By Olivia |
IT started with a few extra strands snaking through your brush, swirling toward the drain and turning into tumbleweed on the bathroom floor. You’ve heard it’s normal to lose 50-100 hairs a day, and so you sized up all those loose locks and convinced yourself that they were in that range.
But one day you looked in the mirror and this illusion shattered. You’re going bald.
How did this happen?
First, let’s understand how hair grows.
Our manes cycle through periods of growth or rest. The growth cycle, called anagen, ranges from two to six years, with two to three being typical. During this phase, each strand will sprout only about half an inch a month. At any given time, most of your hair – roughly 90 percent – is in this growth cycle. The remaining 10 percent or so will be resting. This phase, called telogen, lasts two to four months, at the end of which we shed the resting strands, making room for a new ones to grow in its place. When the rate of shedding exceeds the rate of hair growth, we start to experience hair loss.
The causes are numerous.
Hormonal changes that lead to hair loss can occur during or after pregnancy, or at the onset of menopause. Once levels are back in balance, hair growth usually also goes back to normal.
Certain drugs can trigger fall out. These include anti-depressants, blood thinners, medications for the treatment of gout and arthritis, birth control pills and, of course, chemotherapy.
Sometimes a fungal infection is at fault. A topical or oral anti-fungal medicine usually clears this condition right up, and the fallout will most likely be temporary.
Another often temporary reason is some kind of shock to your system that disrupts hair’s usual cycle. This could result from major surgery, severe stress or illness, an emotional trauma or even a crash diet.
Overprocessing with dye or bleach, or chemicals used to curl or straighten hair may leave your locks brittle and prone to breakage. Pulling your tresses into super-tight styles can also cause thinning. This type of hair loss can be permanent if the scalp becomes scarred.
It may be that you are genetically predisposed to lose your hair. Once again, hormones are the culprit. In this case, a group called androgens build up in hair follicles, eventually squeezing the life out of it. At first, the length of the growth cycle decreases and the strands these damaged follicles do produce are thinner and not as firmly rooted. Over time, the follicle may die altogether.
But because serious medical conditions, such as lupus, diabetes or thyroid disease, may be to blame, it’s important to see your doctor.
Remember, you’re not alone. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 30 million women in the U.S. alone are dealing with hair loss. See natural hair loss treatment or this guide to regrowing hair.