When you first begin experiencing hair loss, panic often sets in. Many of us identify so deeply with our curly hair that the idea of losing it feels like a nightmare, and it’s even worse when it seems to be completely out of our control.
The first step to taking control of the situation is figuring out the exact cause of your hair loss. This can be tricky, because there are actually a bunch of reasons that hair loss can occur, including stress, hormonal changes, nutritional deficits, and certain medications. These causes often work in tandem with one another. But once you pinpoint the reason(s), you can figure out possible solutions.
Here are 9 possible reasons that you might be experiencing hair loss.
Sometimes the reason for hair loss isn’t physical but instead is mental and emotional. If you recently went through a particularly stressful or traumatic time, your hair may be feeling the effects of your mental health. Stress and anxiety can both cause large clumps of hair to weaken and fall out, which can eventually lead to bald spots.
Hair loss is an unfortunate side effect of some medications. These include medications that are used for mental health, such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, and mood stabilizers. However, a wide range of other medications is also associated with hair loss, including some acne medications, antibiotics, blood pressure medications, immunosuppressants, antifungals, and cholesterol-lowering drugs. If you’re on any prescriptions, it’s worth checking into whether hair loss is one of the side effects.
Pregnancy or Postpartum
Hormones are a common culprit for hair loss. After giving birth, many women experience “postpartum hair loss.” This doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, however. Because of the way that pregnancy affects the hair growth cycle, your hair often stops shedding completely during pregnancy, and all of that un-shed hair starts coming out at once a few months after birth.
While it appears like a dramatic loss of hair, it’s usually not a cause for alarm. Just continue eating healthily and being gentle with your hair, and your hair should return to a balanced state.
Menopause is a time of major hormonal changes, namely a drop in estrogen. Among the other symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and mood swings, hair loss can also occur. Some women are genetically predisposed to hair loss; it’s called “androgenetic alopecia,” and while it usually co-occurs with menopause, it may even occur earlier in life. Hormone therapy, topical treatments or herbal remedies can help counteract it.
Nutritional deficiencies can also cause hair loss. Anemia, or iron deficiency, sends your body into survival mode, so your body channels energy away from keeping your hair intact. Iron deficiency is incredibly common among young women. You can go to your doctor to have your iron levels checked if you’re in doubt.
Low Vitamin Levels of Protein
Iron isn’t the only nutrient that’s essential for hair growth. Zinc, biotin, and B-vitamins are also important, and if you’re deficient in any of them, you may experience hair thinning. Hair loss is also associated with an overall lack of nutrition, i.e. if you’re not getting enough calories or you suddenly lose a lot of weight, you may also lose hair.
Protein is also crucial for hair growth — your hair is made of protein! If you’re not getting enough, your hair’s growth will slow down and hair loss can eventually happen.
Too Many Carbs
On the other hand, it’s also possible to get too much of certain nutrients. High glycemic foods and foods that are high in sugar, such as bread and pasta and sugary desserts, cause hormonal changes in the body that shrink the hair follicle and lead to hair loss. Sugar and refined grains also increase inflammation.
Certain hair care practices can encourage hair loss. Dye, bleach or perms, for example, weaken and damage the hair, causing it to break and fall out. Flat-ironing or blowing out the hair too often causes a similar effect. Even the excess use of certain products, such as harsh gels or edge control products, can cause hair thinning. Hairstyles like tight ponytails also exacerbate the issue.
When other reasons don’t account for sudden hair loss, there may be an underlying medical condition at fault. Possibilities include thyroid disease, autoimmune diseases, PCOS, skin conditions (such as psoriasis), lupus or diabetes. If you’re losing hair on your face or body in addition to your scalp, it may be due to alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease. See your doctor or a dermatologist for advice.
How to fix the issue:
The good news is that most hair loss is temporary. The hair eventually grows back, or treatments help reverse the hair loss. The exact remedy will depend on the cause, but here are a few solutions to try.
Improve your diet. Try to be more mindful about eating a well-rounded diet full of essential nutrients, especially protein, iron, zinc, and biotin. You can always add supplements if necessary.
Hair and scalp care. Be gentle with your hair — avoid tight hairstyles and heavy drying products, and don’t over-do it with heat or dye. Hair growth is dependent on a healthy scalp, so make sure to also clarify and moisturize your scalp on a regular basis, and treat any scalp conditions like psoriasis.
Care for your mental health. If stress is the culprit, then it’s time to recharge. Activities that reduce stress include exercise, rest, meditation, journaling and spending time with loved ones.
See a doctor. A doctor can help you determine if your hair loss is due to a medical condition or medication. They can also help you figure out a safe and effective way to get your hair back.