9 Sneaky Hair Loss Culprits
If you’re noticing more hair circling your shower drain than you’re comfortable with, you may be shedding more than the typical 50 to 100 strands per day. Certain surprising factors, from not wearing a sunhat to losing more than 15 pounds, can trigger hair to fall out faster.
Check out these habits and health issues that can accelerate hair loss — and what you can do about it.
You’re On A Crash Diet
Your body needs healthy foods to thrive. When you don’t get your necessary nutrients — particularly, iron, zinc, and biotin, which play important roles in hair growth, as well as protein — alarm bells go off.
“Nutrients that allow the hair to grow are sensed by stem cells [in the hair follicle],” Anthony Oro, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology at Stanford School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Health. “These stem cells are surrounded by little fat cells that monitor the energy and metabolism of your body. If the nutrients are not there, they shut down [hair] production.”
Eating a healthy, balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, can get things back up and running again. It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re getting enough of the nutrients your hair needs, such as iron, as well as ruling out iron-deficiency anemia. Your dermatologist or primary care physician can check your iron levels. If they’re low, your doctor can recommend iron-rich foods, such as lentils, pumpkin seeds, and spinach, and in some cases, an iron supplement.
You Don’t Wear Sunhats
The sun’s UV rays don’t just accelerate skin aging and put you at higher risk for skin cancer. They also damage the structure of hair follicles, making hair more fragile and likely to break off and fall out. Protect your locks by wearing a solid, wide-brimmed hat every time you step outside (even on cloudy days) or spritz on a hair sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays.
It’s In Your Genes
The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary thinning or baldness, affecting about 80 million Americans, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). For women, the first sign is often a part that’s getting noticeably wider, which is caused by the hair thinning. Your dermatologist can do a thorough exam and, if female pattern baldness is diagnosed, recommend medication such as topical minoxidil to stop hair loss from progressing.
You’re Under A Lot Of Stress Or Recently Experienced A Traumatic Event
Emotional and physical trauma such as going through a divorce, losing a loved one, or being in a car accident can speed up the hair’s growth cycle and increase the shedding phase, causing hair to fall out faster. But this doesn’t happen right away. “If you have a stressful event now,” says Oro, “the hair follicle environment will sense it, note it, and you’ll see the effects one to three months later.” Once stress levels are back under control, your hair should return to its normal growth cycle.
Your Hormone Levels Are Out Of Whack
Both insufficient and excessive hormone levels, as well as the drop in estrogen that occurs around menopause, can lead to hair loss. Your physician can run a battery of tests to see what’s going on hormonally. By treating the health problem, such as in the case of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, hair loss can usually be halted or reversed, according to the AAD.
Your Ponytail Is Too Tight
Braids, cornrows, and ponytails that are too tight yank on your locks, leading to a type of hair loss that’s called traction alopecia. Try to avoid hairstyles that pull hair too tightly, or at least limit how often you wear them, and look for other styles that are gentler on the hair shaft.
There’s An Autoimmune Disease At Play
In some cases, the immune system mistakenly identifies hair follicles as foreign entities and start attacking them, causing hair loss. The disease, called alopecia areata, tends to happen to people in their 50s and 60s, according to Oro. Those with a family history of autoimmune diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, are also more likely to have it. “If someone is losing their hair and it’s associated with itching or burning, that can be a sign of autoimmune hair loss,” Oro says. “Often just by looking and doing a scalp exam the dermatologist can tell or we can take a little piece of skin, look at it under a microscope, and you can make a diagnosis.”
While there’s no cure for alopecia areata, there are medications that can help, such as anti-inflammatory corticosteroids and topical minoxidil to help promote hair growth.
You’ve Lost A Lot Of Weight
If you’ve dropped more than 15 pounds, the dramatic change in weight can be a shock to the system, triggering hair loss. You may notice some hair loss within three to six months after losing the weight, according to the AAD. As long as your body, including your hair, is getting the nutrients it needs, your body will adjust and your hair will eventually regrow.
You’re Getting Too Much Vitamin A
If a little is good for you, then more must be better, right? Not when it comes to vitamin A. Overdoing it, such as by taking supplements that exceed recommended amounts, can lead to hair loss, according to the AAD, as well as dizziness, nausea, headaches and orange-tinted skin. For most adults ages 19 to 50, 700 micrograms for women and 900 micrograms for men is the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, and theupper limits of the vitamin for adults 19 and older is 10,000 IUs daily. The good news? Stopping vitamin A supplements reverses the problem.