When a full and glossy mane is your goal, it can be understandably distressing to discover that your hair is falling out. Whether you’ve noticed clumps coming out in the shower or patches of thinning, hair loss can be caused by several different factors and is common among both men and women.
Approximately 42% of men experience moderate to extensive hair loss before 50, while 49% of women will be affected by hair loss throughout their lives—the likelihood for both genders increasing with age.
However, as The Beauty Chef’s resident naturopath Jessie Hoeschle explains, hair loss is a multifactorial condition that can have a variety of causes. The key is to uncover the underlying source (or sources) unique to your circumstance, so that you can address your hair loss from the root.
No idea where to start? Below, Jessie shares her expert advice and treatment options for tackling hair loss.
8 common causes of hair loss
When it comes to determining the source of your hair loss, Jessie suggests starting with the most common causes. Unfortunately, some factors—such as age and genetics—cannot be influenced but there are certain lifestyle habits that can make an impact.
Genetics: Hereditary factors can contribute to both male and female pattern baldness (also called androgenic alopecia).
Hormone changes: Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, menopause, thyroid disorders or changes in testosterone levels can cause temporary or permanent hair loss.
Age: Hair loss tends to increase as we age.
Medical conditions: Alopecia areata, scalp/skin infections, thyroid disorders or autoimmune disorders.
Medications/medical treatments: Chemotherapy, radiation and other medications.
Nutrient deficiencies: A lack of essential nutrients such as iron, vitamin D, protein, zinc and biotin.
Stress: According to this study, women who experience high stress are 11 times more likely to experience hair loss.
Hairstyling: Tight hairstyling practices and treatments that involve chemicals or heat can damage hair follicles and lead to hair loss over time.
Hair loss in men vs women
Hair loss can differ in a variety of ways between men and women. For example, in androgenic alopecia (which is affected by fluctuations in testosterone levels), the typical pattern of hair loss in men is a receding hair line and thinning at the crown of the head, which can lead to complete baldness over time.
In women, however, the hair loss usually affects the entire scalp, leading to an overall thinning of hair. Additionally, the age of onset for androgenic alopecia in men is usually after puberty, while in women it often develops much later; during or after menopause.
The major difference in hair loss between men and women relates to hormonal factors, due to the differences in endogenous hormones between sexes. For example, androgen hormones, (i.e. testosterone), can play a role in hair loss for both men and women. However, women experience more hormonal fluctuations throughout their lifetime, and are more susceptible to hormone imbalances, thyroid conditions and autoimmune disorders—all of which have the potential to cause hair loss.
When is hair loss is most likely to happen?
Men are more susceptible to developing hair loss in their late teens or early twenties (after puberty). Women, on the other hand, are most likely to experience hair loss during postpartum— however, this should eventually resolve, with hair growth returning to normal after 3-4 months.
In general, women are more susceptible to develop conditions that cause hair loss when they are experiencing significant hormone fluctuations, which of course includes puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
What is the difference between hair shedding and hair loss?
Hair shedding is a natural part of the hair growth cycle, with a normal amount of shedding equating to about 70-100 hairs per day. If you are experience shedding of 100+ hairs daily, a sudden increase in hair loss, or visible thinning/bald patches on the scalp, then this would be considered abnormal and would warrant further investigation.
Is all hair loss permanent or can it be treated?
As with any ongoing condition, treatment options and outcomes for hair loss will depend on the underlying cause. Due to the complexity of hair loss conditions, determining this can often be challenging. However, if you can identify the cause and find appropriate treatment, then hair loss can be minimised, prevented and even reversed.
In the cases where hair loss is permanent, this usually relates to hereditary factors or conditions where the hair follicle has been permanently altered, such as scarring alopecia.
Expert tips for hair growth and thickness
Aside from ruling out or treating the underlying cause, the two best general ways to encourage hair to regrow or thicken up are:
Nourishment: Proper nutrition is essential for promoting hair growth, with particular focus on hair-loving nutrients such as zinc, iron, biotin, vitamin D and of course protein, as it makes up the building blocks of hair. These nutrients can be found in lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and leafy greens, however, additional supplementation may be necessary in those that are wanting to address deficiency.
Circulation: Blood vessels within the scalp nourish the growing hair follicle and promote the transition of the “resting” hair follicle into a “growth stage” follicle. This is why conventional medications and treatments for hair growth often aim to increase the circulation of blood to the area. A way to do this is through daily vigorous scalp massage, as well as topical treatments that increase circulation such as rosemary oil^.
^Panahi Y, Taghizadeh M, Marzony ET, Sahebkar A. Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: a randomized comparative trial. Skinmed. 2015;13(1):15-21.