19 Causes of Hair Loss
1. Hereditary hair loss
This type of hair loss is also known as androgenetic alopecia or androgenic alopecia. As the name suggests, androgens play a massive role here. While in different quantities, these hormones are present in both men and women. However, androgenetic alopecia looks different in men and women.
Male pattern baldness is characterized by thinning hair and bald patches. The first signs include a receding hairline. Later, hair loss starts to form at the top of the head.
In contrast to this, female pattern hair loss does not involve significant changes in the hairline. Instead, there is an overall thinning of hair. As female pattern baldness progresses, hair thinning becomes especially noticeable around the middle part of the head.
With age, hair follicles tend to shrink increasingly. Hair growth slows down, and, for almost everyone, a certain level of hair thinning and hair loss will appear. For women, menopause can bring significant changes when some hair follicles stop producing new hair.
However, the extent of the changes with age can be different from person to person. While almost everyone will notice them to some degree, you can take steps to offset them – for example, by optimizing your nutrition.
3. Alopecia areata
Alopecia areata is a medical condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its hair follicles. While its effect can affect the whole body, it is most often visible on the scalp. One of the typical symptoms of alopecia areata includes patchy hair loss (with ‘areata’ being derived from the Latin word for patch).
Alopecia areata can be caused by a number of different conditions:
- Infections such as COVID, fungal infections or ringworm
- Autoimmune disorders
Regrowth is possible by itself by treating the root cause but can be further aided by PRP autologous blood treatment.
4. Childbirth, illness, or other stressors
Stressful life events of any kind are a very common cause of hair loss. Hair loss usually occurs in the first months after the event. Afterwards, hair growth usually goes back to normal.
5. Imbalance of nutrients
Another possible reason for hair loss is the lack of iron, biotin, protein, or zinc. Some groups are particularly susceptible to a nutritional deficiency. For example, more than every third women in their reproductive age has an iron deficiency – mostly due to iron loss through menstruation or an exceptionally high need for iron during pregnancy.
However, there can also be too much of a good thing and nutrients are no exception. For example, studies have shown that excess Vitamin A can contribute to hair loss. Usually, an excess of Vitamin A is not caused by one's diet but due to supplements or medication which contain Vitamin A in high doses.
In any case getting your nutrition levels checked on a regular basis through a blood test is always a good idea.
Generally you do not have to worry about hair regrowth. Once your body gets the needed nutrients through a well-balanced diet or supplements, regrowth should happen naturally.
6. Scalp psoriasis
Scalp psoriasis is a common skin disorder that causes coloured patches on the skin. Depending on your skin colour, the colour of the patches can range from reddish or salmon-coloured to purple. Scales may be white or grey. While the cause of scalp psoriasis is unclear, the immune system seems responsible for the condition.
Scalp psoriasis itself does not cause hair loss. However, scratching or picking at the spots as well as the accompanying stress or harsh treatments can. Hair will grow back as usual as soon as the skin has healed.
In some rare cases, hair loss might be a side effect of medication.
Medications that can cause hair loss include:
- Blood thinners
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
- Certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Hormone-related drugs, e.g., hormone replacement therapies, steroids like thyroid medication
8. Thyroid disease
Thyroid diseases usually only cause hair loss if they are severe and prolonged. The resulting hair loss is diffuse and noticeable across the whole scalp.
Since thyroid disease can result in either producing too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) symptoms may look very different and vary from weight loss to weight gain. Please check with your physician if you notice sudden weight changes you cannot explain.
Hair loss caused by thyroid disorders is usually temporary. Once the condition is treated, it can take up to a few months, but then your hair will appear fuller again. Medical treatments can further help to support the growth of the new hair.
9. Birth control pills
Taking birth control pills might lead to a shortening of the growth phase. Hair is moving into the resting phase quicker, leading to more hair loss than usual.
As your body gets used to birth control pills, your hair should return to normal within a few months. If the extensive hair loss consists, you might want to consider getting off the pill. Awhile after you stop taking the pill, your hair should get back to normal.
10. Hairstyle pulls on your scalp
Traction alopecia describes a condition in which hair loss is caused by an overuse of wearing too tight hairstyles like ponytails, cornrows, or other tight braids.
Tips of the American Academy of Dermatology to prevent this kind of hair loss include keeping it gentle on the hairline, changing up hair styles and regularly checking for early warning signs. Those include:
- Hair breakage near the scalp
- A receding hairline
- Patches of hair loss in spots in which your hair is pulled tightly
11. Scarring alopecia
Scarring alopecia (medical term: cicatricial alopecia) leads to the destruction of hair follicles. Since they cannot grow hair anymore, permanent hair loss results.
From arthritis over rosacea to autoimmune diseases such as lupus, there is a large number of conditions that can cause scarring alopecia. If you suffer from hair loss, your physician can identify its cause by performing a physical exam and having a look at your medical history. In case a cicatricial alopecia is suspected, a skin biopsy will be performed on a small skin sample from the scalp. This usually brings clarity. Thanks to a definite diagnosis, different treatment options can be discussed.
Hair loss by friction is less common on the head but can be observed more often on other parts of the body. It is caused by intense friction, e.g., tight clothing. Once the friction stops, regrowth will usually happen by itself.
13. Aggressive hair treatments
Dying or relaxing your hair, as well as getting perms can lead to temporary hair loss by promoting hair breakage. Only in rare cases of a chemical burn hair follicles are destroyed for good, leading to bald patches.
14. Cancer treatments
After chemotherapy, usually new hair will regrow by itself. Hair growth medication and treatments can speed up the process.
15. Hormonal imbalance
While the state of your hair is closely related to your hormones, a range of different conditions or life events can lead to a hormonal imbalance.
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is one of them. Often associated with an excess of androgenic hormones, symptoms of the condition include cysts on the ovaries and hair loss. While balancing out the hormonal level usually relieves the symptoms, additional treatments can be undertaken to further promote hair growth.
In many women, hormonal changes during pregnancy result in shedding of more hair than usual. Usually, this is no cause for worry. Hair should regain its original fullness within 12 months after giving birth.
16. Alopecia universalis
Alopecia universalis is a condition that leads to an overall loss of all body hair. The fact that its exact cause remains unclear makes it one of the hair conditions which is most difficult to treat.
Possible treatments include oral intake of steroids and topical use of hair loss treatment Minoxidil – or a combination of both.
Syphilis is a disease which can not only lead to hair loss but also result in other serious health issues up until death. It can be cured quite well – the earlier, the better. It is mostly transmitted through sexual contact. Symptoms depend on the stage of the condition and include one or more small sores on penis, vagina, or around the anus. Please visit a physician for a test if you think you might have syphilis.
Poisoning can not only be caused by ingesting large doses of toxins but also by being exposed to smaller doses over a longer time. Toxins not only include arsenic or lithium but also Vitamin A if ingested in larger doses. They all can result in losing your hair.
19. Pulling your hair
Pulling hair out can be a mechanism to deal with stress and happens mostly unconsciously. For this condition called Trichotillomania cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven to be helpful.
In CBT, patients are made aware to observe when they start pulling out their hair. They also learn which other mechanisms to use instead to relieve stress.
How Can I Treat Excessive Hair Loss?
In both men and women, hair loss can be mentally challenging. Thankfully, there exists a range of different measures with good chances to help you in either dealing with it better or regain fuller hair again.
Learning ways to handle the hair loss
A special support group can help in navigating the challenges of hair loss. Even though friends and family can be a great support, exchanging with people with the same condition can make you feel more supported and able to support others at the same time. To a certain degree, wigs can be a good way to cover up missing scalp hair and boost self-confidence.
Short term solutions
Medications such as Minoxidil or Finasteride can lead to fuller hair or at least bring hair loss to a halt. Since effects usually only persist for the time taking, they are mostly temporary solutions.
Long term solutions
If you struggle with hair loss, a hair analysis by a dermatologist can provide you clarity about the cause. When hair follicles are irrevocably damaged or hair loss is hereditary, PRP treatments and hair transplants (or both combined) can promote hair growth and restore full hair for good.
In a PRP autologous blood treatment, therapeutically valuable growth factors are isolated from a small batch of your blood and injected into affected scalp areas with a fine needle. The treatment promotes cell regeneration and hair growth.
A skillfully made hair transplant works either as an alternative or an addition to the PRP treatment. An exceptionally gentle method is the Sapphire FUE transplant. Hair follicles are taken individually from the donor area at the back of the head and transplanted into the bald areas. While it can take 12 to 18 months for hair to regrow permanently, you can enjoy long-lasting hair without worrying about it anymore.