What causes hair loss?

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Believe it or not, we are always losing hair. On average, we lose 50 to 100 strands of hair every day. This, however, is nothing that we notice or need to worry about it. To the misfortune of many though, noticeable hair loss is a major issue, particularly among men, and something that makes a huge dent to people's confidence.

Before analysing the causes of hair loss, it is important to understand that hair loss can be divided into two categories: Temporary and Permanent hair loss.

Let's first look at some reasons for temporary hair loss.

A well-rounded, healthy diet often ensures a good head of hair. Conversely, a poor diet is often a big, contributing factor towards unhealthy hair and also hair loss. Hair requires the right amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep it healthy and stimulate growth. Oranges, broccoli and sweet potatoes are all rich in Vitamin C which is essential for healthy hair as they aid the growth of hair follicles and prevent dry and brittle hair which is prone to breakage. Protein is needed for hair growth so fish and chicken, for example, are key components of a balanced diet. A lack of protein means a lack of hair growth. An iron deficiency—for iron, think red meats, spinach and beans to name a few sources— impairs the blood's ability to carry oxygen which ultimately leads to a reduction in the performance of your cells and a loss of hair. Once a poor diet is modified and the deficiencies in it are corrected, healthy hair will grow.

There is a reason for the expression "pulling your hair out". Stress, or be it some trauma or shock can cause Telogen Effluvium: a medical condition that will bring about hair loss. Here, the natural growth and rest cyle of hair is disturbed which in turn leads to hair loss, often by the handful, some months later. This can actually be up to six months after the stressful or traumatic event. Telogen Effluvium doesn't cause hair loss per se but rather causes the hair to stop growing. However, once the stressful period is over, the hair growth and rest cycle will return to normal and hair will usually grow back.

Dramatic weight loss is another factor that can result in thinning of the hair and hair loss. This should be perhaps linked to the aforementioned stress and diet since dramatic or sudden weight loss produces a shock to the body much in the same way as a physical trauma or shock might and this can see hair loss. Weight loss is also a byproduct of a change in diet and if that new diet becomes, say a vegan or vegetarian one, then your body and therefore hair may now be lacking in the right nutrients for healthy hair growth. Once the initial shock period is over or the diet has been modified, hair will grow as normal.

The next reason is possibly a more modern edition to the list. It has been said that hair loss, particularly among young people, is more apparent today than it has ever been before. Thanks to the internet and social media, people have constant and instant access to sports stars and celebrities. People are very conscious of their appearance and want to replicate the latest styles and that "perfect head of hair" that they see. However, overstyling and certain hair practices lead to hair loss. Excessive bleaching and dying, for example, seriously damages hair. Then, there are hairstyles themselves. Hair extensions, braids, ponytails and buns cause severe stress to hair and damages hair follicles so much so that hair ends up falling out.

It is well known that cancer patients lose their hair because of the treatment they have to undergo. Certain chemotherapy agents, for example, attack all rapidly dividing cells in the body—of which many are found in hair follicles and would ordinarily result in hair growth. As such, hair all over the body will begin to fall out shortly after somebody begins their treatment. How much hair is lost is dependent on various factors such as the individual, the dosage and the type of drug. Cancer treatment does not usually result in permanent hair loss and a patient can expect their hair to grow back again around one to three months after their treatment has ended.

Trichotillomania is the name given to the mental condition, more associated with women, where one compulsively pulls out the hair from their scalp, eyebrows and other parts of their bodies. It is often characterised by distinct bald patches on the head where hair follicles have been repeatedly damaged. This is often a lifelong condition, and so leaving the sufferer with near permanent hair loss but with the right therapy, the impulse to pull your hair own can be overcome and hair may grow back.

Then, there is also permanent hair loss and this affects all men and women at some stage of their lives. When exactly is down to genes. For men, this is called Male Pattern Hair and this is by far and away the single, biggest cause of hair loss in men. At some point in their lives, nearly all men will start experiencing hair loss around their temples and will see their hairline recede. The hair around the crown will begin to get thinner and eventually these balding areas will meet on the top of the head to leave the man with a horseshoe-shaped area of hair around the back and sides. Based on research done in the US, two-thirds of all men can expect to experience hair loss by the age of 35.

The female equivalent is known, unsurprisingly, as Female Pattern Hair Loss. Female Pattern Baldness is again down to genes but it differs from its male counterpart in the fact that women do not recede from the front hairline but rather experience hair thinning all over their scalp as well as the widening of their parting area. According to research, by the age of 50, half of all women will be dealing with some level of pattern hair loss.

From the above, it is very apparent that hair loss comes in many forms and can affect a great number of people. Solutions were briefly touched upon for temporary hair loss. However, in our next blogs we are going to analyse in greater detail the solutions people can take to tackle both temporary and permanent hair loss.

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