Americans are told constantly, by the fashion industry and mass media, that youth is king and elderliness is not. Consequently, virtually no one wants to look old.
Thinning hair, hair loss, and baldness are all associated with aging, even though other conditions can cause all three. Therefore, people tend to become alarmed when their hair becomes noticeably thinner or, worse, starts falling out in strands or even clumps.
Sometimes, a hot climate, health precautions or a social trend makes intentionally shaving hair quite appealing – and more comfortable. This is not a new practice, by any means: ancient Egyptian men and women, depending on their social status, wore wigs made from human hair, sheep’s wool or vegetable fibers.
But intentionally removing your own hair from selected areas of your body is not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about hair that seems to have a mind of its own – and it’s losing it.
Hair loss is called alopecia and befalls men, women, and children. Hair from any part of the body can disappear, sometimes rapidly. It’s only normal for people who love their hair to hate to see it thin and vanish.
Depending on their family genes and other factors, men may experience pattern baldness on the tops of their heads and elect to cover their shame with a toupee (hairpiece).
But women also deal with thinning locks and bare skin in places society says there shouldn’t be any – such as the top of the head.
Wigs and hair extensions get pricey quickly, although a high-quality hairpiece can look fabulous and last a long time with proper care. The good news is that there are steps you can take to keep the hair you have and encourage new hair to grow back.
There are different kinds of hair loss:
Gradual thinning on top of the head is the most common type of hair loss, bar none. It is a natural byproduct of the aging process in both men and women. Male pattern baldness typically begins with hair recession from the forehead along a line that looks like the letter ‘M.’ In women, though, the hairline remains unchanged on the forehead but have the part in their hair gets wider.
Bald spots – circles or patches – affect certain people with coin-sized bald spots. Balding is usually limited to just the scalp but it has been known to blight beards or eyebrows. In some cases, the skin becomes itchy or painful before the hair falls out.
Sudden loosening of hair can be triggered by a physical or emotional shock. Hanks (handfuls) of hair may come out when combing or washing the hair or even from gentle tugging. Stress-induced hair loss usually causes overall hair thinning rather than bald patches.
Full-body hair loss can occur after some medical conditions and treatments, including chemotherapy for cancer. The hair usually grows back on its own.
Patches of scaling that spread over the scalp is a signal that you may have ringworm. Other symptoms include broken hair, redness, swelling, and periodic oozing.
Sudden hair loss can signal an underlying medical condition that needs treatment. Normally, people lose about 100 hairs every day but it is replaced by new hair growth so we don’t notice it.
Hair loss happens when the normal cycle of shedding old hair and growing new hair to replace it is disrupted or when scar tissue replaces a destroyed hair follicle.
To understand how to stop thinning and losing hair from any part of your body, below are eight possible reasons why you have alopecia and some tips on dealing with thinning hair:
- It’s genetic (inherited). If baldness runs in your family, guess what? You can reasonably expect to take after your parents and grandparents and develop pattern baldness with advancing age.
- You recently gave birth (hormonal) or:
- You just stopped taking birth control pills (hormonal). Hormonal imbalances and sudden changes can lead to temporary or permanent hair loss.
- You’re not getting enough protein (dietary) or:
- You have anemia (iron deficiency). These two conditions are something fairly straight-forward to correcting: eat more proteinous foods, eat foods high in iron or take supplements for either condition.
- You recently lost a lot of weight or experienced a physical trauma (surgery, illness or severe shock or stress). Several months after a physical or emotional shock, it is not uncommon to experience temporary hair loss. The hair may well grow back.
- You had radiation therapy to the head (medical treatment). The hair may not grow back the same as it was before.
- You are over-styling your hair (tight braids, harsh chemicals, high heat). Hairstyles that pull the hair tight (such as pigtails or cornrows) can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. Hot oil hair treatments and permanent waves (perms) can inflame hair follicles which leads to hair loss. Should scarring occur, this type of hair loss can be permanent.
Consult with a professional healthcare provider if you or another family member:
- Becomes upset by hair loss and wants advice on treatment options
- Notices sudden or patchy hair loss or more than usual hair loss when combing or washing their hair
Fast action is most likely to see the best results. For overall health improvement – including keeping your hair – stress less, eat better, exercise more, and sleep deeply.