Hair Loss: Causes of hair fall and hair loss treatment

Hair loss is often disturbing and painful for individuals. Because of excessive hair loss, people become irritated, anxious, loosing self-confidence or even feel shameful in public.  Many suffer from hair loss or hair fall process and constantly worry about it.

However, causes of hair fall are many and it’s difficult to find the exact one.

What is Hair Loss (also called as alopecia or baldness) actually?

Now, you guys may laugh on this question that it’s simple hair loss means people loses hair from head or other parts of body. But it’s not that. Let me tell you what actual hair fall is.

Everyone loses hair at some stage of life due to heredity, hormonal changes or some underlying health conditions such as cancer. An average adult has about 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on their head.

So, it’s really very normal to lose 50-100 hairs from it. So don’t worry if you find few stray hairs on your hairbrush. Normally, new hair replaces the lost hair, but not always.

However, if you find hair thinning or bald patches then that could be the hair loss problem. Also note that hair fall can be temporary based on age period or permanent.

Hair Process

Hairs are primarily composed of keratin protein consisting a root and shaft formed in a group of specialized cells, called hair follicles. Hair follicles are the dynamic organs that regulate hair growth in body.

Every time hair follicles replaces old hairs with new hairs after a hair growth cycle in various phases. The process of hair growth is divided into 3 sequential stages:

  • Anagen is the active growth phase for hair follicles during which hair grows about 1 cm every 28 days and scalp hairs lasts for 2-7 years.
  • Catagen is a short transitional hair growth stage that starts at the end of anagen phase. This phase lasts 2-3 weeks and throughout that period hair starts converting to club hair.
  • Telogen is the resting phase for hair follicles that stays around 3 months.

At the end of resting phase the hair starts falling and new hair take place of it and the cycle starts again. As hair grows at different rates, they don’t all shed at once.

Before starting this process, there is phase called follicular morphogenesis, which is for follicles formation. Also an independent shedding phase exogen is therein which one or more hairs might arise from single follicle exits.

Normally, the scalp cycle takes 3-4 years to finish.

Causes of Hair Fall

It’s very distressing when you find large amount of hair in drain after hair wash or hair clumps in comb than normal.

There are many factors that results in hair fall include, extreme stress, hormonal changes or childbirth or unhealthy habits.

Most common causes of hair fall are due to several medications or hereditary male-pattern baldness / female-pattern baldness. Though men and women both suffers hair loss, but is more common in men than women.

Check the list of common causes of hair fall:

1. Hormonal changes

Hormonal factors such as childbirth, pregnancy or menopause affects hair growth in women.

Most women suffer from hair loss problem after 3 months of giving birth to a child when levels of oestrogen (primary female sex hormone) drops and hair fall starts.

Also, it’s very common during menopause. This type of hair loss is temporary. Within few months, hair starts re-growing.

On the other hand, if women is of 40 years or older, probably she will not get full hair growth. This can be said involutional alopecia that is a natural condition in which hair gradually started thinning due to more hair follicles in resting phase.

Changes in androgen hormones (a male hormones present in both males and females) can also be the reason for hair fall in men and women.

2. Hair disorders
Pattern hair loss / Androgenetic alopecia

It is classified as hereditary hair thinning or baldness and common form of hair fall in both men and women primarily affects the top and front of scalp.

Males often suffer hair loss as a receding hairline known as male-pattern hair loss, while females suffer from noticeably thinning hair called female-pattern hair loss.

Pattern hair loss is generally considered as non-scarring hair loss as it rarely leads to total hair loss.

Alopecia areata (or spot baldness)

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which immune system attacks body’s own hair follicles. In this, hair starts to fall out from scalp or in some cases occurs on eyebrows, eyelashes, face or other parts of the body.

This often results in small patches which gradually increase to noticeable bald spots on the scalp. Dermatologists help hairs to re-grow in this type of disorder.

Scarring hair loss

Scarring hair loss (also known as cicatricial alopecia) is a rare disorder that destroy hair follicles and replace it with scar tissue so the hair cannot re-grow which results in permanent hair loss.

This rare disorder occurs in otherwise healthy people of all ages.  

Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA)

It is a common type of scarring alopecia occurs most often in African American women. It starts in the centre part of the scalp. The hair loss radiates out of the centre of scalp in circular pattern and is usually gradual.

The common symptoms of CCCA may include pain, burning, tingling or itching on scalps.

scalp ringworm

Scalp ringworm (Tinea capitis) classified as a fungal infection affects scalp and hair shafts causing itchy, scaly bald patches on the head.

Ringworm is a highly infective that spreads from one person to another by sharing comb, towels or hat. It is most common in children.

3. Underlying medical condition and treatments

Many underlying medical conditions can be the cause of hair fall. Such as, thyroid or anemia. When these diseases is treated, hairs will return if there is no scarring or follicular disorders.

Some diseases that cause scarring like some forms of lupus and lichen planus can results into permanent hair loss.

In case of cancer, treatments like chemotherapy can cause hair loss. However, that is often temporary. Also medication that used to treat several diseases like high blood pressure, depression or arthritis promotes hair damage.

4. Stress

No matter whether you read somewhere or consult a doctor, you always hear that “Do not take stress” in case of hair loss. If you went through any traumatic event or experiencing any physical or emotional shock, then it may trigger hair damage.

Trichotillomania is a hair-pulling disorder that cause people to pull out their own hair from head or other part of body.

5. Illness

Illness such as high fever, flu, severe infection or undergone major surgery can trigger hair fall. However, you are likely to see new hair without any treatment.

Sometimes dermatologist call this type of hair loss as telogen effluvium that is a scalp disorder in which hair starts thinning or shedding usually on top of scalp.

6. Improper diet and poor nutrition

Improper diet lacking protein, iron or other nutrients can also promotes hair loss. Also, Over Vitamin A, can also be the factor affecting your hairs.

According to American Academy of Dermatology, when your body doesn’t get enough protein, it ration protein by stopping hair growth. Lack of several vitamins are also plays major role in hair damage.

Check why vitamins are necessary and what they do in our body.

7. Hair care

Almost everyone uses shampoos and conditioner for hair wash, blow dryers and many other products on head. Many ladies doing their hair permanent, use blow dryers or straighteners to make their hair look gorgeous.

But, do you know that frequent usage of these products can damage your hair? According to dermatologist every heat process on your hair break it. Let hair dry naturally and style them when they become dry.

Plus, improper hair ties such as rubber bands or hair clips that hold hair tightly can do hair damage. Plus improper hairstyle, washing or combing techniques results hair to break.

Dermatologists recommend to limit the usage of gels, dyes and hair sprays to prevent hair breakage.

Hair loss diagnosis

In worst noticeable hair damage, you need to go to a doctor or better dermatologist. They ask you basic questions related to physical or mental health. The dermatologist will ask you about whether this hair loss is sudden or often.

If any health disease you were faced in past or currently experiencing, any medications or treatments are going or not, what are the diet habits – this all factors matters when you go to dermatologist.

They also performs some basic tests comprising pull test, pluck test, scalp biopsy or daily hair counts.

As so many factors are affecting hair fall, it will take some time to get the root cause of your problem.

Hair loss Treatment

If we talk about age-related or hereditary hair loss then they are difficult to re-grow. As one is from family’s history and another is based on aging. Many treatments are available but it may not fully reverse hair.

If a person has a lot of hair loss, then it’s even harder to treat with hair loss treatments. Following are some or more treatments that may help:

1. Medications

Medications can be the first way to treat hair damage before any medical surgery. These over-the-counter medications comes in form of gels or creams that you can directly apply to the scalp.

  • One is Minoxidil that is without prescription medicine applied to scalp. It helps by stopping hair thinning and stimulate hair growth. A dermatologist may recommend minoxidil with other hair loss treatments.

However, the side effects are still there like scalp irritation or hair growth in areas such as forehead or face.

  • There are prescribed medicines too, such as Finasteride or corticosteroids. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved finasteride to treat male-pattern baldness. It comes as pills that helps with new hair growth by stopping production of male hormone dihydrotestosterone.

Dermatologists may also suggests corticosteroids to stop inflammation and suppress the immune system in case of alopecia areata.

As you all know that no medicines come without side effects. There are always some risks in using this type of medicines. So do consult with your doctor before proceeding.

2. Medical Procedures

It is possible that with just medicines, your problem is not solved. Depends on how much hair you have lost, dermatologist may suggests these type of medical procedures.

  • Hair Transplant

In hair transplant surgery, a healthy skin of scalp with good hair growth from back and sides of the head is implanted to the bald sections.

This process may take 4-8 hours and you may require several transplant sessions to get effective result.

  • Scalp reduction

Scalp reductions is the process of removing bald skin areas on head and bringing hair covered skin closer to fill the bald scalp space. Those who have excessive hair loss are suggested to do this process with hair transplantation to give natural hairline.

There is also many other surgical options such as scalp flaps, follicle transplants or Scalp expansion. However, this type of surgeries are very expensive and painful. Also, risks can be the major issues with this kind of medical procedures such as infection, bleeding or scarring.

Understand the pros and cons of each medications and surgeries before getting into it. You need to consult with doctor or dermatologist to know more about hair loss treatments’ results and drawbacks.

Some hair loss tips

Sometimes hair fall does not require any treatment as changing some not-so-good habits with your hair will helps you to see a good hair growth after it. Remember, it can be temporary based on some circumstances.

Here are some tips to prevent hair fall that you should apply:

1. Start a good hair care habit

Don’t tie your hair in tight hairstyles like ponytails or braids. This will put too much pressure on hair follicles that urge hair to fall out of it.

Stylist products such as straighteners, coloring your hair, blow dryers or some serums and gels are much scarier on hairs. Avoid all of them.

Make a habit to wash hair on every other day. Avoid pulling or rubbing hair. Use a gentle baby shampoo and apply conditioner after every wash. Make sure you get enough amount of protein, iron and other necessary nutrients necessary for hair growth.

These are some little habits that plays major role in hair loss prevention.

2. Know if medicines are the culprits

As I specified earlier, some medicines for your diseases can results in hair damage and excessive hair fall. Know about them.

Do not immediately stop taking them without consulting with doctor. Let your doctor know about hair loss problem due to prescribed medicines and ask if they can change it.

3. The hair loss process can be temporary

Whenever you see noticeable hair fall that doesn’t mean you are having hair loss. Sometimes some temporary situations such as pregnancy, childbirth, illness or depression can be the cause of it.

During depression, it is more possibility for hairs to enter resting phase where they shed more. Try some yoga or meditation in this stressful time.

Like you, I also face hair fall many times due to certain factors. But with changing my habits, I got great result.

Don’t get frustrated about seeing how many hairs you have lost. Everyone face it at some point in life. Take an appointment and consult a dermatologist to know the cause and treatments for hair loss.