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Why Am I Losing My Hair?

We asked experts about the causes of hair loss, and how to stop it.
splain2me via Getty Images

Hair loss is normal, as long as it isn't excessive or chronic. In fact, 40 per cent of women have visible hair loss by age 40, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, and the majority of men will experience some degree of balding as they age.

Losing your hair can be a source of stress and lowered self-esteem for many people, but in some cases it's also a sign of a health concern. That's why it's important to know when hair loss is normal, when it's not, and what can be done about it.

Why am I losing so much hair in the shower?

You probably don't notice normal hair loss throughout your day, but all of us lose hair daily, about 100 of them on average, health and wellness expert Caleb Backe told HuffPost Canada by email. Backe works for Maple Holistics, which makes natural skin and hair products.

"Eighty to 90 per cent of hair follicles are growing at one time, while the other 10 per cent are either resting or shedding," he explained. "So, some regular hair loss is a normal part of day-to-day life."

But what about when you feel like you're losing more than usual? Maybe you can see more of your scalp, or notice bald spots. Maybe there's more hair than you're used to in your brush. Whatever the reason, you're not alone in worrying about it.

"It can be incredibly stressful to notice that you're losing hair and it's natural to wonder why it's happening," Dr. Dan Danyo, a doctor certified by the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery, told HuffPost Canada by email.

Pongsak Tawansaeng / EyeEm via Getty Images

Why am I losing my hair?

Both men and women may start seeing their hair thin out, with varying causes, said Danyo. Many of the causes of hair loss are physical.

Male pattern baldness: This usually shows up with a receding hairline and balding crown. According to the American Hair Loss Association, this is the cause of 95 per cent of hair loss in men.

Female pattern baldness: This is fairly common and tends to show up after menopause, Los Angeles dermatologist Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse told HuffPost Canada by email. This type of hair loss generally shows up with a widened centre part and thinning at the crown, she said.

Hormonal changes: These can be caused by pregnancy, post-pregnancy, or the birth control pill. "Certain hormonal pills, particularly birth control, have the potential to activate the hormone receptors on the scalp, causing the hair follicles to minimize," Backe said.

Watch: Post-partum hair loss isn't funny, but this video about it is! Story continues after video.

Dietary insufficiencies: A lack of protein or an iron deficiency are both potential culprits, according to the Harley Street Hair Clinic in the U.K. You could also have poor nutritional status due to intestinal malabsorption, which can be caused by conditions like celiac or by certain medications.

A chronic health condition: Thyroid disease or polycystic ovarian syndrome are two conditions that can lead to hair thinning or loss. Hair thinning is a symptom of hypothyroidism and fine, brittle hair is a symptom of hyperthyroidism, according to the Mayo Clinic. Certain medications and medical treatments can also cause hair loss.

Trichotillomania: This is a mental health disorder that causes compulsive hair pulling.

Telogen effluvium: Excessive hair shedding can sometimes be the result of a stressful event, Shainhouse said. "It usually stops falling out after about 2-3 months, and hair starts to look fuller again about 6-9 months later," she said.

Alopecia areata: Discrete patches of hair loss could be the result of this autoimmune condition, Shainhouse said. But the good news is that it's treatable.

How do I prevent or reverse hair loss?

Medications: There are some medications that can help treat male and female pattern baldness, Shainhouse said. Topical medications that contain minoxidil, to increase circulation, or finasteride, to block excess testosterone, help some men. In women, potential treatments can include minoxidil, dandruff shampoos, prescription medication to reduce testosterone, and birth control pills with estrogen.

Changes to health and diet: If you're concerned that your hair loss may be related to a medical condition, see your physician. A doctor can test your blood to check for nutritional deficiencies that may be tied to hair loss, and a registered dietician can help you ensure your diet is balanced and providing what your body needs.

What about other remedies?

In some cases, dietary and lifestyle changes aren't going to reverse or stop hair loss, Danyo said.

Hair restoration, which Danyo himself has had, is one surgical option for hair loss. There are two main types of hair restoration procedures, he said: shaveless follicular unit extraction (FUE) and platelet-rich plasma (PRP).

Shaveless FUE: "During a Shaveless FUE procedure, the doctor will carefully trim and extract small groups of follicles from the thick hair on the back and sides of the head," Danyo said. "Those grafts are implanted into the thinning areas and blended with the hair you already have."

PRP: Healing and growth factors from your own blood can be injected just below the skin of your scalp to revitalize hair follicles that have become dormant and stimulate hair growth, Danyo said. "After it's grown in, the added hair volume will reduce scalp show-through," he said.

Infrared light treatments may also help some people, Shainhouse said, and there are both in-clinic and at-home treatment options available.

Remember that in many cases, hair thinning or loss is normal. It's only if it seems excessive or if it happens quickly that you should see a doctor to help find the root cause of the problem, and perhaps even stop it altogether.

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