All my life, my grandma and I never had much in common. We never liked the same foods, or even watched the same TV shows. Unfortunately, as I neared my 30th birthday, and she neared her 70th, we developed something in common — hair loss. Although 40 years separated us, we responded in nearly the same way. But while I was sympathetic to my grandma, I must admit, I was a bit annoyed. It was understandable that she was losing her hair — she was almost 70! And I’ve read that the diameter of the hair shaft diminishes as we get older, and 50 percent of women experience hair loss and thinning by age 50; but what was my problem?!! At 20-something, I couldn’t understand why my hair was thinning so severely. Little did I know, there were more potential culprits than I ever imagined.
Genetic hair loss known as androgenetic alopecia, is the most common type of hair loss in both men and women. It generally starts in your 20s, and causes thinning at the crown of the head or around the hairline. If one or both of your parents suffer from hair loss, it’s likely that you will also develop hair loss or thinning around the same age. Fortunately, you can prevent hereditary hair loss by using a product like Rogaine, twice daily.
Changes in your lifestyle can also cause temporary hair loss and thinning — known as telogen effluvium. This type of hair loss occurs when a shock to your body’s system disrupts your normal hair cycle. Some examples include: extreme stress, discontinuing birth control, hormone changes after giving birth, chemotherapy, drastic weight loss and major operations. Taking certain medications, such as Ibuprofen, anti-depressants and retinoids can also cause hair loss and thinning. Usually, hair will thicken or grow back within three months of returning to your normal lifestyle.
Several nutritional deficiencies are known to cause hair loss and thinning; the most common being iron deficiency and vitamin D deficiency. Women who experience heavy periods are more likely to suffer from hair loss or thinning caused by iron deficiency, while women with a lack of exposure to the sun are more likely to suffer from hair loss or thinning caused by vitamin D deficiency. Deficiencies of copper, zinc and amino acids may also be responsible for hair loss and thinning. Eating a balanced diet rich in the vitamins and nutrients you lack can reverse hair loss and thinning. You should also take vitamin supplements to be sure that you’re not lacking any of the nutrients your body needs.
Diseases and Conditions
Many diseases and medical conditions are known to cause hair loss and thinning. Some of the most common include:
Diabetes – Women with diabetes often experience hair loss or thinning because of problems with circulation and inadequate blood flow to the scalp.
Thyroid Disease – The thyroid hormone is directly responsible for the growth of your hair. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) causes hair to become thin and brittle or break off.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – About 5 million women in the US alone suffer from PCOS. Although this condition can cause women to grow excessive facial and body hair, it often causes women to lose hair on the scalp.
Lupus – Women with lupus often experience differing degrees of hair loss and thinning. Some women lose hair in large patches, while others experience only mild shedding and thinning when styling hair.
Alopecia Areata – Because alopecia areata is a disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, hair loss is usually severe and occurs on the scalp and other parts of the body.
Traction Alopecia – Women who wear tight weaves, braids and ponytails often experience hair loss and thinning at the crown and around the hairline.
You could also be causing your own hair loss and thinning just by the way you style and maintain your hair. Most women know that perms, relaxers, hair dye and other chemicals can cause hair loss; but you can also damage your hair by washing and styling it excessively. Blow dryers, curling irons and flat irons can also do a lot of damage to your hair.
If the cause of your hair loss or thinning isn’t obvious, see a doctor or a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss. If your hair loss isn’t genetic or caused by excessive styling, it may be a sign of a bigger problem. Only your doctor can run the right tests to rule out any diseases or medical conditions. At the very least, being proactive can prevent further hair loss. Since about 90 percent of hair loss and thinning is genetic, a dermatologist can also recommend medication to treat hair loss and even help regrow your hair.