Suffering from hair loss? Here's 5 surprising causes
Hair loss isn't just caused by genetics; it affects 6 million women and 7.4 million men in the UK at some point in their lives. It seems we're always hearing about celebs with hair loss, from Princes Harry and William (1) to TV presenter Gail Porter and reality TV star Kim Kardashian. If you've noticed thinning hair or signs of hair loss, it's normal to feel concerned, but it's important to get to the root cause of the problem. Hair loss isn't always permanent, and there may be treatments or changes to your diet and lifestyle which can help restore your crowning glory.
Because balding and patchy hair loss isn't always caused be genetics or a medical condition, we thought we would look at 5 surprising (but common) causes of hair loss – if you're noticing you're shedding more hair than usual, perhaps one of these is affecting you.
It's a fact – we are living more busy, stressful lives than ever before. Here in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe (2) and stress can be a major cause of hair loss. In fact, a third of women in their 20's have experienced thinning hair or noticeable hair loss (3), and this is most common amongst high earners, who presumably experience more stress at work. It's usually severe stress such as emotional trauma (divorce, bereavement, a break-up or redundancy), childbirth or illness that leads to hair loss, but everyone handles stress differently.
Telogen effluvium is a condition which can cause thinning hair and hair loss – thankfully, it's usually temporary. Hair grows in repeating cycles and shedding isn't normally noticeable; we lose on average 100 hairs a day. Every strand of your hair is at a different point in the growth cycle, but a problem occurs when extreme stress causes your hair to prematurely enter the 'telogen' or 'resting' phase of the cycle. Hair stays in this phase for around three months before being shed, so if more of your hair than usual is resting rather than growing, it makes sense you'll notice hair loss occurring (4). Stress can also be a factor in auto-immune conditions such as alopecia areata, which causes patchy hair loss.
Most people suffering from stress-related hair loss can make lifestyle changes to reduce their stress levels, whilst receiving treatment from a hair loss expert. The good news is that hair usually grows back within six months, but it's important to check there isn't another underlying cause such as iron-deficiency or a thyroid disorder.
#2. Birth control pills
If you have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, or your follicles are sensitive to androgens (male hormones) found in many brands of oral contraceptives, you may find that the pill causes thinning hair. Popular pills such as Gestidone, Noresthisterone and Levonorgestrell all contain androgens, which could cause hair loss for some women (5). This can usually be reversed by switching to an androgen-free type of pill, so it's important to mention these side-effects to your doctor. Your hair loss may be so subtle that it goes unnoticed and friends or family may often be the first to comment on the appearance of your hair. Remember, it might not be your pill causing hair loss; it could be the result of a scalp condition or a reaction to chemicals and preservatives in your shampoo.
#3. Hair extensions
Long, lustrous hair is a sign of youth and beauty – women's hair naturally becomes thinner with age (6). We're used to seeing celebrities with thick, full hair, but they're often wearing extensions to boost volume or length. This obsession with appearances, and in particular with beautiful hair, could have dangerous consequences. Traction alopecia can occur when wearing hair extensions for prolonged periods of time. Even regularly wearing clip in extensions for nights out could lead to hair loss caused by traction alopecia. This condition occurs when tension is placed on the hair shaft, causing the hair to break and become dry and brittle. Many celebrities including supermodel Naomi Campbell have been photographed with balding patches on their scalp caused by wearing hair extensions. Eventually, this hair loss can become permanent, so it is important to break your hair extension habit now, to prevent further damage occurring to your hair. You can boost hair volume and fullness by using thickening sprays and root boosters, or try taking a supplement such as Hair Vitalics for strong, healthy hair. Of course, wearing hair extensions now and then for a special occasion should be fine, just don't make it a regular occurrence if you want your hair to stay healthy.
Your hair is often the last place in your body to benefit from the vitamins, minerals and nutrients in your food. But diet really does matter when it comes to healthy hair (7). It can often take longer to notice changes in your hair than in your skin, but persevere with healthy eating and you'll find hair loss is a thing of the past. You should eat nutrients which strengthen the hair follicles whilst promoting a healthier scalp. Of course sleep, smoking and other factors could also be negatively impacting your hair.
A protein-rich diet can boost the beauty and strength of your hair. Around 3% of our hair shaft is made up of fatty acids, so eat plenty of oily fish such as salmon, walnuts and avocados to support hair healthy. Walnuts are also rich in biotin, and a deficiency of biotin could cause hair loss.
Eating a diet rich in zinc and vitamin A can help to promote a healthy scalp, which equals healthier hair! Oysters, beef, nuts and eggs are all great sources of zinc, whilst vitamin A (beta carotene) can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, pumpkin and apricots.
If you're vegetarian or don't get enough iron in your diet, you could suffer from iron-deficiency anaemia, which can lead to hair loss. Eggs are packed with iron, but spinach, lentils, fish, chicken, beef and pork are also excellent sources. Try adding Greek yogurt to your diet – it has a magic ingredient; Vitamin B5. You'll see this referred to as pantothenic acid on many shampoo and conditioner labels. Greek yogurt is also a source of vitamin D, which can help to keep hair follicles healthy. Enjoy your yogurt with granola or fresh fruit, or snack on cottage cheese, also rich in vitamin B5.
#5. Tight hairstyles
We talked earlier about traction alopecia, and about how wearing hair extensions can damage your hair. Tight hairstyles have a similar effect, so next time you tie your hair up into a bun or ponytail, make sure it's not too tight. This can put tension on the hair shaft and cause breakage and hair loss, and if you rely on these types of hairstyles too frequently, can cause irreversible damage. It's best to use fabric covered hair tiers or looser scrunchies to tie back hair, which don't pull as much on your hair shaft. Using a natural shampoo such as one infused with olive oil can also help to keep your hair strong and prevent breakage.
As you can see, your hair is at risk from many different things, from styling to diet and even how stressed you get at work! Making a few changes to your diet, lifestyle and stress levels can really help to ensure your hair stays strong and beautiful.
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