By the age of fifty, 85% of men have significantly thinning hair according to the American Hair Loss Association. Hair loss is pretty normal. If you’re losing anywhere between 5-100 hairs per day that’s normal as per the American Academy of Dermatology. A vigorous hair-wash might take out up to 250 strands.
Physicians perform what is called the pull test to identify abnormal hair loss. About 60 stands are pulled by the physician. If the hair loss is less than 6 strands it’s considered a negative test for alopecia. A test is deemed positive if more than 6 strands come loose. This is not a definitive test.
Causes of Hair Loss
There are many causes of hair loss. If you’re battling the loss of your precious mane, see if any of the following conditions are responsible.
Alopecia or balding is a familial trait. If you carry the genes for alopecia you may not be able to halt hair loss. In women, androgenic alopecia is hereditary. If the women in your family have experienced it at a certain age, you may have acquired it too. Most women who do suffer from this condition, do not go bald; their hair thins, and the parting widens. About 21 million women have some form of alopecia in the US.
2. Protein Poor Diet
Diets poor in protein can lead to hair loss.
Proteins form an important part of our diet. They are necessary for growth as the body is constantly turning over cells. Hair growth also requires protein. In fact, your hair strands are made up of a strong protein called keratin. If your hair is falling out it could be because your diet is inadequate in proteins.
Eggs, chicken, fish, and nuts are a good source of protein. The daily required intake of protein is about 0.8 grams/kg of body weight. This translates to 56 gm/day for an average male and 46 gm/day for an average woman. These are for sedentary individuals. People with strenuous job and workouts require more.
3. Iron Deficiency
Another main cause of hair loss is the lack of iron in our diet. This usually manifests as iron deficiency anemia. A major sign of anemia is hair loss. Iron is an important component of the enzyme ribonucleotide reductase. This enzyme plays a significant role in cell growth. Research has shown that hair follicle cells are sensitive to decreasing levels of iron and don’t stimulate new cell growth when iron reserves are low in the body. The recommended daily intake of iron is 8 mg/day in males and 18 mg/day in menstruating females. This intake is 1.8 times higher in vegetarians. Other signs of iron deficiency anemia are pallor, breathlessness and lethargy.
Pregnancy causes hair to move into the resting phase.
Pregnancy does cause a lot of changes in a woman’s body. Most women experience increased thickness and volume only to have significant hair fall after the delivery of their child. This is normal. In most adults, only about 10% of hair remains in the resting phase. This resting hair eventually falls out leading to new hair growth. In pregnant women, this percentage can climb up to 40%. And once a baby is born, all of this resting phase hair will fall out. The condition is called telogen effluvium and is only temporary.
5. Hair Treatment and Styling
Overstyling harms hair follicles.
Now, most people are familiar with the fact that chemical straighteners, heat, dyes, and products harm hair follicles. But did you know that tying tight buns, ponytails, and severe hairstyles that pull the hair can cause what is called traction alopecia? This is caused due to constant traction on the follicle eventually leading to hair loss. Don’t pull hair or keep your hair tied up for long periods. The traction affects the roots and influences growth of the follicle.
6. Vitamin B deficiency
Low level of Vitamin B has been identified with alopecia.
The entire Vitamin B complex is essential for good hair and skin. This is because the entire constellation of B vitamins are responsible for various biochemical process in the body which help cells metabolize nutrients, eliminate free radicals and deliver oxygen. So if you lack vitamin B you’re going to lose hair. Low Biotin (B7) has been identified with alopecia. Vitamin B is plentiful in fish, poultry, eggs, meat, fortified cereals, bread, and meat.
7. Thyroid Disorders
Thyroid hormones alter human hair follicular function.
Whether you suffer from hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, hair loss and dry brittle hair is a common symptom. This is usually a diffuse pattern of hair loss. Studies have shown that both insufficient, as well as excessive amounts of thyroid hormones (T3 & T4), directly alter human hair follicle functions. These functions include anagen lengthening and stimulation of the hair matrix keratinocyte proliferation and pigmentation of hair. Get your thyroid profile done at your next checkup. This is easily treatable and the hair loss is reversible.
8. Sudden Weight Loss
The hair cycle is affected by changes in body composition.
Weight loss leads to a big change in body composition. The body needs time to adapt to the new calorie distribution and the hormones also need time to catch up. The hair cycle itself gets thrown off balance because it needs time to adjust too. Over two months this cycle adapts to the new weight and the temporary hair loss wanes as new follicles are stimulated.
9. Vitamin A
Vitamin A causes hair follicles to go into overdrive.
As far as vitamins go, they can never be too much. Right? Wrong! Vitamin A is an oil-soluble vitamin. Unlike vitamin B which is water soluble, you cannot pee the excess out of your system. Vitamin A is very helpful for hair, it stimulates growth and keeps the scalp moist. However, too much Vitamin A causes the cells to go into overdrive, causing the hair follicles to turn over faster. The cells reach the end of their growth quicker and cannot keep up with the replacement. So if you’re taking acne treatments, retinoid applications and pills, you may want to consider the effect it has on your hair.
With increasing age, the regeneration and renewal of hair follicle decreases.
As we age the hormonal levels of estrogen and progesterone fall and this is one of the factors why perimenopausal women experience hair fall. Add to this the decreasing ability of the body to regenerate and renew cells at the same rate as before. Though not understood, it has been observed that with age, a chronic persistent inflammation exists in the elderly and so is believed to be another factor for hair fall. There are preliminary studies that have shown that nutraceuticals and antioxidants do play a role in anti-aging as far as hair is concerned.
Some medications cause hair loss.
Certain drugs are notorious for hair loss. Central among them are steroids, antidepressants, anti-hypertensive drugs and blood thinners. Again, this is temporary as it sends hair follicles into the resting stage. Remember telogen effluvium? The only way to prevent this is by talking to your doctor to swap the drugs for another alternative. Anabolic steroids also cause hair loss. They mimic the male hormone, Dihydrotestosterone, (DHT) which attaches itself to the hair follicle and breaks it down over time.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks its own hair follicles.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition, where the body attacks the hair follicles. The immune system fails to identify normal healthy cells and starts attacking it causing hair loss. Depending on the inflammation and scarring, the hair loss can range from temporary to permanent. It’s prudent to identify the causes of this autoimmune condition early and try to slow its progression.
Birth control pills accelerate hair loss.
Hormonal birth control pills cause hair loss. It speeds up the hair follicle growth phase causing them to move to the resting phase too fast. As a result, far more than 10% of the hair remain in resting state, which then falls off. If you also have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, then this accelerates the hair fall.
14. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
In women suffering from Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), large amounts of male hormones circulating in the blood. One of these hormones is the DHT which clogs the hair follicle and breaks it down just like anabolic steroids. It can be prevented if the doctor has put you on treatment to normalize your hormone levels.
Stress inhibits hair growth.
Physical and mental stress have been proven to cause hair fall in many studies. Stress inhibits hair growth in mice. There is an intricate neuro-endocrine-immune connection in the human body that hasn’t been fully understood. Stress can trigger autoimmune reactions in the body. It can also cause may hair follicles to shift to the resting phase, leading to their eventual loss.
Hair Loss Remedies
In order to prevent and treat hair loss, we bring you some natural remedies. Here are 10 listed below.
1. Oil Masks
Coconut oil masks moisten the scalp.
The first solution is to use an oil mask. The Indians swear by their tradition of coconut oil masks. But if you’re not keen on coconut, you can try jojoba oil, avocado oil, or olive oil.
The purpose of the oil mask is to moisten the scalp and to give the hair shaft shine. Most oil masks require some massage to ensure an even application, this, in turn, increases blood flow to the hair follicles and stimulates their growth. There has been a study which has shown that rosemary oil is as effective as minoxidil in treating hair loss.
Warm some oil and use a brush to apply to your hair. Massage slowly into the roots with your fingertips. Warm oil will cause the blood vessels to dilate and the pores to open up, allowing your scalp to absorb the oil. Keep for 30 minutes. Rinse off with a mild shampoo. Repeat once a week.
2. Indian Gooseberry (Amla)
Indian gooseberries are superfood for hair.
Studies have shown that the oil in Indian gooseberries has anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. It has long been considered a superfood for hair. It has been known to stave off dandruff.
Grind up three or four Indian gooseberries into a smooth paste. You may supplement it with curd or coconut oil. Apply this paste to your hair and scalp for twenty minutes. Wash it off with a mild shampoo.
Yogurt contains lactic acid which clears dead skin cells.
A yogurt mask is akin to a deep conditioner. It has lactic acid which cleanses the scalp and clears dead skin cells. This allows your hair follicles to grow. You can make a yogurt conditioner by mixing about a ½ cup of yogurt with ¼ cup of honey. Apply this to your hair and scalp. Let it sit for 30 minutes and then rinse it off with a mild shampoo. Natural yogurt is full of protein and can strengthen the shaft, reduce frizz and softens hair with split ends.
Henna is basically ground leaves of the mignonette tree. It is often used to dye hair and hands. It can also be used to condition the hair. Henna has a very low pH making it acidic. When applied to the scalp, it does neutralize fungal infections and dandruff. Its antimicrobial properties make it good for people with dandruff problems. It also forms a protective barrier on the hair shaft, similar to a conditioner.
Mis ½ cup henna powder with ¼ cup warm water. Apply immediately with a brush. If you want to use it as a dye you may have to wait for the color to intensify. For a mask, just start applying right away. Now henna hardens very quickly and as it cools makes your head heavy and cool. So within twenty minutes of application, you will find your hair solidified and your skin cold. Take a warm bath and rinse with a mild shampoo twice, to get rid of all the henna.
Acacia is considered a good cleanser and moisturizer of the scalp.
Acacia concinna is a climbing shrub native to Asia. But it’s been used in many Eastern preparations of shampoo, because of its low pH. It does produce a small lather and is considered a good cleanser and moisturizer of the scalp.
You can soak acacia (shikakai) pods and Indian gooseberries. Heat this mixture till the pods are soft. Grind when cool and use as a shampoo.
6. Aloe vera
Aloe vera is a natural remedy for hair because of proteolytic enzymes.
Aloe vera is gaining traction as a natural remedy for hair because of proteolytic enzymes. These enzymes repair dead skin cells of the scalp. Use a stalk of aloe and break it open. Extract the liquid from the broken stalk and massage into scalp. Leave it for fifteen minutes before rinsing it off with water.
7. Green Tea
Green tree increases metabolism and increases cell growth.
Studies have proved that green tree increases metabolism and increases cell growth. It has been shown to stimulate the long-dormant hair follicles and increase hair growth.
You can steep two green tea bags in warm water. Wait till it cools and then apply it to your scalp. You may also use it to rinse your hair, kind of like a leave-in conditioner.
8. Egg white mask
People report softer, lustrous and healthier looking hair after an egg white mask.
Eggs are proteinaceous. No research has shown that egg whites make hair stronger. But many people report softer, lustrous and healthier looking hair after an egg white mask. This could be due to the protein content or the abundant fatty acids in them. The only downside to this mask is the nasty smell which goes away with a mild scented shampoo.
Beat an egg white in a bowl. Apply this mixture to your hair and scalp. Leave it on till it dries. This takes roughly thirty minutes. Wash with cold water and mild shampoo.
Beetroot contains antioxidants that reduce inflammation and can help slow alopecia.
Beetroot contains betalain and carotenoid antioxidants that reduce inflammation and can help slow alopecia. It does increase blood flow when ingested, thus improving circulation to the scalp and nourishing your roots. It can be used as a moisturizer for the scalp too.
You can either cut a beetroot open and rub it against your scalp or you can boil the leaves of the beetroot. Grind it into a paste and apply it to your scalp. Either way you leave it on for about twenty minutes and then rinse with warm water.
10. Fenugreek seeds
Fenugreek seeds aid hair growth.
Fenugreek seeds have been proven to aid hair growth. A study has shown that hair tonic with 10% fenugreek extract seed had comparable hair growth to 2% minoxidil. Churn two tablespoons of fenugreek seeds into a fine powder. Mix it with any oil of your choice to create a smooth paste. Apply this paste on your hair and scalp. Leave it to dry for twenty minutes and then rinse off with warm water and a mild shampoo.
All of the above can stimulate hair growth and protect the hair shaft. However, you must consider the cause of the hair loss and work to remedy it. If that means including more proteins in your diet, discontinuing anabolic steroids, having more iron in your meals or simply destressing at the end of the day, it will go a long way in reversing hair loss.
And if you have seen, barring a few, most hair loss is temporary. The dormant hair follicles can be stimulated to grow, provided the main cause affecting them is taken care of.
Do you have any hair loss prevention tips? Share them with us.