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Is Stress Causing Your Hair Loss?

by June 11, 2010

Too much stress on the body can result in hair loss, a condition known as telogen effluvium. Find out how to reduce stress to regain your healthier, fuller head of hair.

When you’re under stress, you may notice a lot of physical symptoms — feeling anxious or exhausted, having trouble concentrating, and even getting sick with a headache or upset stomach. Stress can also be a cause of hair loss. When stress has you “pulling out your hair,” as the expression goes, you could be literally doing just that.

Telogen Effluvium: Understanding This Cause of Hair Loss

Telogen effluvium is the term for hair loss that occurs temporarily as a result of some trauma, stress, or shock to your body. Telogen hairs are one type of hair, characterized by the end of the hair being shaped like a bulb, and effluvium means to flow out.

Some hair loss is normal, but telogen effluvium results in excessive hair loss due to a disruption in the natural growth and rest cycle of hair. Generally, between 80 and 90 percent of hair follicles on the scalp are actively growing, with the other 10 to 20 percent in the resting phase. Many events can disrupt this balance and result in temporary hair loss, typically seen as hair that falls out in clumps when you brush, wash, or style your locks.

Stress is known to be a trigger for telogen effluvium and risk factors that can cause this type of stress include:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • A significant physical injury
  • Getting vaccinations
  • Malnutrition from an unhealthy diet or excessive fad dieting
  • Antidepressants
  • A chronic illness
  • Acute illness with fever
  • Jetlag
  • Suddenly stopping the use of oral contraceptives
  • Chronic emotional stress
  • A surgical procedure

Any physical stressor or trauma that can disrupt hormone levels in the body can trigger telogen effluvium hair loss. Some, like pregnancy, are self-limiting, and your hair will re-grow at normal rates within a matter of months after childbirth. But continual stress at work or in a relationship, financial worries, parenting problems, and any other type of emotional stress can have a major impact on the entire body, including the hair follicles.

Studies performed on animals support the theory that chronic stress is a major contributor to chronic telogen effluvium. It’s thought that stress somehow changes the chemistry of the hair follicles, resulting in too many hair follicles in the resting phase at one time. But if you can reduce stress, you can restore the natural cycle and promote healthy hair growth.

Stopping Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium will actually resolve on its own once the stress or trauma is over and the body begins to get back to normal. But even if you don’t need treatment, you can take better care of yourself to help your hair to get back to its normal cycle:

  • Eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and proteins to get plenty of nutrients
  • Take a vitamin and mineral supplement if your doctor finds that you have any deficiencies, like B12, iron, or folic acid
  • Treat hair gently, especially when styling and using heat appliances

Reduce Stress to Reduce Hair Loss

If chronic stress is a problem, bringing your stress levels under control can help restore your body’s natural hair growth process. You can reduce stress with these lifestyle steps:

  • Start a regular exercise program.
  • Learn relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and guided imagery.
  • Take time each day to relax by doing a fun activity or listening to soothing music.
  • Take a yoga class or practice postures at home.
  • Become more socially involved with friends and family rather than withdrawing because of stress.

Keeping stress from reaching severe levels, nurturing your physical and emotional health, and treating your mind and body well will all be reflected in your crowning glory.

By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH


Know Hair Loss Symptoms, Know Hair Loss Signs

by May 1, 2018

Signs of hair loss show up in many ways. You may notice a:

  • Gradual thinning of the hair on your head
  • Bald spot that grows slowly
  • Receding hairline that becomes more visible with each passing year
  • Widening part
  • Thinner ponytail

Millions of people develop these signs of hair loss, which tend to appear gradually. These signs can be subtle, so you may have hair loss for months or years before you notice it.

While many people who have hair loss develop one or more of these common signs, hair loss can occur in other ways.

Hair loss can appear suddenly and dramatically

While hair loss often occurs gradually, it’s possible to see:

  • A bald patch or strip appear within 1 or 2 days
  • Clumps of hair fall out when you comb or brush your hair
  • All (or most of) the hair on your head fall out

Hair loss can develop elsewhere, aside from your scalp

While hair loss usually affects the scalp, some conditions can cause hair loss on other areas of the body. Alopecia areata is a disease that can cause hair loss anywhere on the body where hair grows. People who have alopecia areata often have hair loss on their scalp, but they can also lose part (or all) of their:

  • Eyebrows
  • Eyelashes
  • Beard
  • Nose hairs
  • Pubic hair

A few people who have alopecia areata lose all the hair on their body. When this happens, the disease is called alopecia universalis.

Frontal fibrosing alopecia is another disease that causes hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere. Some people lose their eyebrows, eyelashes, or hair on other areas of the body.

It’s also possible to keep the hair on your head and lose it elsewhere. The friction from wearing tight clothing, shoes, or socks can cause hair loss where you have continual rubbing.

Symptoms and other signs of hair loss

While less hair is often the only sign of hair loss, some people develop symptoms and other signs. You may have hair loss along with:

  • Burning or stinging before sudden hair loss – Some people who have alopecia areata experience this.
  • Intense itching, burning, and tenderness where you have hair loss – If these occur, it’s possible that you have an infection.
  • Scaly bald patches, often with sores or blisters that open and ooze pus – This often mean you have a fungal infection on your scalp.
  • Redness, swelling, and sores that may itch and leak pus – A condition called folliculitis decalvans can cause this.
  • Scaly patches of psoriasis on your scalp – Most people who have psoriasis get it on their scalp at some time, and this can cause temporary hair loss.

By Paus R, Olsen  , Sperling LC


When Hair Loss Is Not Genetic

by December 28, 2017

For many people, genetics causes hair loss that occurs as you age. But other factors, including medication, stress, and hormonal fluctuations, can also make your hair fall out.

Why is My Hair Falling Out?

a man checking to see if he is losing his hair

Getty Images

Wonder why your hair is falling out? The answers may surprise you. Many women suffer with sudden hair loss, and most loss of hair has a reason — whether genetic, stress, diet, medication, or certain health conditions.

The most common type of hair loss is the kind that you inherit, called androgenetic alopecia. With genetic hair loss, you lose your hair gradually, and hair loss increases with age. But in some cases, other factors may lead to your hair falling out. It is especially likely that a nongenetic factor may be causing your loss of hair if your once thick, healthy hair suddenly and noticeably begins falling out.

Most of us normally shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. This loss of hair generally does not cause thinning of hair because at the same time new hair is growing on your scalp. But sudden hair loss is something to take seriously. According to the Mayo Clinic, this loss of hair occurs when the cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.

Hair disorders such as androgenetic alopecia (hereditary thinning, or baldness) are the most common cause of hair loss, affecting about 80 million people in the United States, including both men and women. Women with hereditary hair loss most commonly notice a widening part in the front and center of the scalp with generalized thinning, while men see bald patches on the head.

But other than genetic reasons, there are many factors that can result in hair loss, including:

  • Age 
  • Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, and lupus
  • Medication or major surgery
  • Poor nutrition
  • Stress

Autoimmune diseases, such as alopecia areata, result in sudden loss of hair. With alopecia areata the body’s immune system attacks its own hair. This autoimmune disease happens in healthy people and causes smooth, round patches of hair loss on the scalp and other areas of the body. There is treatment available for alopecia areata, so see your dermatologist.

Sometimes an underlying medical condition can result in sudden loss of hair. An estimated 30 diseases, such as thyroid disease, diabetes, lupus, and anemia, cause hair loss. See your doctor for ways to treat the disease and reverse the hair loss.

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and major surgery can cause temporary hair loss. Even though the sudden loss of hair is traumatic, this should reverse when treatment is stopped.

Women can blame hormones for noticeable hair loss. Falling estrogen results in temporary hair loss after giving birth. Hair loss also happens during menopause. Major stress, such as from divorce or death of a loved one, can result in hair loss, too.

Additionally, a poor diet, weight loss, not getting enough protein, and eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia) can result in hair loss. It’s wise to see your doctor for help in reversing the hair loss associated with these conditions.

Blame Prescription Medication for Loss of Hair

a man taking prescription medication, which can lead to hair loss

Yakobchuk Viacheslav/Shutterstock

Certain prescription drugs include loss of hair among their potential side effects. Among the types of medication that can potentially cause hair loss are blood thinners, vitamin A supplements, some arthritis drugs, antidepressants, gout medication, medication for certain heart problems, blood pressure medication, and birth control pills. If a prescription medication is causing your loss of hair, your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative medication.

Thyroid Disease May Cause Sudden Hair Loss

a doctor checking a patient for symptoms of thyroid disease

Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/

Thyroid disease is among the many health conditions that include loss of hair as a common symptom. Thyroid disease is a hormonal problem in which your body is producing too much or too little thyroid hormone. If your thyroid gland is overactive or underactive, it could cause your hair to fall out excessively in a general pattern or round patches similar to alopecia areata. Fortunately, the sudden hair loss caused by thyroid disease is usually helped with thyroid disease treatment.

Losing Hair With General Anesthesia and Surgery Is Temporary

a patient's perspective of a mask coming down for anesthesia


If you had major surgery and experienced excessive loss of hair about three months later, the anesthesia combined with the surgery itself may be to blame for your hair falling out. This is because general anesthesia and major surgery put your body under physical stress, which can alter the life cycle of the hairs on your head, and cause excessive loss of hair that shows up several months later. Still, hair loss related to major surgery is temporary, and your hair will grow back over time.

Could Anemia Thin Your Tresses?

blood test vials to check for anemia


Iron-deficiency anemia is one of many health conditions which have loss of hair as a common symptom. Iron-deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia that occurs because the body’s iron levels are too low, due to poor diet, loss of blood, or problems with iron absorption. Low iron levels have been shown to cause a loss of hair.

Hair Appliances Can Leave Hair Brittle

a hair stylist using a blow-dryer on a woman's hair


Not all forms of loss of hair are due to loss of the entire strand of hair. Some forms may actually result from hair damage that causes strands of hair to break. Certain hair appliances that use high heat to help style your hair can lead to damaged hair and breakage, which can look like baldness.

Damaging hair appliances that cause sudden hair loss include blow-dryers, flat irons, curling irons, and other devices that apply heat to your hair. These hot hair appliances cause the most damage to your hair when you use them on wet hair, since they actually boil the water in your hair shaft, leaving your hair brittle.

Loss of Hair at Childbirth Is Temporary

a woman holding a newborn baby


“Why is my hair falling out?” is a common question new moms ask their doctors. During pregnancy, most women have shiny, healthy hair that may appear thicker because older hair doesn’t fall out at normal levels. When estrogen levels fall after childbirth, most women experience loss of hair their body was “holding onto” during pregnancy. This excessive loss of hair occurs about three months after childbirth, and is generally temporary. Once estrogen levels balance out, hair shedding will return to normal rates.

Unhealthy Diets Can Result in Sudden Hair Loss

french fries and ketchup, representing an unhealthy diet


When you don’t get the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your body needs from your diet, it can cause a loss of hair. For instance, too little protein in your diet can damage healthy hair, and inhibit your body’s ability to build new hair follicles. This can cause noticeable hair loss after about two to three months of a protein-deficient diet. Very strict weight loss diets can also cause noticeable hair loss, which commonly occurs about three months after losing 15 pounds or more of body weight.

Loss of Hair Is a Side Effect of Stress

a woman looking stressed


In some cases, severe psychological stress can cause loss of hair. If you have gone through an event that has caused you major stress, it’s not unusual for you to have your hair falling out excessively a couple of months later. Loss of hair caused by stress is usually temporary, and you can expect your hair to stop shedding and slowly begin growing back after about six to eight months.

Trichotillomania is an Impulse Control Disorder

a woman with trichotillomania pulling her hair


Trichotillomania is a type of mental disorder known as an impulse control disorder, and is most commonly seen in teenagers, particularly teenage girls. In trichotillomania, people feel compelled to impulsively and repeatedly pull out their own hair, which can result in noticeable loss of hair. People with trichotillomania experience a constant urge to pull out the hair from their scalp, eyelashes, nose, eyebrows, and other areas of their bodies.

Fungal Infections Cause Loss of Hair in Patches

a ringworm patch on someone's skin


In some cases, a scalp infection may be causing your loss of hair. Ringworm is a fungal infection that is especially common in children. Ringworm of the scalp, called tinea capitis, can cause your scalp to become scaly and your hair to fall out, usually in patches. This fungal infection is easily treated with anti-fungal medication, which will stop the loss of hair.

By Krisha McCoy Medically Reviewed by Ross Radusky, MD


Vitamins and Hair loss

by August 12, 2014

The 2 most common forms of hair loss are known as Androgenetic Alopecia(AA) and Telogen Effluvium(TE). When researching these forms of hair loss, the causes are typically rooted in vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies. 

Vitamin A proves critical for maintaining exceptional vision, involvement in immune function, and necessary for cell growth/differentiation. The major attribute of vitamin A is the cell growth because much like other parts of our body, this is how our bodily features are formed. With a lack of vitamin A, cell growth rates decrease and cause the growth of hair follicles to not grow accordingly. 

Similar to anything else that is quantifiable, balance is necessary. Lack of vitamin A will harm hair growth just as much as excess vitamin A consumption. 

Vitamin B7(Biotin) is also a significant factor in hair growth. Typically a lack of this vitamin will be most identifiable when examining the cause of hair loss, thus leading the victims of this deficiency to seek out hair supplements that emphasize the amount of vitamin B they possess. However, in most cases vitamin B supplements for hair loss will overcompensate the amount of biotin needed in order to persuade the consumer into believing more is better despite this not being factual. 

Other notable vitamin/micronutrient regarding hair loss:

  • vitamin C intake is important in patients with hair loss associated with iron deficiency.
  •  vitamin D supplements or topical vitamin D analogues should be considered for patients with AA and vitamin D deficiency
    • Vitamin D deficiency was found in patients dealing with Alopecia
  • The most common nutritional deficiency in the world is iron deficiency, which contributes to TE
    • Iron deficiency is common in women with hair loss

By Hind M. Almohanna, Azhar A. Ahmed, John P. Tsatalis, and Antonella Tosti


Hair Loss Prevention Diet

by February 8, 2011

The foods you eat may help control whether you have hair loss or healthy hair. There are ways to optimize your diet to help you grow hair and maintain healthy hair.

There are many reasons you might be experiencing hair loss. In addition to illness, medication side effects, and genetics, the foods you eat — or don’t eat — could cause your hair to fall out, and not allow your body to grow healthy hair. And there is some evidence that suggests certain foods may help promote the growth of strong, healthy hair.

Some of the ways that dietary factors that could cause your hair to fall out include:

  • Insulin resistance. Studies have shown that insulin resistance can lead to both male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness. Insulin resistance is a condition in which your body does not respond to insulin as it should, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease and other health problems, in addition to hair loss. People who eat excessive amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and added sugar are at increased risk of developing insulin resistance.
  • Vegetarian diet. People who consume a vegetarian diet may not be getting the protein they need to grow healthy hair. If you are a vegetarian, it is important to work with a dietitian to ensure that you are getting the proteins you need to prevent or reverse hair loss and maintain your overall health.
  • Eating disorders. Because people with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia may be malnourished, they may experience hair loss. Hair loss is one of the many potential ill effects of having an eating disorder. Getting treatment for an eating disorder can help you get the protein and other nutrients you need, which can help your hair begin growing again.
  • Vitamin A supplementation. Many people today take dietary supplements in hopes of improving their health. But in some cases, excessive amounts of dietary supplements can lead to hair loss. In particular, dietary supplements with excessive amounts of vitamin A can trigger hair loss.

Foods That Help Promote Healthy Hair

Once you have identified the dietary patterns that may be contributing to your hair loss, it is time to focus on foods that can help keep your hair strong and healthy. Make sure you are getting enough of the following healthy hair-promoting nutrients in your diet:

  • Protein. Your body needs an adequate amount of protein to keep your hair growing. While most people get enough protein, some people, especially people on very restrictive diets, may not be getting enough. Good sources of protein include meats, poultry, fish, beans, peas, tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds, milk, and dairy products.
  • Iron. Iron is a mineral that your body needs for many reasons, including the maintenance of healthy hair. Certain people, including babies, young children, pregnant women, and menstruating women and girls, are at increased risk of becoming deficient in iron. Iron-rich foods include meats, poultry, fish, leafy greens, beans, peas, and fortified cereals and other grain products.
  • Thiamin (Vitamin B1). Thiamin is a vitamin that helps your body convert food into the energy it needs. Pork, soy milk, watermelon, and acorn squash are particularly high in thiamin.
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2). Riboflavin is another vitamin that is essential for the growth of healthy hair. Riboflavin is found in milk, dairy products, whole grains, enriched grain products, and liver.
  • Zinc. Zinc deficiency can be a cause of diffuse, all-over-the-scalp hair loss. Good sources of zinc include poultry, oysters, red meat, beans, nuts, and fortified cereals.
  • Vitamin D. Deficiency of this vitamin, which is common in northern latitudes in the winter, may also be related to loss of scalp hair. Dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, fortified milk or margarine, and fortified cereals.

If you are concerned your diet may be causing your hair to fall out, talk with your doctor. He may be able to perform simple tests to check for nutrient deficiencies and give you suggestions for changing your diet to benefit the growth of your hair.

By Krisha McCoy
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH


What Is Female Pattern Baldness?

by July 12, 2010

Many women deal with hair loss, and the reasons are often hormone related. There are hair loss treatments for women, but the options are few.

Female pattern baldness or hair thinning, also known as female pattern alopecia, is thought to affect about a third of all women, with some estimates going even higher. Female baldness usually involves hair loss over the entire scalp. The hair loss may be most visible on the top of the head, making the natural “part” of the hair appear wider. Unlike hair loss in men, female hair loss generally don’t go involve complete baldness. In fact, women usually maintain their hairline in the front and on the sides. Treatments for female pattern baldness and thinning hair depending on the cause of the problem.

Causes of Female Pattern Baldness

Normally, the average individual hair grows slowly and continuously for two to six years, then rests for a few months before it falls out. Usually a new hair grows from the same follicle shortly thereafter. But sometimes certain conditions prevent new growth.

Causes of female pattern baldness are not completely understood, but genetics may play a role, particularly if either parent had a similar condition. Hormone imbalances or sudden health changes are also factors in many instances of hair loss in women.

Hormonal changes include pregnancy and the birth of a baby, starting or stopping birth control pills, and menopause. Other causes of hair loss in women are:

  • Certain medications, including some antidepressants, blood thinners, and chemotherapy treatments for cancer
  • Infection or serious illness
  • Thyroid problems
  • Iron, vitamin, or other nutritional deficiencies

Hair loss may indicate the onset of a disease, including medical conditions as varied as diabetes and lupus. Your doctor may order a blood test to determine if your hair loss could be a symptom of a more serious medical problem.

Hair Loss Treatment for Women

There are situations in which no treatment is required — when the baldness or thinning hair will resolve naturally on its own. For example, post-pregnancy hair loss can occur several months after delivery, but regrowth will usually return hair to normal thickness within months.

Some instances of hair loss do call for a medical intervention, and treatment for the condition that’s causing the hair loss — for example, a thyroid problem — usually resolves the hair loss problem as well. If hair loss is a side effect of a certain medication, your doctor may be able to substitute other drugs.

Hair transplantation is another treatment option that may work for women experiencing hair loss. Small plugs of hair are removed from thicker hair areas, such as the back of the head, and surgically placed, follicle by follicle, into scalp areas where the hair if thinning. Hair transplants can be very successful if done by an experienced surgeon.

A word of caution: Women with hair loss should be wary of advertisements involving light therapy and scalp laser treatments to restore hair growth. Although they may not be harmful, their effectiveness hasn’t been proven.

Although there are few medical hair loss treatments for women, some women have had good results with cosmetic solutions. Hair coloring, permanents, weaves, and other styling options may help mask the effects of female pattern baldness.

Your doctor or dermatologist is your best ally in diagnosing the cause of your thinning hair and suggesting solutions that may work for you.

By Diane Stresing
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH


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