The average person loses 50 to 100 hairs per day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). And yet, there are some men and women who lose much more than that, resulting in thinning hair, which lowers their self-esteem and perceived attractiveness. Fortunately, hair loss can be addressed, and the earlier it is, the better the outcome.
The Root Of The Problem
Full, healthy hair starts with the scalp.
“Healthy hair growth starts with a healthy scalp because that's where the 'roots' of the hair follicle are located,” Dr. Rebecca Kazin, of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery and the Johns Hopkins Department of Dermatology, told Medical Daily. “Any irritation or inflammation of the scalp can interfere with optimal hair formation and weaken the integrity of the hair.”
In fact, Dr. Susan Lin, founder of MD Lash Factor, told Medical Daily that about 25 percent of hair loss is due to scalp issues. According to the AAD, signs of trouble can include shedding large amounts of hair after combing or brushing it, or hair that suddenly becomes thinner and falls out. The latter, Kazin added, can result from frequent color or heat treatment that often leads to breakage.
Two Types Of Hair Loss
Hair loss is often thought of in terms of hereditary and medical conditions. Hereditary hair loss is generally hormonal, Lin said, while non-hereditary medical causes of hair loss include anemia, hypothyroidism, chemotherapy, autoimmune diseases, and prescription drug side effects.
In order to diagnose a condition, men and women are encouraged to visit a dermatologist, who will ask for a detailed history of the patient's family health and their prescribed medications. The dermatologist will also be able to conduct a thorough scalp and hair examination. Sometimes a scalp biopsy is done to confirm a condition. But ultimately, each step is taken to determine the best way to promote hair growth.
On the other hand, when hair loss is not hereditary or medical, it’s usually attributed to aggressive brushing or too much product that clogs the scalp — think gel and mouse. “We also know that avoiding crash diets, and eating a well-balanced diet, can maintain and improve your skin, scalp, and hair,” Kazin said. More on these later.
Thin Hair Treatments
There are topical and oral medications, like minoxidil and finasteride, that men and women can take to maintain and regrow hair, as well as “newer, natural hair supplements designed to address the hormonal issue without using medication,” Lin said. But in order to really reap these benefits, treatments have to be taken or applied every day. In which case, a lot of men and women lose interest and look for a more permanent option, like hair transplantation.
“Hair transplantation has come a long way since the days of hair plugs and scars,” Kazin said. “There is new technology that allows a robot to precisely remove each follicular unit that then is transplanted in the desired location. This treatment is very safe and effective, but quite costly.”
Break Bad Habits, Not Hair
As mentioned earlier, unhealthy hair habits can lead to hair loss. Reconsider these common culprits for thin hair:
Running a brush or comb too hard through your hair puts a lot of "physical stress on the hair fiber, and it can cause the cuticle to flake and strip away," the American Hair Loss Association says. Aggressively brushing while your hair is wet is a problematic, too, as it can lead to excessive pulling and breakage.
Speaking of ponytails, wrapping a hair tie too tight results in thinner hair. So, do hair wraps and braids. "When away on vacation, avoid the urge to get your hair wrapped or braided tightly," Kazin said. "These techniques cause a large amount of hair traction and are very hard to undo, often leading to large chunks of damaged or lost hair."
"Over-applying heat to your hair when it is already dried causes brittleness, breakage, dullness, and dryness to the point where hair is stripped of its natural moisture, causing your cuticles to dry and snap off," Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips, a trichologist at Philip Kingsley, and Dr. Paradi Mirmirani, board-certified dermatologist in Vallejo, Calif., told The Huffington Post. Lin suggests sticking to soft sponge rollers to achieve curl and body.
A well-balanced diet, like Kazin said, can promote healthy, full hair. Iron and zinc help follicles grow, Dr. Wilma Bergfeld, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told Health, while protein promotes cell growth, repair, and strength in the same way it does for your muscles after a long run. Eggs enrich hair just as well because they're a rich source of protein and B vitamins, which are essential for growth.
The urge you have to pull your hair out when you're stressed is just one of the ways stress can lead to hair loss. Stress also pushes large numbers of hair follicles into a resting phase, scientifically known as telogen effluvium, accelerating how quickly strands fall out during a gentle brush or wash.
Ultimately, hair is a reflection of our health, Lin said. Consulting with a dermatologist and paying special attention to your daily routine can boost both hair and confidence.