SOS! Why Is My Hair Falling Out?February 19, 2020
It’s gross but it’s true: Our hair (by the clump) is everywhere. Shower drain? Carpet? Hair brush? Check, check and check. Honestly, it’s kind of concerning how much hair ends up on just about every surface besides our actual head. On the one hand, it seems totally normal — it happens to everyone. But, when does our shedding become a cause for concern (read: hairline recession or hair loss)? To find out when it’s time to consider loss of hair a serious matter, we turned to Alan Bauman M.D., a board-certified hair-transplant surgeon, and Hannah Reid, hair replacement specialist at Nine Zero One Salon. Ahead, find out everything you need to know about why you could be losing hair — and what to do about it.
How Do I Know If I Actually Have Hair Loss?
Here’s the thing: Hair loss is way more common than you think. In fact, more than 80 million men and women suffer hair loss to some degree. “While it can be quite scary to think about, the hair loss process can begin any time after puberty,” says Dr. Bauman. “While most people tend to think of hair loss as a man’s problem, the reality is that women are just as likely as men to lose their hair, it’s just less noticeable from afar because it happens more diffusely.”
When it comes to telling if you have hair loss, one tell-tale sign is increased shedding (read: hair on the floor, in the drain, in the shower, everywhere). “Most women notice increased shedding when they are running their hands through their hair or right after they have washed their hair in the shower where they may see an abnormal amount of hair in the drain,” says Reid. “Another more obvious one would be if you start noticing bald patches on your head.” Pay close attention to your hairline and temples. If you do start to notice your hair falling out at an abnormal rate or in an elevated quantity, don’t panic. But do make an appointment with a board-certified hair restoration physician or dermatologist to determine the cause of your hair loss and develop a treatment plan.
What Causes Hair Loss?
“There are approximately 200 genes that regulate hair and hair growth,” says Dr. Bauman, but genetics aren’t the only cause of hair loss. Keep reading for some of the other common factors — and find out what you can do about them.
Hair Loss Cause #1: Poor Diet
Keeping a well-balanced diet can make a difference in your hair health. Make sure you’re getting your fix of biotin, antioxidants, zinc, iron, vitamin B and protein. Without those nutrients, you can risk thinning or unhealthy hair.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, eating plenty of superfoods like lean red meat, fish, berries, pomegranate juice, beans, artichokes and nuts is key. “If you can stomach it, liver, with its abundance of iron, is one of the best foods for your hair,” says Dr. Bauman. You can also take nutritional supplements like professional-grade biotin or Nutrafol, a multi-nutraceutical supplement that targets common triggers for hair loss like inflammation, the effects of cortisol (a stress hormone) and free radical damage. Just be sure to check with your doc first!
Hair Loss Cause #2: Stress
Dr. Bauman explains that it’s important not to underestimate the influence of chronic stress on hair loss. “Some autoimmune diseases of the hair and scalp that cause patchy hair loss, like alopecia areata, can be precipitated or aggravated by bouts of stress,” he says.
Hair Loss Cause #3: Being Harsh on Your Hair
While the shampoo or conditioner you use likely won’t contribute to hair loss, styling habits definitely can. “Certain hairstyles like braids, extensions and weaves put excessive tension and traction on the follicle which can harm it over time,” says Dr. Bauman. “It can result in poor hair follicle function, cause damaged hair, poor hair production and result in a hair loss condition called traction alopecia.” He explains that some hair-care products, like those including caffeine, saw palmetto and green tea extract, may help with hair follicle function and shedding in conjunction with professional treatment.
When it comes to using your flat iron (sans heat protectant) or heading to the hairstylist for fresh color, take caution. While the techniques won’t cause hair loss from the scalp, they can cause breakage that will make your hair appear thinner. “If you are overusing a flat iron for instance and you are not using a thermal protectant on your hair or you’re leaving the flat iron on your hair too long, that can cause breakage in your hair,” says Reid. “Hair being over-processed from coloring can also cause breakage and sometimes even cause a ‘chemical haircut’ where there is so much damage your hair will actually break.” Intense damage like this is commonly mistaken for hair loss, which is why it’s best to seek a professional opinion.
When Is it Time to Seek Professional Hair Loss Help?
According to Dr. Bauman, early intervention is the key to preventing and managing hair loss. “Once you understand the cause of your hair loss, you need to determine the best way to stop losing more hair, enhance the hair you have and restore the hair you’ve lost.” He explains that while there isn’t a quick fix, there are options. Most hair restoration specialists will use a combination of different treatments in order to see the most success. From cutting-edge transplant techniques to supplements and at-home laser treatments, your doctor can create a hair growth plan that’s best for you.