While men typically exhibit prominent signs of male-pattern baldness, such as a receding hairline and bald patches on the crown, women experience hair thinning across the entire scalp.
Finding the Root Cause for (Abnormal) Thinning Hair
Losing between 50 to 150 hairs per day is considered within the normal range, but when the shedding exceeds this, it becomes problematic, not to mention visibly noticeable. What lies at the root of your hair loss, and how can you address the underlying cause rather than merely alleviating the symptoms with effective hair loss treatments?
Many individuals experiencing hair loss often resort to hair replacement surgery and topical products in the hope of restoring their full heads of hair, or at least some semblance of what they once had. However, is this the most prudent approach to tackling hair loss? When confronting any issue, the initial step is to identify its underlying cause.
There are numerous affordable foods and vitamins known to promote hair growth that can make a significant difference. Additionally, various natural remedies for hair loss, such as rosemary essential oil, have demonstrated efficacy comparable to conventional topical treatments.
As your hair continues to thin, you may find yourself wondering, or even exclaiming, "Why is my hair falling out?!" It's an immensely frustrating and often bewildering experience when hair begins to thin. While the precise cause of abnormal hair loss remains somewhat elusive, it typically relates to one or more of the following factors:
- Genetics (family history)
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Medical conditions
- Physical or emotional stress (sometimes referred to as a "trigger event")
- Excessive hair styling and/or treatments
The primary cause behind excessive hair thinning and loss in both men and women is hereditary factors. While male-pattern baldness is more widely recognized in men, women can also experience female-pattern baldness. These predictable, gradual patterns of hair loss are often linked to a family history of hair loss. In men, this process can commence as early as puberty. Alongside hair thinning, men may observe their hair becoming shorter, softer, and finer over time.
Hormones play a crucial role in numerous bodily functions for both men and women, including hair growth. Hormonal fluctuations can influence the hair pattern on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. Changes and imbalances in hormones, often stemming from events such as pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, or thyroid issues, can affect hair growth. Fortunately, hormone-related hair loss is typically temporary, and normal hair growth resumes once hormonal equilibrium is restored.
During pregnancy, many women experience a period of lush, full hair. However, following childbirth, they may encounter significant hair loss in a short span, a condition known as telogen effluvium. This phenomenon affects 40 to 50 percent of women and is attributed to hormonal shifts during pregnancy. Thankfully, this type of hair loss is temporary.
The hormones implicated in hair loss are a group known as androgens. Among these, testosterone, androstenedione, and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) are prominent. While testosterone is often associated with male traits, both men and women possess varying levels of all three hormones. Imbalances in these hormones can contribute to hair loss in both genders.
How Thinning Hair Occurs In Women Versus Men
In a healthy scalp, approximately 80 percent of hair follicles are in the growth stage, while the remaining 20 percent are in the resting phase. Hair thinning and loss arise when this crucial growth phase either significantly slows down or halts altogether.
What triggers hair thinning in women? Similar to the changes our bodies undergo with age, most women notice some degree of hair thinning as they mature, which is entirely natural. It's estimated that by age 50, half of women will experience hair loss. If a woman's thinning hair is attributed to female-patterned hair loss, genetics are believed to account for 90 percent of the thinning, with hormonal factors contributing to the remaining 10 percent. While genetics cannot be altered, hormonal aspects can be addressed.
In women, thinning hair typically progresses gradually across the entire scalp without a receding hairline, a common feature in men. Female-pattern hair loss may lead to significant thinning but rarely results in complete baldness.
And what about thinning hair in men? Hair thinning in men can commence as early as puberty and persist for many years thereafter. Initially, thinning often begins above the temples and advances around the perimeter and crown of the head. Eventually, this can culminate in a horseshoe-shaped pattern of remaining hair along the bottom of the scalp. For many men, hair thinning continues until there is no hair remaining, resulting in complete baldness.
Thyroid Problems and Other Medical Conditions
Various health issues can contribute to hair thinning, including thyroid disorders (both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), lupus, certain cancers, diseases of the pituitary gland, heavy metal poisoning, HIV, and other chronic medical conditions. Research suggests that there may be a male equivalent of PCOS associated with male hair loss. One study discovered that men with premature male-pattern baldness exhibited hormonal profiles akin to those of women with PCOS, along with significantly elevated insulin resistance. This underscores the importance of maintaining proper hormone balance in men for overall health, including hair health.
It's crucial to be vigilant about medications that could potentially lead to hair thinning. Numerous medications have been associated with hair loss. Familiarize yourself with the potential side effects of your current medications and supplements. If you suspect that one of them may be causing hair loss, it could very well be the culprit.
Some medications that might contribute to hair thinning include:
- Acne treatments
- Antifungal treatments
- Blood thinners (anticoagulants)
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Cholesterol-lowering medications
- Epilepsy medications (anticonvulsants)
- High blood pressure medications (antihypertensives)
- Hormone replacement therapy—estrogen or progesterone for women, androgens and testosterone for men
- Immunosuppressant drugs
- Mood stabilizers
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Oral contraceptives
- Parkinson's disease medications
- Thyroid medications
Intense shocks, whether physical or emotional, can lead to temporary hair thinning that persists for several months following the shock. Examples of trigger events include a family member's death, surgery, and sudden or excessive weight loss, all of which can be profoundly shocking to the body and result in hair thinning.
Excessive styling and heat exposure can also contribute to hair thinning. Processes like coloring, straightening, and extensions can dry out and weaken the hair, causing individual strands or entire sections to break. Additionally, pulling the hair back tightly can contribute to thinning.
Other Risk Factors
Several risk factors contribute to hair loss. Family history or heredity plays a significant role, as do age, stress, inadequate nutrition, and certain chronic medical conditions like diabetes and lupus.
Conventional Treatments For Thinning Hair
When thinning hair is attributed to an underlying condition, conventional medical approaches typically involve medications such as prednisone, aimed at reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune system. Prednisone may entail various side effects, including confusion, headaches, restlessness, nausea, vomiting, thinning skin, acne, sleep disturbances, and weight gain.
Additionally, there are two medications available for treating pattern baldness or thinning. The first, minoxidil, is suitable for both men and women and may promote hair regrowth or reduce the rate of hair loss. However, the effects are not permanent, and discontinuation of its use halts any progress. Common side effects may include severe scalp irritation, unwanted facial hair growth, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and more.
Another option, finasteride, is available in pill form. Continual use is necessary to maintain its benefits. Side effects can include impotence, decreased libido, difficulty achieving orgasm, abnormal ejaculation, swelling in the extremities, dizziness, headaches, runny nose, and skin rashes.
For individuals experiencing significant hair thinning, hair replacement surgery or transplantation utilizes existing hair to fill in areas of loss.
Conventional treatments for thinning hair often carry significant side effects, underscoring the importance of considering natural alternatives.
Natural Treatments For Thinning Hair Reduce Stress
Reducing daily stress levels can directly impact hair health and overall well-being. Practices such as journaling, yoga, and regular exercise are effective natural stress relievers. Exercise also aids in stress reduction and promotes healthy circulation, both of which support optimal hair growth.
Balancing hormones naturally can be achieved through dietary adjustments, exercise, and the use of adaptogenic herbs. Hormone balance can help address thyroid disorders and other hormonally linked causes of hair thinning.
Hot water can strip hair of its natural moisture, leaving it dry, brittle, and prone to breakage. Avoiding hot showers can help preserve hair moisture and strength. Opting for cooler temperatures during showers benefits both hair and skin by retaining moisture levels.
Foods to Promote Hair Growth
The good news is that by making lifestyle changes to reduce stress, improving your diet, and utilizing other natural remedies for hair loss, you can begin to combat hair thinning.
If your hair is thinning, increasing your consumption of nutrient-rich whole foods is essential, as there is a strong correlation between your diet and the health of your hair. Here are some of the top foods you can incorporate into your diet as natural treatments for thinning hair:
Organic foods: Opt for organic options to avoid added chemicals, which can disrupt hormone balance and interfere with hair growth.
Wild-caught fish: Rich in omega-3 fats, wild-caught fish like salmon reduce inflammation while supporting hair growth and thickness.
Grass-fed beef: Protein-rich and iron-rich grass-fed beef can enhance hair health by providing essential nutrients to the hair follicle and root via a nutrient-dense blood supply. Iron deficiency, a common underlying condition in hair thinning, can lead to inadequate nourishment of the follicles and disrupt the normal hair growth cycle.
Iron-rich vegetables: Improve iron levels by incorporating iron-rich vegetables such as lentils, kale, spinach, and other dark leafy greens into your diet.
Vitamin C-rich produce: Essential for its antioxidant properties, vitamin C aids in iron absorption and supports overall scalp health. Foods rich in vitamin C include guava, red pepper, kiwi, papaya, and broccoli.
Vitamin A-rich foods: Vitamin A supports scalp health by aiding in sebum production, which conditions the scalp. Incorporate foods like pumpkin, sweet potato, and kale into your diet.
Biotin-rich foods: Biotin deficiency can lead to dry, brittle hair prone to thinning. Include biotin-rich foods such as nutritional yeast and egg yolks in your diet.
Zinc-rich foods: Zinc is crucial for overall hair health, and its deficiency is linked to hair loss. Foods high in zinc include grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds, and chickpeas.
Green tea: Promotes detoxification and contains antioxidants that support hair growth while potentially inhibiting the conversion of testosterone into DHT, a hormone known to slow hair growth.
Superfood seeds: Chia, flax, and hemp seeds are rich in fiber and healthy fats that support hair growth.
Bone broth: High in protein, collagen, and amino acids, bone broth promotes healthy hair growth.
Caffeine: While not technically a food, caffeine has been shown to stimulate hair shafts and promote faster hair growth by counteracting the effects of DHT, a hormone that can impede hair growth.
Foods To Avoid Or Eliminate As Much As Possible:
Avoiding certain foods can be beneficial in promoting healthy hair growth and preventing hair loss. Here are some foods to steer clear of:
Potential food allergens: Consuming foods that trigger allergic reactions in your body can increase inflammation, which is detrimental to hair health. Common allergens include wheat (gluten), dairy, corn, and soy, as well as preservatives and food additives.
Trans fatty acids: Unhealthy fats like trans fatty acids have been linked to increased inflammation and production of DHT, a hormone associated with hair loss. Avoid foods containing hydrogenated oils such as corn oil and soybean oil, which are rich in trans fats.
Sugar: Sugar consumption can disrupt hormone balance, contribute to insulin resistance, elevate DHT levels, and promote inflammation, all of which may lead to hair loss.
Processed foods: Highly processed foods often contain unhealthy fats, excessive sugar, and high levels of sodium, all of which are detrimental to healthy hair growth.
Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase inflammation and liver toxicity, both of which are linked to hair loss. Heavy drinking and smoking have been associated with an increased risk of hair loss.
Caffeine: While organic coffee and tea in moderation can be beneficial for hair health, excessive caffeine intake can lead to dehydration, hormone imbalances, and increased production of DHT, which may contribute to hair loss. It's important to consume caffeine in moderation to avoid these potential negative effects.
Topical Treatments with Essential Oils
Curious about natural hair regrowth methods? Utilizing essential oils can be a great way to create effective topical remedies for hair loss at home.
Rosemary oil stands out as one of the most beneficial essential oils for promoting hair thickness and growth. It is believed that rosemary oil boosts cellular metabolism, stimulating hair growth. Research even suggests that rosemary oil may be as effective as minoxidil, a conventional topical treatment for hair loss.
Spikenard oil is recognized for its ability to encourage hair growth and slow down the graying process. Additionally, it may exhibit positive effects on hair growth activity.
Other essential oils such as lavender, thyme, cedarwood, sage, and peppermint are also excellent options for increasing scalp circulation. One recommended method to stimulate new hair growth is to blend three to four drops each of peppermint, rosemary, and sage essential oils with one tablespoon of olive oil (coconut oil or jojoba oil can also be used). Gently massage this mixture into the affected area(s) once or twice daily.
Addressing hair thinning and loss involves a multifaceted approach that encompasses lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and targeted treatments. Whether opting for conventional medications, natural remedies, or topical treatments with essential oils, individuals have various options to explore in their quest for healthier, fuller hair. By understanding the underlying causes of hair loss and making informed choices about treatments and dietary habits, it is possible to promote hair growth and maintain optimal scalp health. Finding the right balance between conventional and natural approaches can empower individuals to address hair thinning effectively while promoting overall well-being.