The Potential Causes of Hair Loss
Hair loss can be quite an overwhelming and concerning experience. It can take effect in both males and females no matter the life stage. Hair loss can occur suddenly or develop overtime. The outcome may be accompanied with disconcerting and somewhat distressing emotions for those involved.
Hair loss is a relatively common problem; the causes can be quite perplexing and complicated. A variety of underlying factors can contribute to the progression of hair loss which may include environmental, physiological, emotional and biological factors. The involvement of these factors may contribute to hair loss by disrupting certain phases of hair growth.
The 4 phases of hair growth:
- Anagen (growing phase); the growing phase lasts from 2-7 years. This phase determines the length of the hair. During this phase a hair bulb develops at the bottom of the hair follicle. The hair bulb begins to grow upwards and out through the scalp to mature into a full length strand of hair.
- Catagen (regression phase); at the end of the anagen phase, your hair enters the catagen phase. A short transitional phase that lasts approximately 10 days. During this phase the hair follicle shrinks to encourage the hair bulb to detach from the blood supply and move upwards. This enables the hair to be easily shed via normal activity.
- Telogen (resting phase); the telogen phase is the final stage of a hair’s lifecycle, which generally lasts between three to five months. The hair ceases to grow in length and becomes fully keratinized. The hair no longer needs sustenance.
- Exogen (shedding phase); detachment of the hair occurs and new hair continues to grow. Approximately 50 to 150 of your hairs may fall out daily, which is considered a normal rate of hair shedding.
Disruptions to the Hair Growth Cycle
Interruptions and disturbances to the hair growth cycle may ultimately lead to hair loss, temporarily or permanently. The presentation, timing, and duration of the disturbance to the hair growth cycle are termed either anagen effluvium or telogen effluvium depending on cyclic interference.
Angen effluvium is caused by the abrupt cessation of the growth phase of the hair cycle, which causes the hair to rapidly shed. Initially the hair loss may appear patchy resulting in baldness over a short period of time. Certain medications are the most common causes for anagen effluvium. Anagen effluivium is totally reversible after the causative agent is removed.
Telogen effluvium is the most common disruption of the hair growth cycle, resulting in sudden increase of hair shedding- up to 300 per day. Telogen effluvium typically occurs due to a triggering event such as stress, illness, drug reactions or child birth.
Potential Contributing Factors in Hair Loss:
Certain medications can contribute to hair loss. Speak with your Doctor or pharmacist regarding concerns.
Some autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Hypothyroidism and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome may be accompanied by hair loss. Existing health conditions, such as scalp infections (tinea capitus) and alopecia can have a negative impact on hair growth. There are several forms of alopecia, all resulting in hair loss;
- Androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of alopecia and is mediated by the effects of androgens. Overproduction or exogenous administration of androgens can cause androgenetic alopecia or worsen the condition. This condition can be hereditary and is also known as male or female patterned hair loss.
- Alopecia areata can cause hair loss to any area of the body. It is considered an inflammatory autoimmune disease of unknown aetiology (Vidal 2015). This form of alopecia can present in patchy or total balding of the scalp (alopecia totalis) or total body hair loss (alopecia universalis).
- Scarring alopecias refer to various types of hair disorders such as lichen planopilaris, central centrifugal cicatricial, alopecia folliculitis decalvans, and dissecting cellulitis (Vidal 2015). Scarring alopecias are responsible for destruction of hair follicles with the replacement of scar tissue, which can lead to permanent hair loss.
Emotional and physical bodily stressors can present in many different ways, unfortunately hair loss is quite common. Severe stress brought on by a sudden traumatic event can negatively impair hair growth such as telogen effluvium. Stress can also affect certain behaviours that may contribute to hair loss such as Trichotillomania; an impulse control disorder in which individuals have an irresistible urge to pull out hair.
An imbalance in certain hormones in both male and females can contribute to hair loss. This is particularly seen in androgenetic alopecia, menopause and autoimmune diseases that involve the endocrine system.
During pregnancy the anagen phase has an increased duration due to hormonal changes - hence why some women have amazing hair during pregnancy! However, post-partum it may suddenly fall out, more so than normal. This is due to the sudden drop of hormones and the rapid rise of the telogen phase post-delivery.
An adequate nutrient status is important for maintaining and sustaining hair growth. Continuously falling short in the recommended daily intake of micro and macro nutrients can potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies which can have a detrimental effect towards hair loss. It is important to ensure RDI’s are being met on a daily basis.
Unfortunately hair loss can be in our genes, it may be hereditary. Hereditary hair loss in humans is known as Hypotrichosis.
Ageing is not as obvious on the inside as it is on the outside. As we age, so do our cells. Cellular function declines throughout the body, particularly on the scalp. As we mature so does the anagen phase, it isn’t as virile as it used to be, and sadly it lacks vitality and declines in performance, resulting in permanent hair loss.
Check out our blog Natural ways to Aid Hair Growth.