20 Causes of Hair Loss

Hair loss can be down to a wide range of causes. These can range from hormonal, to age, to trauma or emotional stress. Most hair loss is nothing to worry about, medically. It’s a normal process of getting older, just like getting wrinkles or generally feeling more aches and pains around the body.

But even with this ‘normal’ hair loss, it can still be upsetting. That’s why so many of us, male and female alike, are having hair transplant procedures, a successful way of restoring our once glorious heads of hair.

So let’s look at the reasons you might be experiencing hair loss.

(If you think you might have a medical issue which is causing you to lose your hair, or hair is falling out suddenly, then speak to your doctor.)

1. Male Pattern Baldness – This common condition is caused by the male sex hormone, dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. When DHT builds up the body, the hair follicles become very sensitive to it. They then start to absorb fewer nutrients and begin to shrink. The hairs they do produce are thinner and weaker, and eventually, over time, the hair follicles die and produce no more hairs. The follicles on the front and top of the scalp are most sensitive to DHT, resulting in the familiar receding hairline in many men.

2. Stress – Severe and prolonged emotional stress can take its toll on our hairline. This can be down to a stressful job, money worries, the death of a loved one, a relationship breakdown or any number of other things. Dealing with stress either through medication, exercise or doing something more holistic like learning to mediate can help prevent stress related hair loss getting worse.

3. Poor Diet – If your diet is generally poor, full of fried, fast, fatty and sugary foods and severely lacking in anything fresh or green, then your whole body is likely to be suffering. Like with any part of the body, if you don’t fuel it right, then it won’t be healthy or function well. And this includes the health of the scalp, which if starved of the right nutrients (see below) will not support hair growth.

4. Vitamin B Deficiency – The B vitamins are essential for feeling energised. If you’re always tired, you might be deficient and should consider a vitamin B complex supplement. B12 in particular supports hair growth by helping the red blood cells carry life giving oxygen to all the cells of the body, including those in the scalp. Wholegrain bread and cereals, dairy, brown rice, meat, fish, soya and green leafy veg are all good sources of the B vitamins. Vegans are particularly at risk of a B12 deficiency as B12 is only found in animal products.

5. Protein Deficiency – Again, vegans can be at risk of a protein deficiency, but anyone not eating enough meat, fish, beans, pulses or nuts is equally at risk. Protein is essential for growth and repair in the body, and if the body doesn’t have enough, it will shut down the protein intensive process of growing new hair.

6. Iron Deficiency – If you lack in iron, you may become anaemic. Aside from this causing you to feel extremely tired and lacking in energy, and perhaps even have constantly cold hands and feet, it may also be causing hair loss. Consider a supplement or fill up on iron rich foods such as lean red meat, chicken, sardines, lentils and spinach.

7. Genetics – Not only can we thank our parents for embarrassing us as we grew up, we can also thank them if we have thinning or balding hair. The only solution to this is a hair transplant or lifelong DHT blockers such as Propecia, a drug designed to be taken daily to help stop hair loss in its tracks. Cheers, mum and dad.

8. Telogen Effluvium – This is a condition when the hair follicles get stuck in the ‘resting phase’ of natural hair growth. This causes the hair to stop growing and for them to eventually fall out. It can be caused by thyroid problems, certain blood pressure or gout medications, or can be triggered by emotional stress or physical trauma (see below) to the scalp.

9. Physical Trauma – Severe bumps or cuts or having surgery to the scalp can result in hair loss by triggering telogen effluvium (see above). The hair has a natural three-part life cycle – the growth phase, followed by a resting stage and then a shedding phase. If the hair is stuck in the resting stage, as is the case with telogen effluvium, it will fall out within three to four months of the physical trauma.

10. Alopecia Areata – This is an autoimmune disease which can be caused by an overactive immune system. The body starts to see the hair as a foreign object and stops supporting its growth, causing it to fall out. It results in round bald patches across the scalp and can often be treated with steroids.

11. Dramatic Weight Loss – Sudden weight loss through illness, having an eating disorder or even through extreme dieting that might be otherwise good for you, can shock the hair, causing it to start falling out. It’s usually reversed after a few months of healthy eating but talk to your doctor if your sudden or extreme weight loss is unexplained, or it worries you.

12. Tight Hair Styles – Constant pulling on the hair can weaken it and cause it to fall out. This can occur over years and might not be noticeable to begin with. Having regular tight ponytails, braids, weaves, hair extensions, high heat treatments and chemical straightening treatments can all result in hair loss. Depending on the level of hair loss, it may grow back, otherwise, a hair transplant could help.

13. Medical Drugs – Some drugs used to treat depression (lithium), rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure (beta blockers), heart disease, gout and cancer (radiotherapy or chemotherapy) can cause your hair to fall out. Your specialist can advise you whether an alternative drug is available or if or when your hair might grow back.

14. Thyroid Problems – An overactive (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive (hypothyroidism) thyroid gland can cause hair loss. The thyroid helps control the release of certain hormones and supports a healthy metabolism. If it’s not functioning as it should, it could result in hormone or nutrient deficiency related hair thinning.

15. Trichotillomania – This is a condition known as an “impulse control disorder”. It’s when someone cannot resist the urge to play or pull at their own hair, even to the extent that they pull it out. Its four times more common in women than it is in men and can be treated with behavioural modification therapy or in some cases, antidepressants.

16. Anabolic Steroids – What anabolic (‘building up’) steroids do for the body – create muscle and beef you up – they don’t do for the hair and can cause it to fall out. Their long term use isn’t recommended so if you’re taking them and your hair is starting to thin, its probably time to stop.

17. Female Hormone Imbalance – Women go through a lot of hormonal changes due to menstruation, pregnancy, breast feeding and the menopause. Sometimes, these can cause hair loss, as can going on, or coming off the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy.

18. Pregnancy – Aside from hormonal changes during and after pregnancy, giving birth is very traumatic. So hair loss in women after giving birth is common. It should right itself after a few months to a year but talk to your doctor if its understandably worrying you.

19. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – PCOS is a syndrome that is caused by a build-up of male sex hormones (androgens) in women. The androgens can shorten the growth cycle of the hair, whereas the female sex hormones (oestrogens) tend to favour it. So as if PCOS causing fertility problems, ovarian cysts, acne, weight gain, menstrual irregularities, bloating and pain wasn’t enough, it can also cause hair loss. PCOS can be helped with hormonal medications, diet and exercise.

20. Age – As men get older, they commonly experience male pattern baldness (see above) and as women age, they tend to experience thinning patches on the top of the scalp. This is an inevitable part of aging. It can begin in males as young as their early 20s, but women tend to notice thinning hair in their 50s or 60s. We can all either decide to grow old gracefully (or disgracefully!) and embrace our balding or thinning scalps, cover them up with hats, head scarves or wigs, or opt for a hair transplant.

A hair transplant isn’t for everyone and we’re not in the habit of pretending that they are. The majority of the people we see in our clinic are absolutely suitable, but a small proportion aren’t. If you’re not suitable, we will tell you and explain why we’re not just taking your money or putting you at risk. To find out if you’re suitable, fill in our free online consultation, and we can take it from there!