You must have come across the usual memes on social media platforms about hair fall, such as “I am a party, I leave confetti around”, “what hurts more than break up? Hair fall”. But the jokes seem only funny if you are losing around 50-100 strands a day, which is considered normal. But for those who have brittle and weak hair, the mere act of combing can be daunting. There are several hair fall reasons , which can range from something as innocuous as a reversible nutrient deficiency to an underlying disease, which needs immediate attention. Let’s look at some of the most common causes of hair fall.
The phases that a hair strand goes through are anagen (growth), catagen (when growth begins to slow down) and telogen (resting) and exogen (falls out). When there is a disturbance in the body, the hair quickly moves out of the growth phase and enters the resting phase and then falls out. Studies have shown that excess amounts of cortisol (stress hormones) in the blood lead to a hair strand’s quick transition from anagen to telogen and then exogen. The term telogen effluvium is used to explain thinning or shedding of hair resulting from the early entry of hair in the telogen phase. You will hence notice that the rate of hair fall increases when you are stressed; had a bout of illness or experienced a traumatic shock.
2. Over Styling
Subjecting your hair to excessive shampooing, chemicals, blow-drying, coloring, bleaching, flat-ironing and opting for hairstyles, which stress the roots of the hair strands, can lead to hair loss. The overuse of chemicals or over-shampooing can strip the hair of its moisture rendering it brittle, dry, and more susceptible to breakage. Over the years, warm hair oil has been known to show immense positive results on the scalp and hair roots, which can be used as a styling agent and a replacement for the chemical filled shampoos and gels.
3. Nutrient Deficiency
A variety of nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, iron and zinc are needed for healthy hair. A deficiency in any one of the nutrients can lead to hair fall.
4. Sudden Weight Loss
One of the more underrated hair fall reasons is a rapid and sudden loss of weight. Did you recently go on a crash diet? When there is a sudden fall in calorie intake, the body adjusts to support our organs. It then sends less blood and nutrients to the scalp leading to hair fall.
Sometimes hair fall can result from your medication. Blood-thinning medications, oral contraceptives, antidepressants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and beta and calcium blockers can lead to hair loss. Even chemotherapy and radiation therapy lead to hair loss. In such cases, change or suspension of the medication or therapy can reverse the condition.
Are you one of those who believe in washing their hair once a week? Or believe the myth that hair oils are bad? One of the commonest causes for hair fall is the dirty scalp. It is imperative that the scalp and hair are cleaned with a mild shampoo and oiled to keep them moisturized. A build-up of sweat and sebum can clog the hair follicles leading to infection. It can also invite dandruff.
Classified as an “impulse control disorder,” causes people to compulsively pull their hair out. Although, this is one of the more obvious causes for hair fall, this disorder can lead to a ton of other issues, mental and otherwise.
Another (obvious) hair fall reason is Smoking. Studies have proved that female smokers have higher levels of androgenic hormones such as dihydrotestosterone or DHT, which is responsible for androgenic alopecia (female pattern hair loss).
9. Using Hard Water
An excessive amount of calcium and magnesium in hard water can lead to dandruff, dryness and hair loss. Hard water usually destroys hair follicles.
10. Cotton Pillows
Although not one of the major hair fall reasons, friction between your hair and cotton pillow can lead to hair loss. It is hence not uncommon for dermatologists to suggest sleeping on pillows with satin cover.
Irreversible/ Semi – Reversible Causes
Hereditary hair loss or androgenic alopecia occurs if losing hair is part of your genetic blueprint. Look up old pictures of your great grandparents, relatives; do they have the same problem? It can sometimes be daunting if you feel like your future is already set in stone, but do not stress yourself. Just maintain a healthy diet, and exercise regularly, and have a positive mindset. These habits can help you prevent hair fall.
2. Hypothyroidism And Hyperthyroidism
In your brain, the hypothalamus signals your pituitary gland to produce the TSH hormone (stay with me!). This, in turn, tells the thyroid gland to make two hormones, thyroxine ( T4 ) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are collectively called thyroid hormone. T3 and T4 control metabolism and the amount of energy the body needs to function. The pituitary gland reads the number of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream and increases or decreases the production of T3 and T4, based on the levels detected.
An imbalance (whether too much or too little or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease) in the thyroid hormones can lead to hair fall.
Lupus is a chronic auto-immune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks its healthy tissues. One of the symptoms of lupus is hair loss.
It is common for people to lose hair with age. A few studies have revealed that with age, stem cells in the hair follicle shrink and become dormant. While growth drops, a large number of the hair strands enter the resting phase and eventually fall off. Hence, it is not out of ordinary for aged people to have balding patches.
5. Alopecia Areata
Alopecia is an umbrella term for all kinds of hair loss, but alopecia areata is an auto-immune disease in which your immune system mistakes the normal cells in your body as foreign invaders and attacks them. It usually leads to hair loss, but can also affect your eyebrows, arms and other hairy spots of your body.
Polycystic ovary syndrome, which affects the ovaries of a woman, has several symptoms, including both hirsutism, which is excessive facial and body hair, and hair loss.
Hair fall can be distressing, especially because it is related to appearances. While shedding hair is common among humans, an excessive loss of hair can itself be a sign of underlying health issues or a side-effect of one. It is hence necessary to keep track of the amount of hair you are losing. Check your towels, your drains. Moreover, keep a tab on its strength. Do you lose hair if your hair is lightly tousled, or if you run your finger through your hair?
Now that you know some of the most common hair fall reasons, identify which one is the root cause for your hair fall, and work on it. Following a basic hair care regime, such as keeping your hair clean with a mild, chemical-free shampoo, moisturizing your hair with conditioner and hair oil, routine trimming ,keeping your hair away from dust, and trying out some natural remedies for hair fall can help prevent hair loss. But even if this routine fails to restrict the rate of your hair fall, it is time you see a dermatologist.
Dr. Tambe (Ayurvedic Practioner)
Dr. Tambe is an Ayurvedic Consultant, practicing in Satara City, Maharashtra for the last 45 years.He comes from a long line of Ayurvedic doctors. His grandfather and father were both Vaidyas, therefore he wanted to continue the family legacy.This year, his family will celebrate 100 years of Ayurvedic service.