6 Causes of Hair Loss and What to Do About Them
A look at the most common reasons why men—and women—lose their hair. Plus, simple, natural ways to stop the shedding.
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Suffering from unwanted shedding? It’s more common than you may think: 65 percent of U.S. men and 80 percent of women have noticeable hair loss by the age of 60. It’s caused by a host of conditions and factors, but in many cases hair loss can be reversed. Read on for six reasons you may be losing your hair, and ways to save your locks.
1. You’re seriously stressed
Hair has a programmed cycle of growth, rest, and shedding. Severe or sudden stress can contribute to hair loss by upsetting the natural growth cycle of hair follicles and shocking the hair prematurely into the shedding phase. Stress can also exacerbate or contribute to alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks hair follicles.
Solution: Ease anxiety and promote relaxation with lifestyle changes and soothing herbs. Some to try:
- L-theanine, found in tea, has a calming effect on the brain; look for it in single- formula tablets and capsules, and in combination with other soothing herbs.
- Flower essences, made by infusing spring water with various flowers, are safe, gentle ways to ease stress; try Cherry Plum, Impatiens or White Chestnut.
- Valerian root effectively calms the nervous system and eases stress; look for it in capsules or tinctures, or in combination formulas with other calming herbs like hops, lemon balm, passionflower, chamomile, skullcap, and oatstraw.
2. Your thyroid is sluggish
Hair follicles are directly targeted by thyroid hormones, which impact everything from hair-growth cycling to pigmentation in hair. Even low-level thyroid imbalances, if they’re chronic, can lead to thinning hair.
Solution: Rule out serious thyroid issues with comprehensive lab tests, then support healthy thyroid function with these supplements: (Avoid iodine supplements unless they’re prescribed by a health care practitioner; straight iodine can do more harm than good.)
- Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb used in Ayurvedic medicine, helps balance thyroid hormones.
- Bladderwrack (kelp) and other sea vegetables have long been used for
thyroid support; they’re best in the whole form, added to foods, or taken moderately as supplements.
- Homeopathic thyroid formulations are safe, gentle ways to support thyroid function.
3. Your diet is lacking
If you’re short on protein, minerals, and other nutrients, your body may ration nutrients by slowing hair growth. The effects are often delayed; today’s nutrient deficiencies won’t show up for as long as three months.
Solution: boost protein and other nutrients. Easy fixes:
- Protein is the building block of healthy locks. If you’re not getting enough, supplement with whey, hemp, pea protein, or other powders.
- Iron: low levels can cause hair loss. Get your levels tested before supplementing, and choose liquid formulas for less constipation.
- Biotin is a B vitamin that keeps scalp and follicles healthy. Though studies are mixed, some research suggests that low biotin levels contribute to hair loss.
4. Your follicles are suffering
Hair follicles are structures in the skin that grow hair; attached to each follicle is a sebaceous gland that produces oil. Bacterial infections can cause follicles to become inflamed—called folliculitis—and lead to hair loss. When folliculitis is severe, inflammation is so intense it can permanently destroy the hair follicles. Noninfectious forms of folliculitis, caused by oils building up on the scalp, can also cause hair loss.
Solution: Tame inflamed follicles and support scalp function with one or more of the following:
- Tea tree oil helps to treat and prevent bacterial infections; look for it in shampoos.
- GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), an essential fatty acid found in plant seed oils like borage and evening primrose (EPO) oils, supports scalp and follicle health.
- Neem oil, in hair products or as a topical oil, is a potent antibacterial that also strengthens the hair shaft.
5. Your hair is breaking
Your problem may not actually be hair loss, but that your hair only looks thinner due to breakage and damage.
Solution: Improve hair density with products that strengthen the hair shaft and prevent breaking.
- Nanoxidil is a topical ingredient in some shampoos that not only strengthens hair, but also stimulates hair follicles, strengthens roots, and promotes hair growth.
- Herbal complexes, including jojoba oil, comfrey, juniper, and horsetail, in hair care products nourish dry hair and reduce the risk of breakage.
- Minerals like copper, zinc, manganese, and iron in shampoos and conditioners coat and strengthen the hair shaft.
6. Your dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels are too high
Excess DHT, a derivative of testosterone, is associated with hair loss—primarily male pattern baldness, but sometimes hair loss in women as well.
Solution: Block DHT synthesis with herbs and supplements. A few to try:
- Saw palmetto contains beta-sitosterol, a compound that inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme necessary to convert testosterone into DHT.
- Green tea is high in epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, an antioxidant that blocks DHT formation.
- Willow herb (epilobium) contains oenothein B, a compound that inhibits 5-alpha-reductase.
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