Well, that may be a simple question, but it doesn’t have a simple answer. Hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons, triggered by health conditions or for seemingly no reason at all.
So the reason you’re losing your hair is likely different than the reason a friend or a loved one is.
The first step to treating the issue is uncovering the cause. Let’s take a look at some common reasons for hair loss.
Hair loss cause: Stress
It seems logical. When our stress levels get out of control, they can wreak havoc on the entire body — causing our blood pressure to rise and our skin to break out.
Losing your hair can also be a byproduct of stress. More often, though, hair loss as a side effect of stress is due to physical stress rather than emotional stress.
So, if, for example, you undergo a surgical procedure or have a car accident, the trauma on your body may trigger hair loss. When stress is the cause, your hair will begin to regrow once your body recovers.
Hair loss cause: Heredity
The most common cause of hair loss? Your genes.
Male-pattern baldness and female-pattern baldness are both passed down through the generations. This type of hair loss occurs gradually as you age, usually resulting in a receding hairline in men and thinning hair for women.
Hair loss cause: Pregnancy
If you’ve recently had a baby or are pregnant and begin losing your hair, know you aren’t alone. Hormonal changes, like those common during pregnancy, can cause permanent and temporary hair loss in some women.
Pregnancy is a double whammy, actually — it’s both a physical stress on the body and a time of hormonal change.
Like with other types of physical stress, hair loss associated with pregnancy usually resolves after a few months.
Hair loss cause: Thyroid issues
Hypothyroidism occurs when you have an underactive thyroid gland. This causes the body to produce less of the hormones associated with several bodily functions, including hair growth and development.
This condition is treated using synthetic thyroid medication to replace the hormones that your body isn’t producing. Once that medication begins to take effect, the body should return to producing normal amounts of hair to replace any hair that’s shed.
Hair loss cause: Sudden weight loss
While weight loss is often a good thing, losing weight quickly can act like a physical trauma on the body. The weight loss itself, along with a strenuous exercise routine or strict diet, can stress out the body and lead to hair loss.
Losing your hair is also a common side effect of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
Hair loss cause: Cancer treatment
Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy have been shown to cause hair loss in many cases. They act differently, though in both cases, once therapy ends, hair typically begins regrowth.
Chemotherapy destroys rapidly dividing cells in the body — including both cancer cells and other types of cells like those in hair.
Radiation therapy typically causes hair loss only in the area being treated by radiation.
Hair loss cause: Protein deficiency
The body needs protein in order to run efficiently. If you are consistently not getting enough protein in your diet, your body may strike back and attempt to ration protein by stopping hair growth.
If protein deficiency is to blame for your hair loss, it will typically occur about two to three months after a drop in protein intake.
Hair loss cause: Iron deficiency
Nearly one in 10 women of childbearing years suffer from anemia due to iron deficiency.
If you’re losing your hair due to an iron deficiency, you will commonly experience other symptoms, including extreme fatigue, headaches, dizziness, pale skin, and cold hands and feet.
Hair loss related to nutritional deficiencies is usually resolved once the body begins receiving enough of the nutrient.
Preventing hair loss: What you can do
While many of the causes of hair loss are related to medical conditions or situations largely beyond your control, there are steps you can take to prevent some hair loss:
- Avoid tight hairstyles like braids or ponytails.
- Don’t twist or pull on your hair.
- Gently wash and style hair.
- Avoid harsh hair treatments like curling irons, curlers or chemical hair products.
Experiencing hair loss but aren’t sure of the cause? Your doctor can determine if there’s an underlying medical condition to blame. Find a doctor here.