Hair loss is very common among both men and women. While it’s often associated with getting older, some people start to lose their hair when they are still in their teens. Knowing what’s causing your hair loss is the first step towards finding an effective hair loss solution.
Is It Different for Men & Women?
Hair loss frequently affects both men and women but occurs more often in men. Generally speaking, the reasons for hair loss in both men and women can be similar. The causes can include family history or genes, changes in hormone levels, medications, or particular hairstyles.
One thing that differs about hair loss in men and women is the way the hair falls out. Men often experience male pattern baldness, meaning their hairline recedes or the hair becomes thinner on the crown.
Women who experience hair loss due to genetics often see their hair become thinner all over the scalp. It’s less common for a woman’s hairline to recede.
Men with hair loss might eventually end up completely bald. Complete baldness is less common in women.
Although people often think of hair loss as a scalp issue, it’s possible to lose hair from other areas of the body, too. Some people experience full-body hair loss due to an autoimmune condition. The root cause of hair loss often influences where it occurs.
Reasons for Hair Loss
People shed some of their hair every day. It’s normal for a person to lose up to 100 strands of hair daily. That might seem like a lot, but there are thousands of strands of hair on the typical scalp and in most instances, new hair is growing quickly enough to replace the lost hair.
When a person starts to lose more than 100 strands a day, the rate of hair loss often exceeds the rate of new growth. The following are some of the most common reasons for hair loss.
Androgenetic alopecia causes hair loss in men and women. It’s the most common form of hair loss and is usually passed on through family members. Androgenetic alopecia is also called male or female pattern baldness.
Although you might have heard that having male family members on your mother’s side with male pattern baldness makes you more likely to develop it, the actual link isn’t known. It’s possible for the condition to pass down on either side of the family.
It’s thought that a particular gene, called the AR or androgen receptor, plays a role in determining who gets male or female pattern baldness. Androgens are male hormones. The AR gene gives the body directions for making androgen receptors, which influence how the body responds to androgens.
In some people, the AR gene produces androgen receptors that increase activity in the hair follicles.
Hormones can also cause hair loss in men and women. The hormone that might be the most likely culprit for balding is dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT is produced from testosterone. Both men and women produce testosterone, although women typically produce much less of it. When the body converts testosterone into DHT, it can affect the health of the hair follicles on certain areas of the scalp.
DHT causes specific hair follicles to shrink, or miniaturize, which makes them less able to grow healthy hair. Eventually, the follicle becomes so small or weak that hair can’t grow from it at all.
Male hormones can also disrupt the hair growth cycle. The hormones can speed up the cycle, so that hair sheds much sooner than it usually would. Any hair that regrows is typically shorter or thinner than it was before.
Androgens are also associated with other conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome in women and prostate cancer in men. People with those conditions might have a higher risk of developing male or female pattern baldness.
Other hormones can also affect hair growth. For example, thyroid hormones might contribute to hair loss if a person has either an under- or over-active thyroid. Often, a person needs to have had a thyroid condition that’s been undiagnosed and untreated for an extended period before hair loss starts to occur.
Women going through menopause might also be more likely to notice hair loss due to hormonal changes. In this case, it’s usually because estrogen levels fall during menopause. Testosterone levels don’t increase but can have more of an effect on the body because there’s less estrogen to balance it out.
Medications or Treatments
Hair loss can be a side effect of certain types of medications or medical treatments. For example, hair loss often occurs when a person undergoes chemotherapy to treat cancer.
Depending on the type of medication a person takes, hair loss can occur when the hair is in the resting phase or when it’s in the active growth phase. Hair loss that occurs in the resting phase is called telogen effluvium. When the hair falls out while growing, it’s known as anagen effluvium.
Hair loss can be a side effect of medications for several reasons. Some medications affect blood flow, which can affect hair growth. Some medicines interfere with the levels of certain nutrients in the body, which can also affect hair health. In the case of medical treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy, hair loss can occur due to cell damage caused by the treatment.
The good news about hair loss due to medication or treatment is that the hair typically grows back after the medicine or treatment is no longer in use.
Some medical conditions can also cause hair loss. These conditions range from infections to autoimmune disorders.
For example, alopecia areata is a condition that develops when the body’s immune system starts to attack the hair follicles. Hair loss due to alopecia areata can occur anywhere on the body, not just on the scalp. It often causes patchy baldness on the head and other areas.
Alopecia totalis is a form of alopecia areata that causes a person to lose all of the hair on their scalp. Alopecia universalis leads to hair loss over the entire body.
Ringworm is an example of an infection that can cause hair loss. Ringworm has nothing to do with worms. It’s a fungal infection that causes scaly patches to develop on the skin.
Some illnesses can indirectly cause hair loss. Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that occurs after a person’s had a “shock” to their system. That shock could be due to an illness, traumatic event, or another big life change.
The body needs nutrients to survive and thrive. When a person’s diet is lacking in certain vitamins or minerals, hair loss can occur. In some cases, nutrient deficiency can be a sign of a bigger concern.
For example, low levels of iron can cause hair loss, particularly in young women. Low iron levels can develop for several reasons, such as not getting enough from food, losing a lot of blood during menstruation, or having certain types of cancer.
Other nutrients that can affect hair growth include zinc, selenium, and vitamin D. When you don’t have enough vitamin D, the hair might stop growing or become thin. Zinc deficiencies also affect hair growth and can make the hair thinner.
Selenium deficiencies are much are rarer than other nutrient deficiencies but are often associated with an underactive thyroid.
While it’s a myth that over-shampooing your hair, dying your hair, or getting a perm will cause hair loss, some hairstyles can damage the follicles.
Wearing a tight ponytail or braids regularly puts force on the follicles and can cause the hair to fall out. Hair loss due to hairstyles is called traction alopecia. It’s often reversible. The hair can grow back once you change your hairstyle.
Does Age Play a Factor in Hair Loss?
Hair loss becomes more common as people get older. Both men and women are likely to experience at least some amount of hair loss in middle age or after.
But that doesn’t mean that teenagers and young adults will never lose their hair. Some types of hair loss are more common than others when a person is younger.
When a teenager develops hair loss, there’s usually an external factor to blame. Teens who have a medical condition or take certain medicines can experience hair loss as a side effect. Nutritional deficiencies can also cause hair loss in teenagers, especially if they have an eating disorder or are otherwise malnourished.
While it’s uncommon, some people do start to lose their hair due to male or female pattern baldness in their teen years.
As in the teen years, hair loss when someone is in their 20s is usually due to external factors, such as a poor diet, high stress levels, or illness.
That said, some people, men in particular, do start to show signs of pattern baldness in their 20s or early 30s.
For women, a common cause of hair loss in the 20s and 30s is pregnancy. Excess hair shedding after delivery is a common occurrence in new moms.
Often, hair loss in new mothers is caused by telogen effluvium. In many cases, the hair will grow back by the baby’s first birthday.
As people get older, the list of reasons for hair loss gets longer. Hair loss due to genetics or family history, such as female or male pattern baldness, becomes much more common in the 30s and 40s.
Health issues, such as thyroid problems or autoimmune disorders, are also more likely to develop when a person is in their 30s or 40s. These conditions can lead to hair loss.
Male and female pattern baldness often becomes more obvious when a person is in their 40s. In women, this can mean that their part becomes wider. Men might notice a bigger bald patch on the top of their heads or a receding hairline.
50s and older
After the age of 50, hair loss is statistically likely in both women and men. Women over 50 who have gone through menopause might experience thinning hair due to hormone changes. Men over 50 are more likely to have follicle miniaturization associated with male pattern baldness.
Other Reasons Your Hair May Be Falling Out
Hair loss can occur for a few other reasons. Often, when hair loss happens due to the following reasons, you can reverse it.
Stress affects your body in many ways. If you’re under a lot of stress, your hair follicles might stop growing temporarily or hair in the resting phase might be more likely to fall out.
High stress levels can also increase inflammation and affect your body’s immune system. Finding ways to lower your stress levels can help improve your hair.
If you don’t eat a healthy diet or aren’t getting enough nutrients, your hair growth can suffer. For example, if you eat mostly junk food, you might not be getting the protein you need for healthy hair growth.
A nutritionist can help you evaluate what you eat and make recommendations to improve your diet.
Certain lifestyle choices can increase your risk of hair loss. A big one is smoking. Smoking affects your circulation, which can impact hair growth. Cigarettes are also full of toxic chemicals which can affect the health of your hair and follicles.
Hobbies and Habits
Some habits and hobbies can contribute to hair loss. For example, some people have a habit of pulling at their hair, which puts pressure on the hair follicles and can cause excessive shedding. Hobbies that require you to wear a helmet frequently could also rarely lead to hair loss.
How We Can Help You
Whatever the reason, hair loss can be stressful and can make you feel self-conscious. Fortunately, treatment options are available.
Dr. Jeffrey Epstein and the staff at the Foundation for Hair Restoration offer multiple options to help people with hair loss, from non-surgical treatments to hair transplants. To learn more about your options, contact us for a consultation today.