When you lose hair, a new one grows to replace it, so it is normal to lose some hair from time to time. But when that hair loss becomes significant, it can become a cause of concern. There are different kinds of hair loss and they can be permanent or temporary. In this article, we will discuss the reasons for hair loss in men and women, how it can be prevented, and treatments available.
The Reasons for Hair Loss
Hair loss, also known as alopecia, can affect only the scalp or the entire body. You will have to visit a dermatologist in order to ascertain the cause or reasons for hair loss.
It can be hereditary or caused by hormonal changes, a medical condition, or age. Hair loss can happen to anyone, but it is very common among men. Let’s look at them.
Some families have a history of androgenic alopecia (female pattern and male pattern baldness). The loss of hair comes with age and it happens in a predictable fashion.
Examples of hormonal changes that can cause hair loss are:
- Discontinued use of birth control pills
Some medical conditions that can result in hair loss are:
- Scalp infections like ring worm
- Autoimmune diseases that attack hair follicles like alopecia areata
- Thyroid disease
- Diseases that result in scarring like lichen planus
- Secondary syphilis
There are medications that can lead to hair loss especially those used in the treatment of the following:
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
Additionally, hair may thin as a result of age. Women and men will experience mild thinning in their 30s or 40s. The vicissitudes of life such as emotional trauma, extreme loss of weight, and protein deprivation as a result of strict dieting can lead to hair loss.
You can also read the 10 causes for hair loss in women to know what to watch out for.
Categories of Hair Loss
There are various categories of hair loss. Your doctor will have to examine your scalp to ascertain whether there is any physical destruction that is leading to a loss of your hair follicles. If this is the case, it is known as cicatricial alopecia or scarring. However, if your scalp looks normal but has a lot of missing hair follicles, it is known as non-scarring alopecia.
Cicatricial alopecia destroys the hair follicles permanently while non-scarring alopecia is temporary. It can be caused by chemical or physical damage on the hair shaft, leading to breakage. It may become necessary to carry out a scalp biopsy in order to distinguish between both conditions. Sometimes, your doctor can pull your hair to inspect the hair shaft appearance and percentage of hairs that are growing. We will be discussing more about non-scarring alopecia.
Patchy Hair Loss
This condition causes small or large patches on the scalp. The common causes of this condition are:
- Alopecia areata – the hairs fall off in small patches but will become unnoticeable after a while.
- Traction alopecia – this is caused by hair styles such as ponytails and tight braids which exert pressure on the hair follicles when the hair is pulled back tightly.
- Trichotillomania – this is a hair pulling disorder that can make you pull out the hairs on your eyebrows, head, or eye lashes.
- Tinea capitis – this is a fungal infection
- Secondary syphilis
Diffuse Hair Loss
In this condition, there will be an overall thinning of the hair. This type of hair loss is caused by the following:
- Medications that result in hair loss
- Protein malnutrition
- Diseases such as cancer, telogen effluvium, and endocrine disease
How Is Hair Loss in Women Different from Men?
Just like men, women lose hair due to hereditary factors. But there is also a female pattern of baldness which falls under the diffuse hair loss category. In this case, the frontal hairline and crown are less likely to fall off.
Some women can start noticing thinning of their hair from their 20s. Although the pace at which the hair loss takes place is gradual, it can take some years before it becomes noticeable to others. Additionally, women over the age of 30 usually experience thinning.
The reasons for hair loss in women are more than in men. These reasons include conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disease, and anemia. These conditions can be diagnosed via blood test. Family history as well as physical evidence is also used as a basis for diagnosis.
Most women believe that hats can choke the hair follicles, causing them to pull off. This may be a myth but weaving the hair tightly in a consistent manner definitely pulls the hair. Also, women who use rubber bands to pull back their hair are likely to lose their front hair.
You can check out this article on female pattern baldness.
Prevention of Hair Loss
Loss of hair can be prevented or reduced but the measures to take depend on the kind of hair loss you are experiencing. For women, hair loss due to pregnancy will be resolved later on.
How to Prevent Hair Loss in Men
Below is a list of how men can stop their hair from falling off:
1. Get treatment for dietary deficiencies
Deficiency in vitamins like B complex and D, protein, and iron can weaken the hair. Identifying and treating these deficiencies on time will do a lot of good.
2. Reduce intake of alcohol
3. Avoid smoking
Puffing cigarettes will reduce the volume of blood flowing to your scalp, thereby resulting in hair loss.
4. Regular intake of balanced diet that is rich in fiber, fruits, and protein will make the hair stronger.
5. Avoid brushing your hair when it is wet. The hair is weak when wet. You can use your fingers to untangle them.
6. Find ways to de-stress yourself. You can engage in meditation or yoga. This can help to balance your hormones and reduce hair loss.
7. Consume foods rich in biotin (vitamin H) like nuts, oats, eggs, sweet potatoes, and onions. You can also take biotin supplements.
8. Stay hydrated. The hair shaft is made up of ¼ water. As a result, you need to drink an average of 4 to 8 cups of water daily. Keeping your body hydrated will increase your hair growth.
9. Avoid exposing your hair to heated conditions on a regular basis. Heat weakens the protein in your hair. If you need to dry your hair, it is best to allow it dry naturally.
10. Avoid coloring your hair frequently. The chemicals used in producing hair dyes are harmful to the hair.
11. Keep your scalp sweat-free. Men who have oily hair, sweat a lot during summer. This results in dandruff. You can use a mild shampoo to balance the pH of your scalp and keep your hair from falling. Additionally, if you wear helmet regularly during summer, sweat will accumulate in your pores and make the hair roots feel weak.
12. Exercise regularly. Swimming or walking for at least 30 minutes daily can balance your hormone levels, reduce stress, and stop hair loss.
13. Get early treatment for itchy scalp. As soon as you notice that your scalp is itchy, see a dermatologist.
14. Reduce your intake of sugar
15. Massage your scalp regularly. This will increase the flow of blood around the scalp.
How to Prevent Hair Loss in Women
Women can prevent hair loss by doing the following:
1. Avoid wearing tight hair styles like ponytails, buns, or braids.
2. Avoid rubbing, pulling, or twisting your hair.
3. Consume balanced diet and include foods rich in protein and iron.
4. Use a mild shampoo to wash your hair. Avoid rubbing it with a towel after washing; pat until it is dry.
5. Avoid styling tools and products such as heated combs, relaxers, perms, bleaching agents, coloring products, hair straighteners, and blow dryers. If you need to use heating tools, ensure that your hair is dry and use the lowest setting.
6. Include scalp massage in your hair care routine. You can massage your scalp by using your fingertips to move around your head in a slow, circular motion. This will reduce stress and encourage your hair to grow back.
7. Add few drops of essential oil to scalp during massage. Oils like rosemary, lavender, cypress, and carrot seed have soothing, balancing, and regenerative properties. They can enhance the condition of your scalp and encourage hair growth.
You may want to read on how to mix essential oils for hair growth: https://www.wikihow.com/Mix-Essential-Oils-for-Hair-Growth
How to Treat Hair Loss
There are different treatments for hair loss. They are:
Medications such as gels and topical creams are usually the first treatment for hair loss. Your doctor can prescribe a product containing minoxidil alongside other treatment options. However, you need to be aware that minoxidil has side effects like irritation of the scalp and growth of hair on the face or forehead.
Additionally, oral medication like finasteride can treat male pattern baldness. The medication is taken daily to reduce hair loss and some men have experienced hair regrowth after taking it. Your doctor can also prescribe corticosteroid such as prednisone. This will help to decrease inflammation while suppressing your immune system.
When taking medications for hair loss treatment, ensure you observe your body for changes as they may have side effects. Some of the side effects are:
- Fluid retention
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
Corticosteroid can make you prone to these conditions:
- Osteoporosis (bone loss)
- Sore throat
- Thin skin that gets easily bruised
2. Medical Procedures
In some cases, medications will not be enough to take care of the hair loss. Surgical procedures can also be used in this case.
This surgery involves removing small skin plugs with some hairs to areas of baldness on the scalp. Hair transplant is a suitable option for people whose baldness is inherited. However, multiple surgeries will be required since inherited baldness is progressive.
In scalp reduction, a part of the scalp that has no hair will be removed and closed up with another part of the scalp that has some hairs. Another way of carrying out this procedure is by folding a scalp with hair over a bald area. Surgical procedures for baldness are quite expensive and risky. The risks include infection, wide scars, bleeding, and patchy hair growth.
Reasons for hair loss vary and can happen to anyone. While some people try to hide their condition with scarves, wigs, hats, make-up, or some kind of hairstyle, others remain unhidden and untreated.
There are various reasons for hair loss in men and women and we have discussed them in this article. There are also treatments for hair loss but your doctor needs to confirm the real cause of the hair loss before you embark on any of them.