Understanding Hair Loss & Its Causes

Hair loss can be a distressing experience, affecting both men and women of all ages. While losing some hair every day is normal, excessive hair loss can signal an underlying issue. Understanding the causes of hair loss is crucial in addressing the condition effectively. Here’s a comprehensive look at hair loss and its contributing factors:

1. Normal Hair Growth Cycle:

The hair growth cycle consists of three distinct phases, each playing a crucial role in the growth and renewal of hair follicles. Here’s an in-depth look at the normal hair growth cycle:

Anagen Phase (Growth Phase):

The anagen phase is the active growth phase of the hair cycle, lasting anywhere from two to seven years. During this phase, hair follicles are actively producing new hair cells, resulting in visible hair growth. The duration of the anagen phase determines the length of the hair shaft, with longer anagen phases leading to longer hair.

Catagen Phase (Transitional Phase):

Following the anagen phase, hair enters the catagen phase, also known as the transitional phase. This brief phase lasts for approximately two to three weeks and serves as a transitional period between the growth and rest phases. During catagen, hair follicles shrink and detach from the blood supply, halting hair growth.

Telogen Phase (Resting Phase):

The telogen phase is the resting phase of the hair cycle, lasting for around two to four months. During this phase, hair follicles are dormant, and hair growth ceases. While old hairs remain in place, new hairs begin to form beneath the surface of the scalp. Approximately 10-15% of hairs are in the telogen phase at any given time.

Hair Loss and Disruption of the Growth Cycle:

Hair loss occurs when the natural hair growth cycle is disrupted, leading to premature shedding or thinning of hair. Various factors, including genetics, hormonal changes, medical conditions, and lifestyle factors, can influence the duration and progression of each phase of the hair cycle. Understanding the underlying causes of hair loss is crucial in developing effective treatment strategies to restore hair health and promote regrowth.

2. Genetic Predisposition:

Genetics indeed play a pivotal role in hair loss, influencing various aspects of hair health and growth patterns. One of the most common conditions associated with genetic predisposition to hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, also known as male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness.

Androgenetic Alopecia:

Androgenetic alopecia is a hereditary condition characterised by the gradual thinning of hair and eventual loss of hair follicles. It is the most common cause of hair loss in both men and women and is typically associated with hormonal factors and genetics.

Inheritance Patterns:

The inheritance of androgenetic alopecia follows a complex pattern involving multiple genes inherited from both parents. While the condition is more commonly associated with male-pattern baldness in men and female-pattern baldness in women, it can manifest differently in each individual, depending on the genetic predisposition inherited from their parents.

Family History:

Individuals with a family history of androgenetic alopecia are at a higher risk of experiencing hair loss themselves. If one or both parents have a history of significant hair thinning or baldness, their offspring are more likely to inherit the genetic factors associated with the condition.

Other Genetic Factors:

Aside from androgenetic alopecia, there are other genetic factors that can contribute to hair loss, such as alopecia areata and various rare genetic disorders affecting hair growth and structure. These conditions often have distinct inheritance patterns and can manifest in different ways, ranging from patchy hair loss to complete baldness.

3. Hormonal Changes:

Hormonal fluctuations can also contribute to hair loss. For example, hormonal changes during pregnancy, childbirth, or menopause can trigger temporary hair shedding known as telogen effluvium. Similarly, imbalances in thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism) can disrupt the hair growth cycle, leading to hair loss.

4. Medical Conditions:

Hair loss can often be a symptom or side effect of various underlying medical conditions. While it’s essential to address the primary condition, understanding how these ailments can affect hair health is crucial for effective management.

Scalp Conditions:

Several scalp conditions can lead to inflammation and damage to hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Among these conditions, alopecia areata stands out as an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, causing hair to fall out in patches. Similarly, psoriasis, characterised by red, scaly patches on the scalp, and seborrheic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory condition, can also contribute to hair thinning.

Chronic Illnesses:

Certain chronic medical conditions can also lead to hair loss as a secondary symptom. Autoimmune diseases like lupus and thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can disrupt the normal functioning of the body, including hair growth cycles. Additionally, diabetes, a metabolic disorder, can affect blood circulation and nutrient delivery to hair follicles, leading to hair thinning or loss.

Nutritional Deficiencies:

Inadequate nutrition can also play a significant role in hair health. Deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, vitamin D, and biotin, can lead to weakened hair shafts, increased shedding, and slower hair growth. Addressing these deficiencies through dietary changes or supplementation can often help improve hair quality and reduce loss.

Medication Side Effects:

Certain medications used to treat various medical conditions can have hair loss as a side effect. For example, chemotherapy drugs used in cancer treatment often lead to significant hair loss due to their impact on rapidly dividing cells, including hair follicles. Similarly, hormonal medications, antidepressants, and blood thinners may also contribute to hair thinning or shedding.

5. Nutritional Deficiencies:

Nutrition plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy hair growth and preventing hair loss. A well-balanced diet provides the essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients necessary for optimal hair health. However, deficiencies in key nutrients can disrupt the hair growth cycle and lead to hair thinning or loss.

Key Nutrients for Hair Health:

Iron

Iron deficiency, also known as anaemia, is a common cause of hair loss, particularly in women. Iron is essential for transporting oxygen to the hair follicles, promoting healthy growth and maintenance. A lack of iron can lead to weakened hair shafts, increased shedding, and slow hair regrowth.

Zinc

Zinc is involved in various cellular processes, including hair follicle development and repair. A deficiency in zinc can disrupt the hair growth cycle, leading to thinning hair and hair loss. Zinc also plays a role in maintaining the health of the scalp, reducing inflammation and preventing dandruff.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy hair follicles and promoting hair growth. Adequate vitamin D levels are associated with reduced hair shedding and improved hair density. Deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to alopecia, a condition characterised by hair loss patches.

Vitamins B

Vitamin Bs, including biotin (B7), niacin (B3), and cobalamin (B12), are crucial for hair health. Biotin, in particular, is known for its role in promoting strong, resilient hair. Deficiencies in B vitamins can lead to brittle hair, increased shedding, and slow hair growth.

Causes of Nutritional Deficiencies:

Poor Dietary Choices

Consuming a diet high in processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats while lacking in fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can result in nutrient deficiencies. Fast food diets and excessive consumption of convenience foods often lack essential nutrients vital for hair health.

Crash Diets

Crash dieting or extreme calorie restriction can deprive the body of essential nutrients, leading to nutritional imbalances and hair loss. Rapid weight loss programs that eliminate entire food groups can be particularly detrimental to hair health.

Restrictive Eating Patterns

Vegetarian or vegan diets that are not properly balanced and lack sufficient sources of iron, zinc, and B vitamins can contribute to hair loss. Similarly, individuals with food intolerances or allergies may struggle to obtain adequate nutrients from their diet.

Prevention and Treatment:

Balanced Diet

Consuming a varied and balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats is essential for maintaining optimal hair health.

Supplementation

In cases of severe deficiencies, supplementation may be necessary to restore nutrient levels and promote hair growth. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements.

Regular Monitoring

Regular blood tests can help identify and address any underlying nutrient deficiencies early on, preventing potential hair loss problems.

Professional Advice

Seeking guidance from a registered dietitian or nutritionist can help develop a personalised nutrition plan tailored to individual needs and hair health goals.

6. Stress and Lifestyle Factors:

Chronic stress, both physical and emotional, can disrupt the hair growth cycle, leading to increased shedding or hair thinning. Additionally, lifestyle factors like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and inadequate sleep can negatively impact hair health, exacerbating hair loss.

7. Environmental Factors:

Exposure to environmental pollutants, UV radiation, and harsh chemicals in hair care products can damage the hair shaft and weaken the follicles, contributing to hair loss. Over-styling, frequent use of heated styling tools, and tight hairstyles that pull on the hair can also cause traction alopecia.

8. Medications and Treatments:

Certain medications and medical treatments can have hair loss as a side effect. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, blood thinners, antidepressants, and hormonal therapies are examples of treatments that may cause temporary or permanent hair loss.

Hair loss can have various causes, ranging from genetic predisposition and hormonal imbalances to medical conditions and lifestyle factors. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial for developing an effective treatment plan. 

At Derme Clinique, we understand the complexities of hair loss and offer personalised solutions tailored to each individual’s needs. Whether addressing nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, or scalp conditions, our dermal skin therapy experts are dedicated to helping clients achieve optimal hair health and regain confidence in their appearance.

Ready to take action against hair loss? Schedule a consultation with our expert team at Derme Clinique today and discover personalised hair loss treatments tailored to your unique needs. Regain confidence in your appearance and embrace a fuller, healthier head of hair.”