The Truth About Hair Loss – What Is It?
It is normal to shed hair every day and the truth is we lose between 100 – 125 hairs on any given day. Hair that is shed falls out at the end of the growth cycle. At any given time 10% of our hair is in what is called a “resting phase” and after 2- 3 months resting, hair falls out and new hair grows in its place. Some people, however, experience more hair loss than is normal.
As we get older, both men and women experience some hair loss.
It’s a normal part of the aging process. Called Androgenetic Alopecia, it accounts for 95% of all hair loss. Androgenetic Alopecia often runs in families and affects some people more than others. In men, it is often referred to as Male Pattern Baldness. It is characterized by a receding hairline and baldness on the top of the head. Women, on the other hand, don’t go entirely bald even if their hair loss is severe. Instead, hair loss is spread out evenly over their entire scalp.
Hormones play the dominant role
Hormones play the dominant role when talking about Androgenetic Alopecia. Simply, both men and women produce testosterone. Testosterone can be converted to dihydrotestosterone ( DHT) with the aid of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. DHT shrinks hair follicles causing the membranes in the scalp to thicken, become inelastic and restrict blood flow. This causes the hair follicles to atrophy. As a result, when a hair does fall out, it is not replaced.
Needless to say, men produce more testosterone than women and experience more hair loss.
While Androgenetic Alopecia is the number one reason why individuals experience hair loss, it is not the only one. Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, ringworm, and fungal infections can cause hair loss. Certain medications such as blood thinners, gout medication, birth control pills, and too much vitamin A can cause sudden or abnormal hair loss as can following a crash diet, sudden hormonal changes, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Emotional stress, pregnancy, or surgery
Emotional stress, pregnancy, or surgery can also cause our hair to fall out and is usually not noticed until 3-4 months after the stressful event has taken place. Stress can cause a slowing of new hair growth because a larger number of hair follicles enter into the resting phase and no new hair growth is experienced.
Another way in which individuals experience hair loss is due to mechanical stressors on the hair and scalp. Wearing pigtails, cornrows, or tight rollers that end up pull on the hair can scar the scalp and cause permanent hair loss. Hair products such as hot oil treatments and chemicals used for permanents can cause inflammation to the hair follicles which can also result in scarring and hair loss.
For some, hair loss may be the early warning sign of a more serious disorder such as lupus or diabetes, so it is important to talk to your doctor. If you or someone you know is suffering from hair loss, here are some alternative health ideas that can help naturally.
Recommendations For Wellness
- If you are taking prescription medications, talk to your doctor and find out if your medication is contributing to your hair loss.
- Avoid mega-doses of vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can cause your hair to fall out.
- Exercise, do yoga, meditate, or find some other practice that will help to reduce your anxiety and stress levels.
- Massage your scalp with rosemary oil in an olive oil base. Both rosemary oil and massaging the scalp can stimulate the circulation in the scalp and promote hair growth.
- If you are a woman, have your female hormones tested. If they are imbalanced, talk to your health care provider about bio-identical hormone replacements.
- If you wear pigtails, cornrows, use a curling iron, hairdryer, or hot rollers, try changing your hairstyle to one that puts less pressure and stress on your hair and scalp.
- If hot oil treatments or chemicals such as those used in permanents are causing inflammation to the scalp, discontinue their use, or reduce the number of times you are using them.
- Use gentle shampoos and conditioners to avoid any unnecessary damage to your hair.
In men, herbs such as saw palmetto and licorice root help block the formation of D HT. The same holds for supplementation with zinc. As an added benefit, studies show that these supplements can also help prevent prostate enlargement.