undergo yet another shift in hormones during menopause. Hormone levels decline with age and drop sharply during and after menopause. A doctor may recommend a hormone medication and there are also many herbal remedies available to ease the symptoms associated with menopause, such as black cohosh, dong quai and wild yam extract.
Chemical treatments like dyes, tints, bleaches, straighteners, relaxers and permanent waves can make hair weak and brittle if left on too long or used too often. Applying heat during styling can also damage the hair and lead to breakage and loss.
Additional Causes for Hair Loss
If you've ruled out the above scenarios as possible reasons for your hair loss, here are a few more potential causes to consider:
Medications used to treat gout, arthritis, depression, heart problems and high blood pressure are known to result in hair loss. High doses of vitamin A or blood thinners may have the same affect. Any type of hormone-related medication or supplement, including bodybuilding supplements, progesterone creams and birth control pills may also contribute to some hair loss.
Cancer patients can lose up to 90 percent of their scalp hair by undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment. This usually occurs one to three weeks following treatment. Although the hair will re-grow when the treatments are over, there are some drugs in development to help prevent this hair loss from occurring.
People with protein-deficient diets are likely to experience hair thinning or loss. To help preserve protein, the body gradually stops hair growth. Studies also show diets deficient in iron can lead to hair loss.
Tips for Protecting Your Hair
Certain forms of hair loss can be prevented and there are ways to regain control. Try following these five tips to keep hair long, strong and where it belongs:
Find a complete multivitamin with iron and B vitamins.
Eat a diet rich in protein. You can get protein from animal and plant sources as well as supplements. There are also hair treatments designed to put protein back into the hair to correct damage and strengthen the hair.
Try hair care products formulated without ammonia or damaging sulfates.
Find a way to de-stress everyday. Whether it's meditation, yoga, jogging or reading, do something to calm yourself down and clear your head.
Speak with your doctor if you notice any sudden hair loss to check for underlying causes and add or adjust medications if needed.
While not all hair loss can be completely reversed, there are steps you can take to make improvements and prevent further loss. Take care of those locks and they'll keep you looking young and fresh for years to come.
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