According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), there are about 80 million people in America who have hereditary hair loss or baldness. Other factors and conditions that can cause hair loss exist aside from heredity, and most of them can be prevented. Here are some of the common causes of hair loss, and ways to prevent them.
Figuring out what is causing your hair loss is important for determining appropriate treatment methods. Some common causes of hair loss are:
- Family history. A hereditary condition called male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness is widely considered the most common cause of hair loss. This type of hair loss usually happens gradually as the patient ages. It has predictable patterns, such as bald spots and a receding hairline in males, and thinning hair in females.
- Hormonal changes. For some, hair loss may start as early as puberty, when the body develops certain sex hormones. Other factors that can cause hair loss due to hormonal changes are pregnancy, childbirth, menopause or andropause, and discontinued intake of birth control pills. Hair loss caused by hormonal changes can be permanent or temporary.
- Medical conditions. Thyroid diseases, like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, cause hormonal changes or imbalances that could result in hair loss as well. There is also an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata that can directly cause hair loss by attacking hair follicles. Other diseases, like lichen planus and certain types of lupus, could cause scalp scarring which may lead to permanent hair loss.
- Medications. Some patients taking medications to treat cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure, depression, gout, and heart problems may experience hair loss as a side effect of their medication.
- Stress. Hair loss could also be caused by high stress levels. Events that cause physical or emotional shock can result in a general thinning of hair, although this type of hair loss is mostly temporary.
- Hairstyles and hair treatments. Traction alopecia is hair loss caused by hairstyles that pull on the hair tightly. Perms and hot oil treatments could also cause the inflammation of hair follicles which leads to hair loss. This can be permanent if scalp scarring occurs.
Hereditary hair loss or baldness is not preventable. But for the other types of hair loss, the following tips may help prevent them:
- Avoid compulsively pulling, twisting, or rubbing your hair
- Do not frequently go for hairstyles that pull on your hair too tightly, like ponytails, buns, braids, and cornrows.
- Be gentle when washing and brushing your hair. Using wide-tooth combs prevents hair from being pulled out from the scalp.
- Avoid harsh hair treatments, like hot oil treatments, perms, and using curling irons and hot rollers.
- Avoid food supplements and medications that may cause hair loss.
- Protect your hair from sources of ultraviolet light, such as sunlight. Damage from UV rays may contribute to some conditions that lead to hair loss.
Self-diagnosis is very unreliable, even in determining the cause of your hair loss. Once you notice that you are losing more hair than normal, consult with your dermatologist.