Causes of Hair Loss
in Men & Women
Hair loss can happen at any age due to a number of different factors. The cause of hair loss can determine whether it falls out gradually or abruptly, thins, can regrow on its own, requires treatment to regrow, or needs immediate care to prevent permanent hair loss. Here I have listed some common causes.
Pattern Baldness is the most common type of hair loss in both Men and Women worldwide. In Men, it's called Male Pattern Baldness, and in Women, it's called Female Pattern Baldness. The medical term for both the Male and Female Pattern Baldness is Androgenic Alopecia. Pattern Baldness is an inherited condition that causes the hair follicles in our scalp to shrink and eventually stop growing hair. The shrinking process can start as early as your teens, but usually it will start later in life. The first sign of MPB tends to be a receding hairline or bald spot at the top of the head. In women, the first sign tends to be overall thinning and a widening of the parting. Male Pattern Baldness can be treated with medication such as Finasteride and Minoxidil. Minoxidil can also be used to treat FPB, but women should not use Finasteride. It's worth bearing in mind that these medications do not work for everyone, only work for as long as they are used, are not available on the NHS and can be expensive.
Age is another common factor of hair loss. As we age, most people will notice increased hair loss and slowed hair growth. This is due to the hair follicles shrinking to the point they can no longer grow hairs, causing the hair on our scalp to become sparse and thin. There are many reasons why hair growth slows with age including hereditary traits, reduced hormonal support, and nutritional deficiencies. If caught early, treatment can help some people re-grow their hair if they correct the deficiency or imbalance.
Alopecia areata is a disease that develops when the body's immune system starts attacking hair follicles. Alopecia areata can develop anywhere on the body, including the scalp, and is characterised by circular patches. If the hair does not grow back on its own, treatment can be used to try and stimulate growth. The most common form of alopecia areata treatment is the use of Corticosteroids. These are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can suppress the immune system. They can be administered through local injections, topical ointment, or orally.
Scarring alopecias, medically known as cicatricial alopecia, are a group of conditions that develop when inflammation destroys hair follicles and replaces it with scar tissue. Once destroyed, the hair follicle cannot grow back. The different types of scarring alopecias are; central centrifugal (hairloss starts at the centre of the scalp and slowly spreads outwards), frontal fibrosing alopecia (hair falls out across the front of the scalp and can also affect the eyebrows), and lichen planopilaris (hairloss appears in patches most commonly on the sides, front and lower back of the scalp). Catching this condition early can prevent further hair loss, but once a hair follicle is destroyed it can't regrow a hair.
Hair Pulling Disorder
Hair pulling disorder, medically known as trichotillomania, is a phycological condition that leads to a compulsion to pull hair out. The reason can often be to relieve stress, but some people are unaware they are even doing it. The most common places that people pull hair from are the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Regrowth is possible if the hair pulling stops and follicles haven't been destroyed. Treatment includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Traction alopecia develops when hair is continuously pulled in the same way over a long period of time. The main causes of traction alopecia are from tight hairstyles, relaxers, or hair extensions. Hair loss of this kind is permanent, but further hair loss can be prevented if changes are made.
Telogen Effluvium is a type of hair loss usually triggered by childbirth, illness and stress. A few months after giving birth, recovering from an illness, or having an operation, you may notice excessive hair shedding. Telogen Effluvium, or TE, happens when more hairs than usual move into the telogen (resting) phase. The effects are often temporary and resolves itself spontaneously.
Frictional alopecia can cause hair loss anywhere on the body and develops when there is frequent friction or rubbing against the hair and skin. The most common example of frictional alopecia is a loss of ankle hair seen in people who wear socks continuously for years. Other causes include wearing boots and tight clothing. Hair growth should return to normal in time once the friction has stopped.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone disorder in women which causes small cysts to develop on the ovaries. Hair loss is a reported symptom of PCOS due to excess androgenic hormones that people with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome often have. Androgen is a male hormone that regulates the development and maintenance of male characteristics. Excess androgen hormones in a female trigger many side effects including hair thinning on the scalp. However, this will never lead to complete baldness, unlike men. There is no cure for PCOS, but symptoms can be treated with medication and diet.
People with an underactive thyroid, medically known as hypothyroidism, may experience thinning hair as a side effect. Hair can even come out in clumps whilst brushing with this disease. An underactive thyroid is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. Hair loss from hypothyroidism is diffuse (loss throughout the entire scalp) and is triggered by the disruption of hormones, specifically hormones T3 and T4 which play an important role in nail and hair growth. Thyroid Disease can be treated with medication and hair loss of this kind is not permanent.
Scalp psoriasis develops when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells. It is characterised as red, itchy areas with silvery-white scales. The scalp psoriasis itself does not cause hair loss, but if the area is constantly being scratched or treated with harsh chemicals, this can lead to temporary hair loss. Once the skin cells have healed, hair growth should return to normal in time. Treatment can include oral retinoids, topical treatments, and a change of diet.
A deficiency of one or more nutrients in your body may lead to hair loss. There are a number of nutrients linked to healthy hair growth including iron, biotin, protein, zinc, and vitamin D. Once your body is no longer deficient in any nutrient, hair growth should return to normal.
A possible side effect of some medications is hair loss. If you think a medication is causing your hair to fall out, you should ask your doctor if hair loss is a possible side effect. It’s essential that you do not stop taking the medication before talking with your doctor. Stopping a medication suddenly could cause serious health problems.
Cosmetic hair care treatments such as colouring, perming, or using relaxers on hair could lead to damage and eventually hair loss. To prevent further hair loss, you can change how you care for your hair. If, however, a hair follicle has been permanently damaged, hair cannot grow back from that follicle and the hair loss will be permanent. Multiple damaged hair follicles will create bald spots.