Updated: Oct 22, 2021
The ever-dreaded hair thinning. What’s happening? Is it genetic? Stress? My diet? And how can I prevent it? Like most things in the medical realm (and life in general…) the answer is not clear cut and dry. That’s because there are 9 Main Causes of Hair Loss. Let’s see if you can relate to any of these:
Hereditary - for men, this looks like a receding hairline with bald spots. For my girls, it presents with thinning hair. Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s unpredictable based on looking at your mom or dad’s side of the family. We now know that it’s a mix of genes scattered across multiple chromosomes. Not just your X chromosome.
Hormonal Changes - For my guys who are getting the M-shaped baldness and women who are noticing diffuse and even hair loss, consider thyroid disorders, excess androgens, your new birth control medication, post-partum, and onset of menopause.
Autoimmune Disorder - Oh the scary world of autoimmune disorders! When the body’s immune system attacks its own hair follicles, we call this alopecia areata. It presents as a sudden hair loss that leaves a smooth, well-demarcated bald patch.
Scalp infection - Noticing scaly patches in the midst of your hair loss? Yikes. Sounds like you may have an infection! Sometimes microorganisms invade the skin of the scalp and rid the follicle of nutrients. Chances are that it is a fungal ringworm but you’ll want to rule out parasites or bacterial infection too.
Iron Deficiency - Men and women can both have iron deficiency. Although, it is much more common amongst women who lose blood with their menses every month. This generally presents with a diffuse hair thinning, excess shedding, and brittle hair and nails. Why is iron so important? It’s a cofactor for an enzyme crucial in DNA synthesis. And since your hair follicles are some of the most rapidly dividing cells in your body, they need ample amounts of iron!
Impulse control disorder - There’s a condition called trichotillomania that is characterized by long term urges to pull one’s own hair out. It’s more common than you may think. That’s because it often begins in childhood and is indicative of abuse, anxiety, or depression. You’ll notice a lack of hair on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and potentially other areas of the body too!
Shock - Both physical and emotional shock can cause temporary hair loss. Some examples of shock include excessive weight loss, high fever, a death in the family, surgery….It’s very normal for hair to grow back as usual after the event passes.
Excessive Hairstyling - Do you yank on your hair without a care? It can actually cause permanent damage to your hair follicle that prevents regrowth! This typically presents as a slow thinning over time.
Radiation and Chemotherapy - This is our last and final well-known cause of balding. But for a chance to live again, it's obviously well-worth it. And, fun fact, for many cancer survivors, their hair grows back with a completely different texture than before chemotherapy!
But back to the men because...well...it’s Men’s Wellness Month here at IVY. For most of you guys, it’s likely a change in hormones - the main culprit being androgens. This affects 30-50% of men by the age of 50! And don't worry, you're not being superficial if you're wanting to treat it. In fact, it's important to address it seeing that male-pattern baldness is associated with several other medical conditions including heart disease, prostate enlargement, diabetes, and obesity!
Here are 4 of our Favorite Preventative Measures to Address Hair Loss:
Acupuncture and Moxibustion: This powerful combo has been shown to increase cellular activity that promotes hair growth.
Saw Palmetto: This herb needs more studies on it but the current evidence for it is quite astounding. 91% of patients taking Saw Palmetto orally and topically reported an objective increase in hair density after three months. Another study reports that 100% of participants taking Saw Palmetto orally noted a halt on hair loss both
subjectively and objectively.
Topical Vasodilators: Caffeine, vitamin B6, rosemary, and capsaicin are three natural topicals that increase blood flow to hair follicles. When used in combination with acupuncture and Saw Palmetto, this is a beautiful encompassing approach to balding!
Pharmaceuticals: Topical Minoxidil and Finasteride are the most commonly prescribed drugs to reduce balding. If you’re going to choose one, may we suggest Minoxidil above Finasteride? That’s because Finasteride has been correlated with sexual dysfunction whereas Minoxidil is topical and therefore causes less systemic side effects.
Until next time.
Dr. Chelsea Leander ND, RH (AHG)