For many people, hair loss is a genetic inevitability. They can look at their mothers or fathers and figure out the odds of suffering from either male or female pattern baldness. For others, hair loss results from the decline of hormone levels during the aging process. It’s rare to see someone in their 60s or 70s with a thick, full head of hair. Even though hair loss may prove inevitable to some degree, there are plenty of actions you can take to minimize hair loss and keep your tresses looking good as long as possible.
Hair Loss Signs and Symptoms
Get help with your hair loss as soon as possible. Early signs of hair loss, before actual balding begins, includes:
- Changes in hair texture- If you think your formerly thick hair is getting finer, you probably aren’t imagining it.
- More hair in the shower or sink- Everyone sheds hair daily, and you probably have a good idea of your normal loss. If you’re seeing more hair in the sink or shower, or on your brush or pillow, you’re likely shedding more than normal.
- Changes after styling – If a new haircut or style makes your hair look thinner, ask the stylist about the condition of your hair. While a new barber or stylist doesn’t know about changes in the amount of hair you have, someone who has been doing your hair for a while can see changes you may not yet notice.
Hair Loss Caused by Smoke and Pollution
Some environmental factors exacerbate hair loss, but you can avoid many of them. If you smoke, try to quit. Not only is smoking bad for you on some many levels, but it can increase hair loss. Nicotine constricts blood vessels and cuts off circulation to the scalp. Along with not inhaling, stay out of smoke-filled rooms. Air pollution in general can cause hair loss. If you live in a polluted area, there’s not much you can do, short of moving. However, you can protect your indoor environmental by using air cleaners and other devices to keep the air you are exposed to as clean as possible.
Tight Hairstyles and Other Self-Inflicted Hair Loss CausesTight hairstyles are a major cause of hair loss. Formally known as traction alopecia, constant tension on the hair follicle, whether from a tight bun, ponytail, braid, weave or cornrow, can lead to premature balding. Any style that is always pulling on the roots will eventually cause problems. That includes frequently setting the hair in rollers. If you tie your hair up after washing it, that makes matters worse. When wet hair is under strain, it’s likely to break. One of the initial signs that a tight “do” is causing hair loss is part widening. When the part starts expanding, damage has been done. Other early signs of traction alopecia are hair loss near the temples and along the hairline. If caught early, hair damaged by tension will regrow. At a certain point, however, the damage becomes permanent. Visit your hair stylist and discuss ways to camouflage the widening part while switching to a non-tension producing style. Other hair care practices can lead to hair loss over the long term. These include:
- Overdoing hair dye
- Using extensions
Avoid teasing your hair, and don’t use hot styling tools unless absolutely necessary. Either practice contributes to hair thinning and loss. Keep your blow dryer on the lowest setting if you must blow dry your hair.
Pregnancy and Hair Loss
When you’re pregnant, your body conserves nutrients to feed your growing fetus. After childbirth, many new mothers experience temporary hair loss because of hormonal changes, as well as the stress of birth. Fortunately, hair should return to normal within a few months.
If you’re going through a stressful time in your life, your hair may pay the price. However, stress-related hair loss becomes apparent a few months after a stressful or traumatic period, based on the hair’s growth cycle.
Hair loss, especially in younger women, may mean they are experiencing thyroid problems. The two butterfly-shaped thyroid glands, located in the neck, produce the hormone thyroxine and regulate the body’s metabolism. When they are out of whack, all parts of the body can suffer, including hair. If you suspect you have a thyroid issue, go to your doctor for a simple blood test. The results reveal the level of circulating thyroid hormone in your system. Your doctor can then treat you based on whether your thyroid levels are low (hypothyroidism) or high (hyperthyroidism). The latter condition is usually responsible for hair loss in thyroid patients. Treatment should restore your hair.
Take our quiz to test your knowledge of hair loss and to better educate yourself on daily hair routine best practices.
Taking Supplements for Hair Loss from Vitamin Deficiencies
A poor diet is reflected in the health of your hair. While it is important to cut out highly processed and sugary foods and consume a more natural diet for hair and overall health, certain supplements can also boost your locks and prevent thinning. These include:
- Vitamin A – If you’re experiencing hair loss, you could have a vitamin A deficiency. However, vitamin A supplements can easily lead to excess vitamin A, which can make hair fall out. Your best bet is supplementing with beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A in the body.
- Biotin - This vitamin can improve the protein structure of your hair. Also known as vitamin B7, biotin is also a good supplement for stronger nails and healthy skin.
- Vitamin C – A strong antioxidant, vitamin C helps in both the creation and maintenance of collagen, skin’s primary component.
- Folic acid – Also known as vitamin B9, folic acid improves blood circulation. In turn, that helps your hair follicles.
- Niacin – Another B vitamin, B3 to be exact, also aids in blood flow improvement to the scalp. In turn, this nourishes the hair follicles.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – A dry, itchy scalp may mean you require additional omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids help keep your hair and skin healthy, along with boosting production of sebum in your hair follicles to ease dryness and subsequent itching. Flaxseed and fish oil supplements are good sources of these essential fatty acids.
- Selenium and Zinc – Both of these trace minerals help in cellular growth and repair, which keeps the scalp healthy.