Hair loss is an extremely commonplace and distressing condition. Sometimes it can affect not just your scalp, but your entire body as well, with some people experiencing either temporary or permanent hair loss. In the article below, we detail the common causes of hair loss, the different treatments available and what you can do to care for your hair on a daily basis.
COMMON CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS
Hair loss can be due to a number of factors: genetics, hormonal changes, existing medical conditions, or simple ageing. Both women and men can experience hair loss, but it’s more pronounced and common in men.
Sometimes, hair loss is a side effect of a more serious medical condition and will often go away once the patient receives proper treatment. If you’re experiencing various levels of hair loss (hair thinning or baldness), it’s best to see a dermatologist who can determine its root cause.
However, understanding the most common reasons for hair loss and how they may affect you is vital. Check out the most common causes of hair loss below.
A genetic cause of hair loss would refer to Androgenetic alopecia, which is another term for male or female pattern baldness. Males tend to lose hair from the temples and crown of the head, as compared to generalised hair thinning all over the head in females. All this is usually from increased androgen activity such as testosterone in both genders.
Pattern baldness in women differs from male-pattern baldness. In women, androgenetic alopecia causes the hair to thin all over the head. The hairline does not typically recede and women rarely experience baldness due to androgenetic alopecia. It is also associated with an increased risk of developing PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome.
Meanwhile in men, androgenetic alopecia may often be a symptom of the following medical conditions:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH or prostate gland enlargement)
- Prostate cancer
- Insulin resistance
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
PREGNANCY RELATED HAIR LOSS
Another hormonal cause of hair loss happens after childbirth, whereby some women may also experience excessive hair loss, and this is usually due to a decrease in estrogen levels. Pregnancy related hair loss is usually temporary and resolves within a year without any treatment.
But new mothers who are concerned about shedding too much hair can do the following:
- Use a volumizing shampoo which can make the hair appear fuller.
- Avoid conditioning shampoos which can make the hair appear dull or “limp”.
- When using conditioner, apply only to the ends of the hair.
- Use conditioners designed for fine hair.
Another temporary condition would be Telogen Effluvium, where the hair remains in the telogen, or natural shedding phase of the hair growth cycle. This is manifested in more hair falling out easily, especially in handfuls. Common causes of this can include stress, surgery, rapid weight loss, thyroid issues and certain medications.
Excessive shedding on the top of the scalp may also be caused by shock or a traumatic event.
Although excessive hair loss due to telogen effluvium may seem alarming, it’s only temporary. The hair will often grow back without need for treatment. You may be diagnosed with telogen effluvium if you frequently experience hair shedding for six months or more.
Telogen effluvium is often easy to spot. For instance, you’ll notice more hair is falling out than usual, when washing or brushing. You may also discover clumps of hair on your pillow or in the drain after taking showers.
An autoimmune cause of hair loss is alopecia areata, which results in hair falling out in small round patches from the scalp. This happens when the body’s immune system attacks the scalp hair follicles, leading to hair loss. Depending on its cause, alopecia areata can be treated with intralesional corticosteroid injections with good effect.
Hair loss due to alopecia areata oftenly being unpredictable. Sometimes the hair can grow back without treatment. However, it may fall out again if the condition is recurring.
Contrary to popular belief, alopecia areata can start at any age. Children and teenagers can experience recurring cycles of bald hair patches. If a parent has this condition, their children may be at a greater risk of developing it, but not every child will develop this hair condition.
This refers to hair loss caused by repetitive traumatic pulling on one’s hair, over long periods of time. A risk factor for this condition is wearing one’s hair in a tight ponytail, bun or braids for extended durations especially after applying chemical or heat styling on the hair. Avoiding tight hairstyles will usually prevent further damage.
The good news is traction alopecia is reversible. Women experiencing it can stop the hair loss by letting their hair fall more loosely instead of winding them tight through a ponytail, braiding, or a hair bun.
Its symptoms often start as tiny bumps in the scalp that resemble pimples. But patients will generally experience broken or missing hairs as the condition progresses. Other symptoms of traction alopecia include:
- Scalp redness
- Scaly patches on the scalp
- Pimple-like bumps on the scalp
- Folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles)
- Blisters filled with pus on the scalp
Men may also develop traction alopecia in their beard, especially if they wind it too tightly. Similar to women, they’re advised to change their beard styles or avoid tying it too tightly.
But in severe cases, traction alopecia can be treated by visiting a dermatologist. They will examine the scalp and take a tissue sample to determine other possible causes of hair loss. Dermatologists will often advise their patients to avoid using chemicals and applying too much heat to prevent further hair damage.
A common chronic, relapsing form of eczema or dermatitis that typically involves the sebaceous (or oil) glands of the scalp, face and body trunk, seborrhoeic dermatitis can cause the affected areas to be reddened, itchy, scaly and flaky. Microorganisms occurring naturally on our skin such as the Malassezia yeast, can contribute to seborrheic dermatitis.
Seborrheic dermatitis can affect oily areas in the body, like the face, nose, eyebrows, eyelids, ears, and the chest. While it can cause irritation, it’s not contagious and won’t lead to permanent hair loss.
There is no exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis. However, aside from Malassezia, immune system disorders and other risk factors like stress, fatigue, Parkinson’s disease, and seasonal changes can lead to this hair loss condition.
RINGWORM (OR FUNGAL INFECTION) OF THE SCALP
Tinea capitis refers to a fungal infection of the scalp. It is especially prevalent in our humid climate. However it tends to affect children more so than adults, and can be treated easily with topical or oral antifungal medications.
Tinea capitis usually leads to itchiness and scaly, bald patches on the scalp. Contrary to belief, there are no actual ringworms involved. This hair condition is only named as such as due to the circular appearance.
Tinea capitis or ringworm of the scalp can be mistaken for other hair conditions, due to the similar appearances. If unsure, visit a doctor especially if your child experiences hair loss, itchiness, or scaly patches on the scalp.
Prescription medicine is the only remedy for tinea capitis. Avoid self-medication in the form of lotions, topical creams, powders, etc.
Hair loss can also be caused by extreme diets that are too low in protein and certain vitamins and minerals such as iron, copper and zinc. Blood tests can be done to check for nutritional deficiencies that could be causing hair loss.
In premenopausal women for instance, hair loss can be due to an iron deficiency or indicate another underlying medical condition. Iron is associated with haemoglobin production, which is responsible for delivering nutrients and oxygen to the hair follicles. If the body doesn’t produce enough iron, this causes poor hair regrowth and leads to thinning hair.
Here are other potential vitamin deficiencies that could lead to hair loss:
- Vitamin D – As vitamin D is important in stimulating old and new hair follicles, a vitamin D deficiency could lead to hair loss.
- Selenium – Imbalance in selenium levels could trigger stress and mitochondrial membrane apoptosis, leading to telogen effluvium.
- Zinc – Men who experience male pattern baldness or other forms of hair loss have been found to be deficient in zinc. This zinc deficiency may prevent the production of the 5 alpha-reductase enzyme, which in turn, important in dihydrotestosterone (DHT) production.
TREATMENTS TO REVERSE HAIR LOSS
Firstly, we need to determine the cause of the hair loss problem. A proper hair consultation should include a detailed history- taking, followed by a scalp examination to observe the pattern of hair loss and also to check for signs of inflammation or infection. Blood tests may be ordered to investigate other possible causes of hair loss, including autoimmune conditions, thyroid issues, and iron deficiency. Treatments instituted will then be targeted towards addressing the cause of hair loss.
In our clinic, we carry a wide range of treatments to target hair loss in both males and females. An example of a topical medication which can be used in both genders is Minoxidil, which helps to slow down hair loss or even stimulate hair growth when applied directly to the scalp.
We also carry oral Finasteride, or Propecia as it is widely known, for our male patients. It works by reducing the production of male hormones responsible for hair loss.
A very popular procedure to address hair loss in our clinic is the combination of the LaseMD hair regrowth laser and PDRN (polydeoxyribonucleotide) therapy. Using an advanced Cosmeceutical Delivery System (CDS), the LaseMD Thulium laser creates micro-channels with minimal disruption to the strateum corneum of the scalp, thus resulting in bridges of untouched tissue for improved absorption and faster healing. All this stimulates the hair follicles to produce stronger and thicker hair. The LaseMD laser procedure is usually followed by the application of PDRN onto the scalp. PDRN is known for its regenerative ability in helping to strengthen and thicken the scalp, so as to provide an ideal environment for healthy hair to grow.
Last but not least, we also do Regenera Activa in our clinic, an autologous hair transplant micrografting technique which is a popular alternative for patients looking for a mini hair transplant but without the corresponding downtime needed.
PREVENTIVE MEASURES TO AVOID OR DELAY HAIR LOSS
Our busy stressful lifestyles can be a culprit in inducing, or even worsening, hair loss. Do try instituting changes in your lifestyle to reduce stress, and make an effort to eat a well- balanced and nutritious diet that includes proteins, fats and important vitamins and minerals such as iron, copper and zinc.
Also be sure to avoid tight hairstyles, and limit the use of heat styling instruments that can potentially damage the hair. Try using a lightweight shampoo and conditioner to avoid weighing down the hair.
ALL IN ALL
Hair loss is definitely something that needs early intervention. With proper investigations and medical treatments, hair follicles can be preserved and regenerated. Each person’s hair loss condition can be triggered by different causes and depending on the factors elicited, we will customise a treatment plan suitable for you.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Reasons For Hair Loss
How Can I Stop Hair Loss?
Here are ways to prevent hair loss:
- Avoid hair-pulling hairstyles
- Avoid chemical and heat treatments on the hair
- Use a mild shampoo
- Use a soft brush that’s mild on the hair
Why Am I Losing Hair All Of A Sudden?
Hair loss is typically associated with a number of overlapping factors. If you didn’t previously have a hair problem and suddenly experience hair loss, you’re probably stressed, nutrient-deficient, or have an underlying medical issue. Consulting with a dermatologist or hair specialist is essential, to help you properly diagnose a hair loss condition.
What Food Can Prevent Hair Fall?
Eating these foods can prevent hair fall:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
- Low-fat dairy products
Can Oiling Prevent Hair Loss?
While oiling your scalp will not prevent hair loss, it can stimulate your hair follicles, as it helps hydrate the scalp.