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Identifying your Hair Loss Problem: A Step By Step Guide

Identifying your Hair Loss Problem: A Step By Step Guide

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Hair loss in men and women is increasingly common and there can be many reasons for hair thinning or baldness, which we will cover in this guide.

Identifying the type of hair loss you’re suffering from is an important first step in tackling the underlying cause of hair loss and preventing the loss of hair from going any further or recurring.

To help you identify your hair loss problem and move forward with confidence, we will provide an overview of the following things in this guide:

  1. How much hair loss is normal
  2. Why you could be losing your hair
  3. The different types of hair loss
  4. Mythbusting

This guide is designed to give you the knowledge to help solve your hair loss problem. When considering the information, it’s important to seek the help of a trichologist and/or your general practitioner to rule out any of the medical factors mentioned in the guide that may be causing your hair loss or thinning hair.

Let’s begin.

How much hair loss is normal

Daily hair loss is totally natural, with the average person losing around 100-150 strands per day, according to the American Academy of Dermatologists. It’s just part of the normal hair growth cycle that moves hair from anagen phase, to catagen phase and finally to telogen phase before hair shedding and regrowth.

Just pay attention to the volume, and don’t worry that you may see hair come out in the shower, washing your hair or when styling. Unless, hair loss is occuring in a larger volume to this, or is more than what you usually experience, as it may be a symptom of an underlying health condition, trauma or life event like pregnancy or menopause.

For women, one important thing to know about hair loss is that it’s not just about the number of strands lost. It’s also about the decrease in hair volume brought on by the shrinking of the diameter of each strand, which makes hair look a lot thinner.

If you notice more thinning or shedding than usual, it’s a good idea to check to see if you show any signs of the conditions below.

Why you could be losing your hair

Contrary to popular belief, hair loss in men and women is not all due to genetics. Although heredity may have an effect on hair loss, there are other of factors that come into play.

Underlying health conditions, over excessive styling, taking oral contraceptives and physical or emotional stress can also be reasons for hair loss.

Hormones

Too much dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a naturally occurring steroid hormone, or ‘androgen’ can shorten the growth cycle of hair. Although DHT is more dominant in men, the hormone is also present in some women albeit in a lesser degree.

Another hormonal condition that affect hair growth is hypothyroidism, where the body produces too little of the thyroid hormone. As the thyroid gland is responsible for healthy hair growth, when the thyroid hormone is off-kilter, people lose hair not just on the scalp, but all over the body.

The good news is hypothyroidism is treatable. Your doctor may prescribe medications that will help regulate your thyroid hormone.

Trauma

We usually shed about one hundred strands of hair per day, according to dermatologists. Though this can increase substantially through trauma, which can trigger ‘telogen effluvium’, the third phase in the hair growth cycle, prior to shedding.

Someone with this condition will have 30% of hair in the telogen phase, rather than the usual 5-10% in healthy hair. Since this condition is reversible, stress-relieving activities may help to soothe mind and body, providing opportunity for hair regrowth.

Diet

A healthy mix of vitamins and minerals is essential to having strong, healthy hair. When your diet lacks protein, hair jumps to its shedding phase and hair loss becomes apparent. Protein-rich foods such as fish, meat, cheese, eggs and nuts can help the hair go through its normal life cycle and reduce shedding.

Iron deficiency anemia

Anemia happens when the blood lacks red blood cells that will transport oxygen throughout the body. Pale skin, weakness or fatigue, and brittle nails and hair are telltale signs of iron deficiency.

Having your serum ferritin levels tested can confirm whether you have iron deficiency anemia or not. A positive test doesn’t necessarily warrant panic, but you need to include more iron-rich foods into your diet and take iron supplements to boost your iron levels.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome

Losing hair on your scalp but are sprouting hair everywhere else? It might be time to pay your gynecologist a visit to rule out polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. An endocrine disorder, PCOS is usually characterized by irregular menstruation, acne, and of course, cysts on your ovaries.

Only your doctor can say if you indeed have PCOS, so it’s important to get tested.

PCOS often brings about massive hair loss, but it can be treated with birth control pills that contain anti-androgens. The pills work by blocking testosterone to help reduce hair loss.

Scalp infections

Itching of the scalp is usually attributed to dandruff or the presence of head lice. But if it is accompanied by hair loss and soreness, the itching may be due to a scalp infection.

Small, acne-like spots near the follicles indicate folliculitis, a common scalp infection that causes hair loss. Folliculitis is caused by bacterial infection and excess sebum on the scalp. Other scalp infections include ringworms, piedra, and seborrheic dermatitis.

To prevent scalp infections from weakening your hair follicles, you can use an anti dandruff treatment such as to scalp massage with neem oil, an antifungal ingredient that stops bacterial infection from happening.

The different types of hair loss

Alopecia

Hair loss is commonly associated with men. But according to the Harvard Health Publications, about one-third of women also experience alopecia or hair loss.

Alopecia areata is when the body rejects the hair as ‘foreign’ usually due to a compromised immune system caused by extreme trauma or stress. Hair loss typically occurs in small, coin-like patches of baldness on the scalp, but can also affect hair elsewhere such as eyebrows, beards, chest hair and limbs. Hair pigmentation may also be affecting, causing hair to turn white.

With effective treatment hair regrowth is possible, but it’s likely that the condition will recur in the future.

Male Pattern Baldness

The most common form of hair loss in men is androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. The same hormone that triggers female pattern baldness, causes the hair growth cycle to change, becoming weaker and impacting on the size of the hair follicle.

Smaller follicles produce thinner hair, which is prone to breakage until eventually no new hair grows at all. This usually begins at the temple or crown of the head, which spreads to part or full badness in men, usually in older age.

That being said, a recent survey showed that Chinese people are losing their hair earlier than ever before. Of the 4,000 university students surveyed, 60% had noticed signs of hair loss or thinning hair.

Female Pattern Baldness

More than 50% of women experience hair loss and thinning hair in later life. This is usually the result of hereditary hormones causing female pattern baldness. Just like with men, hair follicles grow smaller and the hair becomes thinner, which increases the likelihood of breakage and shedding.

It’s just that the hair loss pattern is different in women than it is for men. In women, hair thins from the centre outwards, or hair loss occurs in patches throughout the head. This is rarely the case for men, whose hair recedes from the front of the scalp to the back until they go bald.

If you’re suffering from female pattern baldness, you’re not alone. Studies show that hair loss in Asian women is on the increase with female pattern balding now affecting 15% of the population.

While female pattern baldness can’t be reversed, it can be slowed, or stopped completely if the right treatment to protect the hair follicle and strengthen the hair is started early.

Post Natal Hair Loss

Three to six months after birth, it’s common for women to experience hair loss due to hormonal changes happening in the body. What happens is the hair cycle expedites and hairs enter the third, or resting phase quicker than usual. Hair shedding occurs after this phase, ready for regrowth. This is natural, except that a larger number of hairs enter this phase at once in postnatal women.

It’s nothing to worry about and postpartum hair loss usually starts to reverse itself within a year of the baby’s birth. However, for moms who want to speed up the process, strengthening and protecting the hair follicles is recommended.

Mythbusting

Hair loss help is a sensitive subject, and the myths surrounding it don’t help anyone who is worried about the amount of hair coming out in their hairbrush.

We’re here to clear up the confusion and debunk some of the most common myths about hair loss — myths that could actually make it more difficult for you to prevent and treat your hair loss problem.

Myth: It’s in the genes

Genetics do play a strong role in hair loss, but it’s not the only reason that people lose their hair. Autoimmune disease, traumatic events, hormone changes, postpartum alopecia, medications, iodine or iron deficiency…the list goes on. Plus, with genes from both sides contributing to how thick and full your hair will stay, just because one member of the family suffers from hair loss doesn’t necessarily mean that you will! Though hereditary pattern baldness is common, it’s important to consider all the possibilities when you’re trying to determine the root cause of your hair loss.

Myth: Men are more likely than women to lose their hair

There’s a greater stigma attached to women losing their hair, and unfortunately, hair loss in women occurs nearly as often as it does in men. Women tend to have a different pattern of loss in men, usually seeing thinning throughout the hair, rather than seeing a receding hairline. For some women, it is easier to hide hair loss than it is for men, but it’s an embarrassing problem for many women that causes a lot of anxiety.

Myth: Hair loss only happens to older people

While hair loss is more common as we age, the wide range of hair loss causes can make the condition affect men and women of all ages. Hormone fluctuations and medical conditions are the most common causes of hair loss in younger people. Fortunately, many of these hair loss cases are temporary or can be reversed with proper hair loss treatment.

Myth: Hair loss is always permanent

Good news! This myth is totally false. Genetic hair loss is often permanent (though there are ways to slow down the process and prevent some loss), but many other causes of hair loss only trigger a temporary loss. Some hair follicles may go dormant for a while, but can be “woken” up using different treatments, or will sometimes reactivate on their own after the cause of the hair loss subsides.

Myth: Damaged hair doesn’t grow as quickly, and is more likely to fall out   

Damaged hair is often a symptom of poor scalp health, but it doesn’t mean it’s causing hair loss or slowing down hair growth. The scalp and hair follicles contained in the skin are responsible for hair growth, not the existing hair. However, damaged hair is prone to breakage and split ends, which can make some strands shorter. Improving the overall health of the scalp and hair is the first step to a full, thick, head of hair, but just because you have damaged hair doesn’t mean you’ll start losing it quickly.

Myth: You have to use expensive products to fight hair loss

There are so many over-the-counter treatments that advertise their ability to fight hair loss. Some of them have given people modest results, but these treatments are often very expensive and packed with chemicals. If you’re experiencing hair loss, you don’t have to turn to these expensive products. Ingredients in natural shampoos, conditioners, and natural hair treatments can also do the job for a fraction of the price. Look for ingredients like virgin coconut oil, noni, rosemary oil, and lavender oil for a natural hair growth boost.

Read next: How To Protect Yourself Safely Against Hair Loss (The Ultimate List of Effective Natural Treatments)


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