Although our good friend Charlie Sheen wants us all to be “Winning!?” you may not be the only one looking in the mirror thinking “Thinning?” instead. Hair loss is a common and often very embarrassing problem among women of all ages. There are several reasons you could be losing your hair, some normal and some that may need medical attention.
Most men and women can shed up to 100 hairs per day. The life cycle of hair consists of three different phases: Anagen: This is the growth phase of the hair cycle, and hair spends the largest amount of time in this portion of the cycle. This phase may last anywhere from one month to several years. Catagen: This phase lasts approximately two weeks. During this time, the hair shaft prepares for the final stages of the cycle, or the period where the hair will enter resting phase. Telogen: This is the final stage of the hair cycle. Typically, about 10-15% of your hair will be in telogen at any given time and this usually lasts for about six weeks, but can last for up to four months. At the end of telogen new hair will push out older hair and force it to shed if it has not done so already. These three phases repeat continuously throughout each new cycle. Sections of hair are at different stages of the hair cycle; this keeps you from shedding all your hair at once (although Natalie Portman looked lovely in V for Vendetta, many of us would be feeling more B for Bald if this happened!)
These are some common causes of hair loss:
Androgen Related Hair Loss: This type of hair loss is common in men and women. While men typically see hair loss in the front and temporal parts of the scalp, women often complain of generalized thinning, especially on top of the head and near the crown. This can occur because of imbalances in various hormones in the body, such as estrogen and testosterone. In some cases, this type of hair loss can be corrected by shifting your hormones to help get your body back into balance. Treatments like Minoxidil/Rogaine are available over the counter, but make sure to speak with a physician before starting this. Often times an underlying cause can be treated and eliminate the need to use medication.
Stress Related Hair Loss: This one is common, and applies to many of you. During stressful periods in life (grief, pregnancy….taxes- Wesley Snipes must be bald!) a larger than normal amount of hairs enter the telogen or resting phase. The hair may be in this phase for a prolonged period of time and generally three or four months after the stressful event the hair sheds. Since more follicles were in the telogen phase, a larger amount of hairs will shed before the cycle starts over and begins at the anagen, or growth phase. This is generally referred to as telogen effluvium.
Hair loss after pregnancy follows a similar principle. Women typically see the largest amount of loss around three months postpartum. During pregnancy, a rise in hormones prevents hair from shedding as quickly, and causes a larger amount of your hair to accelerate to telogen phase. After delivery, the body may take up to three or four months before recuperating from this “stress” and at this point hairs that were resting are shed to make way for new hair to grow and begin the cycle again. This is why you may feel like you’ve had a significant amount of hair loss after pregnancy, but in reality it’s more likely to be a shift in the cycle time. Within four months most women notice hair growth returns to normal.
Other causes of this can include infection, surgery, and thyroid dysfunction. It’s important to speak with your doctor because you may require further evaluation and blood testing to help your hair loss.
Alopecia Areata: This describes hair loss that usually occurs when a small area of hair on the scalp has complete hair loss. Generally this is localized to one or two patches, however it may affect the entire scalp or body. This is believed to occur because of an immune response that causes destruction of the hair shaft and alters the integrity of the hair, leading to loss of hair in an entire area of the scalp. Often times, hair will grow back within six months. In many cases, however, an injection of steroids into the area will help treat the lesion and accelerate hair growth.
Other Causes of Hair loss: If you are noticing that your hair is breaking towards the scalp or after you wear it in a pony-tail, you hair loss may be the result of excessive styling, color treatment, or pressure on the hair. Chemical dyes, highlights, and bleaching often contribute to increased breakage and women may feel they are losing their hair. Speak to your doctor or hair stylist if you color or process your hair often. Although it’s tempting to always toss our hair up into a ponytail, constant traction on the hair may contribute to breakage and weakness. You can avoid this by letting your hair dry naturally and leaving it down a few times per week.
Healthy hair usually signifies a healthy lifestyle. If you’re suffering from thinning, breakage, or bald patches you should speak to your doctor. Hair loss could be the first sign that something more serious or an underlying disease process is going untreated in your body. A health professional can provide you with a thorough evaluation of your health through a history, blood work, and analysis of your diet and lifestyle. Don’t wait!
Check out tomorrow’s review for a great supplement to help with hair growth!