What causes hair loss?

photo 1455824116325 29097b5f6366 e1651150513503 What causes hair loss?

Several symptoms can categorize hair loss. Male or female pattern baldness, also called androgenic alopecia, is most common among men over 50 and women who have already experienced menopause.

Male pattern baldness

For male pattern baldness, causes include:

  • genetics
  • cancers
  • thyroid conditions
  • medications
  • nutritional disorders
  • high levels of sex hormones called androgens

Female pattern baldness

It’s less likely for women to go completely bald, but thinning is common to occur. Doctors divide female pattern baldness into three types:

  • Type I. This is when a small amount of thinning starts around the hair part.
  • Type II. This involves widening the part and increasing thinning around it.
  • Type III. This is thinning throughout, with a see-through at the top of the scalp.

Female pattern baldness can be naturally occurring, related to genetics, a side effect of medication or treatments, or hormone changes caused by pregnancy or menopause.

Women are less likely to experience hair thinning in their 20s and instead may start to see symptoms in their 40s, 50s, and beyond.

How stress causes hair loss

Long-term, or chronic, stress puts people at risk for various health.

problems. These can include depression and anxiety and issues with digestion and sleep. Chronic stress has also long been linked to hair loss, but the reasons weren’t well understood. 

Hair growth involves three stages. In growth (anagen), strands of hair push through the skin. In degeneration (catagen), hair ceases to grow, and the follicle at the base of the strand shrinks. Hair falls out in rest (telogen), and the process can begin again. Hair is among the few tissues that mammals can regenerate throughout their lifetime.

The hair growth cycle is driven by stem cells that reside in the hair follicle. During growth, stem cells divide to become new cells that regenerate hair. In the resting period, the stem cells are inactive. Researchers hadn’t determined exactly how chronic stress impaired hair follicles.

Stress can cause temporary hair loss. Find out how to prevent hair loss from stress and enjoy a fuller head of hair.

Can hair loss be related to stress? The bad news is yes, but the good news is that stress-induced hair loss is usually temporary. 

Telogen effluvium is the scientific name for stress-induced hair loss,” Robert Haber, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, and hair transplant surgeon, tells WebMD Connect to Care. Haber says the sources of stress that can lead to this condition include:

  • Childbirth 
  • Illness 
  • Fever 
  • Surgery 
  • Emotional stress 
  • Significant weight loss

“Fortunately, if the hair loss is strictly due to the stress, complete recovery often occurs after several months to a year,” Haber says. 

If you’ve been affected by hair loss from stress, you can take some essential steps.

1. Eat a Healthy Diet

It’s essential for your overall health—and your hair! A 2015 review in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research lists starvation, crash dieting, and malnutrition as some of the causes of telogen effluvium. When it comes to the best foods for preventing hair loss from stress, it’s essential to focus on whole foods and a balanced diet. Try to eat foods with: 

  • Lots of fruits and vegetables 
  • Whole grains 
  • Lean protein

2. Take a Supplement

According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology, stress-induced hair loss can be caused by specific nutritional deficiencies, including: 

  • Ferritin
  • Vitamin D 
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B12

3. Manage Your Stress

How you handle stress can have an impact on hair loss. If you go through a stressful life event and don’t seek help, you could have further hair loss.

Stress management techniques you can do at home include: 

  • Yoga 
  • Meditation 
  • Deep breathing 
  • Journaling
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Counseling or therapy

Is stress-related hair loss permanent?

If your hair loss is caused by stress, your hair can grow back in time. The rate of regrowth will be different for everyone.

Human hair growth occurs in a cycle of four phases.

The average human scalp has about 100,000 hair follicles. At any given time, each of your hair follicles is in a different phase of this cycle:

  • Anagen phase. This is the growing phase of hair. It lasts two to seven years
  • Catagen phase. This is a short, two-week phase when the hair follicle begins to shrink.
  • Telogen phase. This is a three-month resting phase.
  • Exogen phase. This phase occurs when the follicle sheds the hair and begins new growth.

If your hair loss has been triggered by stress, managing your focus could be the key to returning to a healthy rate of hair growth.

What you can do?

You can do several things to reduce hair loss and encourage new growth.

Diet and Nutrition

Eating a balanced, nutritious diet of whole foods is necessary for the health of your body — and your hair.

While it’s essential to include all of the essential vitamins in a healthy diet, some may be vital to hair growth:

  • Vitamin C.This vitamins are essential for building collagen, the skin’s connective tissue found in hair follicles. Foods that contain vitamin C include citrus fruits, broccoli, bell peppers, and strawberries.
  • Vitamin B. This complex of many vitamins promotes healthy metabolism and healthy skin and hair. B vitamins can be found in foods like dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, and avocados.
  • Vitamin E. This vitamin contains potent antioxidants, which can contribute to a healthy scalp. Foods rich in vitamin E include sunflower seeds, spinach, olive oil, broccoli, and shrimp.

If you aren’t getting enough of these nutrients in your diet, talk to your doctor about supplements. They can discuss your options and recommend the best dosage for you. You should never add nutritional supplements to your routine without your doctor’s supervision.

Find the right solution for you


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Keeping properly hydrated is also essential to overall good health. Every cell in your body relies on water to function correctly.

Men should aim for 15 1/2 cups of water per day, and women should aim for 11 1/2 cups per day. That amount can come from food, water, and other beverages. A reasonable goal is to drink eight glasses of water per day and allow the rest to come from your diet and other beverages.

What if you don’t see improvement?

It’s possible that your hair loss isn’t stress-related. Many factors and conditions could cause you to lose your hair.

Other common reasons for hair loss include:

  • aging
  • genetics
  • medications, like some blood thinners or antidepressants
  • chemotherapy
  • illness or recent surgery
  • hormonal changes, like childbirth or menopause
  • nutritional deficiency, like a lack of sufficient protein or iron

It’s prevalent for hair to change in texture and thickness throughout one’s life. Knowing this may not make it easier if you’re one whose hair is getting thinner seemingly with each passing day.

If your hair is thinning or falling out, you are probably anxious to find why. Is hair loss due to stress, one heredity, or another factor? The answer is “yes” to all three. The following are some types of hair loss, with information about each:

Normal Hair Loss

This may surprise you, but our hair wasn’t meant to stay on your scalp indefinitely. There is a natural life span to each strand of hair, after which it falls out naturally. We all lose about 100 inches per day,2 out of the 100,000 contained by the average scalp. This is due to a few factors:

  • Aging: After the age of 30 (and often before), men and women start losing hair, though men tend to do so faster.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan of a single hair is 4.5 years; the hair then falls out and is replaced within six months by a new coat.
  • Styling: Shampooing, blow-drying, and brushing hair can all cause a few 
  • inches to fall out; most of us do this regularly.

Hereditary Hair Loss

  • Genetic hair loss isn’t due to excessive amounts of hair falling out, as many believe, but to an insufficient amount of hairs growing back to replace the hairs shed. The result, however, is the same: receding hairlines and pattern baldness. Hereditary baldness is associated with a few factors:
  • Age: By age 30, one in four men is balding; by age 60, two in three men are balding or bald.
  • Gender: Hereditary, or “pattern” baldness, is much more common in men than women.
  • Hormones: Pattern baldness is associated with testosterone.
  • women who have more of it in their system as they age tend to lose (or, technically, fail to re-grow) more hair. This is also why more men experience pattern baldness.