Everyone loses some hair every day. In fact, losing up to 100 hairs a day is normal. But if hair loss runs in your family, you could end up with bald spots or slowly thinning hair. About half of all people have this type of hereditary hair loss by around age 50.
Other factors, such as diseases and medicines, also can cause you to lose more hair than normal. Causes of hair loss include:
- Heredity, which is the main cause of most hair loss. This is called male-pattern or female-pattern hair loss. With inherited hair loss, men usually get bald spots around the forehead or on the top of the head, while women have some thinning all over the scalp, but mostly on the top of the head.
- Stress, including physical stress from surgery, illness, or high fever.
- Chemotherapy, which is powerful medicine that destroys cancer cells.
- Damage to your hair from pulling it back too tightly, wearing tight braids or ponytails, or using curling irons or dyes.
- Age, since you grow less hair as you get older. Hair also gets thinner and tends to break more easily as you age.
- Poor diet, especially not getting enough protein or iron.
- Thyroid diseases, like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Although hair loss is fairly common, it can be a tough thing to live with, especially when it changes how you look. Losing hair may cause you to have lower self-esteem if you don’t like how you look. This is especially true in women and teens. But there are ways you can treat your hair loss.
First, schedule an appointment with your family doctor. He or she will ask you some questions, like how much hair you’re losing, when it started, and whether your parents have hair loss. He or she will look closely at your scalp and hair loss pattern and may gently pull out a few hairs for tests. If it’s not clear what’s causing you to lose your hair, your doctor may do a blood test or look at a sample of your hair or scalp with a microscope.
How you choose to treat your hair loss depends on the cause. It also depends on your feelings. You may decide that you need treatment, or you may not be worried about thinning hair or baldness. The choice is up to you.
Hair loss that runs in the family can be treated with medicines or with surgery, such as hair transplant surgery. Some people choose to wear hairpieces, like wigs or toupees. You can also consult with your stylist to find different ways of styling your hair, like dyeing or combing, to help pump up your volume for a thicker, healthier appearance. If hair loss is caused by something you can control, like stress or medicines, you can treat it more effectively by identifying and getting rid of the cause.
When you are deciding about treatment, think about these questions: Which treatment is most likely to work? How long will it take? Will it last? What are the side effects and other risks? How much will it cost, and will insurance cover it? Will your hair grow back?
When your hair loss is inherited, your hair won’t grow back naturally. Treatment can help some hair grow back and prevent more from falling out, but you probably won’t get all your hair back. And treatment doesn’t work for everyone.
When medicines, stress, or hair damage cause you to lose your hair, it often will grow back after you take away the cause. If this doesn’t help, you may need other treatment.