Hair Loss Awareness Month: How to Minimize Thin Hair
Anyone who has noticed a change in his or her hair thickness is likely to panic at the sight of extra forehead or scalp in the mirror. It’s important to remember, however, that you’re not alone. Over 35 million American men and 30 million American women suffer from hair loss. In fact, by the age of 35, two thirds of men will experience noticeable hair loss, and by age 50, 85% of men have thinning hair. Likewise, almost 50% of women will experience hair thinning or loss before the age of 50, and women make up 40% of American hair loss sufferers. In honor of Hair Loss Awareness Month, let’s review causes of hair loss and balding and ways to fix thinning hair.
Why Is My Hair Thinning?
Male & Female Pattern Hair Loss
In 95% of cases, male pattern hair loss is the root cause of hair loss in men. Male Pattern Hair Loss is caused by a combination of genetics and hormones, and usually begins with a receding hairline or loss of hair at the crown of the head. Like male pattern hair loss, female pattern hair loss is also caused by a combination of genes and male sex hormones, which are also found in females in small amounts. For women, pattern hair loss results in an overall thinning of hair rather than a receding hairline.
Male and female pattern hair loss occurs when hormones cause the hair follicles to become smaller. As a result, the hair follicles produce thinner and more brittle strands that may break off easily, or they might stop growing hair altogether. The total number of hair follicles may also decrease.
For both males and females, heredity plays a major factor. If your family members suffer from pattern hair loss, you’re more likely to face the same issues with hair loss.
Because female pattern hair loss is caused by androgen, a male sex hormone, any disruption in the balance of hormones can result in hair loss. Excess androgen can result from ovarian cysts, birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause. For most women, hair thinning and loss often worsens during menopause, according to the North American Menopause Society.
Hypothyroidism, caused by an under-active thyroid gland, can also attribute to hair loss. The thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones for metabolism and growth. If you suffer from an under-active thyroid, your hair follicles may not receive the hormones they need to grow new hair, which contributes to hair loss.
Autoimmune-related hair loss, also called alopecia areata, is the result of an overactive immune system. When you have alopecia areata, your immune system mistakenly targets hair as a foreign object. Alopecia areata can usually be reduced with steroid injections or with the use of topical medication like Rogaine. The exception is lupus, which can cause scarring of the hair follicles. The hair will not grow back, but a new hairstyle can disguise the thinness or bald patches.
Stress and Trauma
Hair shedding following a traumatic or stressful event is fairly common. A stressful event like a divorce or death of a loved one, or a traumatic event like giving birth, a high fever, sudden weight loss, or surgery can cause hair to shed at an unusually high rate. Stress and trauma can force the hair in the anagen, or “growing” phase to suddenly switch the “shedding” phase. Hair shedding typically occurs a few months after the stress or trauma. This shedding is normal and temporary, and hair will regain fullness after six to nine months as the body readjusts.
If the body doesn’t get proper nutrition, it will shift its nutrient supply towards vital organs and away from hair growth. Low protein, low vitamin D, and low calcium can all cause hair loss. This type of hair loss can easily be reversed with proper supplementation.
Anemia, caused by an iron deficiency, is another easily fixable cause of hair loss. Anemia can be diagnosed by a blood test. If you have anemia, your doctor will prescribe iron supplements and hair will regain fullness after a few months.
Involutional alopecia is a natural condition in which the hair gradually thins with age. This occurs when more hair follicles go into the resting phase. Doctors do not typically treat this type of hair loss, but thinning hair can be disguised with scarves, a new hairstyle, or various styling products.
Wearing your hair in braids or cornrows, or pulling your hair too tightly into ponytails or buns can cause traction alopecia. Overuse of bleach, dyes, relaxers, curling irons and straighteners can also cause traction alopecia. If the condition is caught early enough, the hair will regrow.
Some medications, like blood thinners, birth control pills, antidepressants and chemotherapy drugs can cause hair loss. In most case, hair growth will return if you stop using these medications. If you suspect that a medication is causing your hair loss, always talk to a doctor about your options before ceasing medication.
Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder that causes sufferers to compulsively pull out their own hair. This disorder is most common in adolescents and teens, with females more likely to be affected. Antidepressants might help to curb this impulse, and behavioral modification therapy is also effective. After the disorder is properly treated, the hair will grow back.
Suffering from any of these hair related issues? Continue reading for tips on how to minimize hair loss and appearance of thinning hair.
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