What Causes Hair Loss and How to Keep Your Hair Healthy and Strong
"There are things that you can do naturally to heal your hair and keep it looking healthy, vibrant, and strong."
In today's post, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, holistic nutritionist, will shed some light on what to do for healthier hair. We’re going to take a look at overall hair health — specifically hair loss and why it happens. Dr. Nancy will also share a few of her top tips for keeping hair healthy and looking its best. Don’t miss out on these all-natural tips, plus some really fun hair trivia too!
- 02:48: Normal Hair Loss
- 05:55: Fun Facts
- 08:05: A pull test
- 10:41: Different stages of the hair
- 11:12: Anagen Phase
- 13:45: Catagen Phase
- 14:58: Telogen Phase
- 16:52: Factors that cause hair loss
- 17:31: Hormones
- 20:42: Common causes of androgenic alopecia
- 21:17: Inflammation
- 23:35: What to do to fight Hair Loss
- 32:12: Wrap Up
Normal Hair Loss
If you notice that your hair is coming out in your hands when brushing or collecting in your drain when washing, you should not panic. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the average person actually loses 50 to 100 strands of hair each and every day.
The average human being has 100,000 hair follicles in their head. With that in mind, it’s not really that big of a deal if you shed 50 strands every day and if you’re the type of person who washes their hair every other day, then you’re going to see a couple more strands collecting in the drain.
The amount of styling you do to your hair — curling, teasing and color, gelling, fluffing, etc. — is going to impact your hair loss as well. If you use a blow dryer, curling iron, flat iron, or some combination of those, you’re going to lose a few extra strands. In fact, 40% of women shed extra strands every day because they use some type of heat to style their hair. Other things like color treating, shampooing frequently, and excessive brushing will contribute to hair loss.
- The average lifespan of a strand of hair is five years.
- Asian hair grows the fastest, and African hair grows the slowest.
- Bone marrow is the tissue that grows the fastest in the body, followed by hair.
- At any given time, 90% of the hair follicles on your hair are growing, while the other 10% are resting.
- The hair starts to grow on your head as soon as it’s plucked.
- The average female’s hair growth is six inches per year.
- Every month your hair grows one centimeter, or half an inch every month.
- Your hair is 30% longer when it’s wet.
The Pull Test
If you begin to see bald patches, or larger handfuls of hair falling out in your hands, then your hair loss may be more than what’s considered normal. A quick way to determine if you might be experiencing excessive hair loss is to do a pull test. All you have to do is to take a small amount of hair, or a section of hair, making sure it’s clean and dry, and run your hand all the way to the end, then pull all of it at once. Count how many hair strands come out when you pull. If you notice that you have 10 or more, then you need to maybe see your general practitioner or dermatologist because you might have excessive hair loss.
Different stages of the hair
Your hair will go through three stages. These are:
The Anagen phase
During this phase, your hair is growing. The bulk of the hair on your head — about 90% — is in this phase at any given time. During this phase, your hair tends to grow at a slower rate during the winter than it does during the summer. Hair can stay in this stage for up to five years, depending on your genetic disposition. You might have a longer anagen phase that lets you grow your hair, or you might have a shorter anagen phase, so it seems your hair just won’t grow past your shoulders. When your hair stops growing, either because it’s over-processed, over-washed, over-styled, or because of some bigger issue going on, this is known as anagen effluvium. In layman’s terms, this means hair loss.
The Catagen phase
This is the stage where the hair stops growing. It is only about 2% to 3% of your hair at any given time and also only lasts a very short amount of time; about two weeks. This phase is a very transitional phase. During this phase, your hair is cut off from blood supply but it’s not quite ready to leave your hair yet. Hairs in this phase might turn into club hairs, which are those hairs that have a little bulb at the bottom. Those bulbs are keratinized tissues that stunt your hair growth.
The Telogen phase
This is the last phase and it is when your hair is resting as it prepares to leave and depart your scalp. Eventually the hair releases from the hair follicle and falls out. After this, the follicle goes dormant for about three months before it starts the entire process all over again. Each follicle is in a different phase at different times; otherwise all your hair would be falling out at the same time. Typically, only 8% to 9% of your hair should be in the telogen phase. When over 10% of your hair is in this phase that’s known as telogen effluvium. Things that can lead to telogen effluvium include being sick with a fever that lasted for a few days, having surgery, or experiencing a lot of stress in your life. If your hair does not return to normal after about six months, call your dermatologist.
Factors that cause hair loss
If you’ve determined that you’re losing more hair than normal what could be causing it? We already mentioned a few factors that contribute to hair loss, including over-styling, heating, over-processing, and stress.
Another major factor that contributes to hair loss is hormones. Dehydrao-testosterone (DHT) is at the root of excess hair loss, specifically something called androgenic alopecia. This is the most common root cause of hair loss for both and women. While ladies do not have much testosterone, they do have testosterone in their bodies. DHT is an androgen, the male sex hormone, that is vital for proper sexual development in males during puberty and responsible for sex drive and hair growth in both males and females. When these androgens go into overproduction, either from an endocrine condition or a cyst or tumor that’s secreting androgen, the anagen phase of the hair’s growing cycle is shortened.
When this happens, all of the effective hair progresses to the telogen phase, which at the same time is lengthened. There is a longer and shorter time in each phase, so if one part is shortened, then the other one is lengthened. If the growing phase is shortened, the falling out phase is longer. There is a longer amount of time between the initial mass shedding and then the new anagen phase, at which point the androgenic alopecia results.
In men specifically, androgenic alopecia is known as male pattern baldness. This is when the hair line begins to recede and then the hair loss occurs in a very distinct pattern. You might notice men who are balding and they have a receding hairline like the letter M. In women, androgenic alopecia does not have a set pattern. The hair thins everywhere not just in one localized spot, and women don’t usually have a receding hairline.
Some common causes of androgenic alopecia in women are:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PSCOS)
- Birth control
In men, it is often caused by enlarged prostate.
In both men and women, factors include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Inflammation – This is a huge factor in excessive hair loss. It can often present itself on the skin as well. Inflammation can present as eczema and other rashes, acne, swollen joints, dry or bumpy skin, and hair loss. When the area around the hair follicle becomes inflamed, the hair is going to become swollen and fall out. When there is chronic inflammation going on, the body will sometimes misinterpret hair follicles as foreign bodies. Your scalp and roots will then become damaged and unable to hold the nutrients they need to keep the hair in place, and then your scalp might become itchy, red, or flaky and your hair may begin to fall out in excess.
What to do to fight Hair Loss
Whether you suffer from hair loss or not, it is a very good idea to eat anti-inflammatory foods to reduce or even reverse chronic inflammation. This includes lean proteins and fish as well as beans and nuts. These foods are high in protein, which helps to strengthen your hair and encourage it to grow. Also add a lot of nutrient-rich vegetables such as kale, spinach, asparagus, beets, and Brussels sprouts. It’s also really great to incorporate organic fruits like raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.
Integrating more organic fruits and vegetables into your diet will ensure that you’re getting the vitamins and minerals that you need, especially since vitamin deficiencies can be another cause of excess hair loss. If you think inflammation maybe the culprit of your hair loss, do a mental check in and then go see a healthcare professional.
If you need to eliminate certain stressors from your life please do so. This might include relationships that are toxic, or handing off some things at work, or learning to say no more often, taking up yoga or breathing exercises, or just stepping outside for a walk in the sunshine. You can even just take a few moments to relax and forget about the things that you have to do. Integrate that with deep breaths to calm the body and mind.
Exercise & Hydration
Also try some low-impact exercising. You have to move your body as well. Do this about three times a week and make sure that you are drinking enough water. Hydration is really key to also getting your body flushed of toxins and providing your body the lubrication it needs to move without pain.
It should come as no surprise that your body needs plenty of sleep to function properly, and this is no exception. Try to get at least seven or eight hours of quality sleep every night.
A few other natural remedies that you can try, to prevent those extra strands from falling out, include:
- Give yourself a massage and stimulate the hair follicles. You can use your fingers or get a head massager to do this. Try a massage using cold pressed coconut oil to moisturize your scalp. A scalp massage is going to stimulate hair growth and as a bonus, it will also help relieve stress and tension.
- Start a supplement routine. Fish oil, iron, and ginseng, all have been believed to promote hair growth and reduce hair loss. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting on any sort of supplementation.
- Use oils! You can use lemon oil, fresh lemon juice, geranium oil, rosemary oil, coconut oil, and aloe vera, these all have their place in improving hair quality, promoting growth, reducing hair loss. Lemon oil can be applied directly to the scalp 15 minutes prior to shampooing and conditioning. When you use lemon oil or any citrus oil on your scalp and then you go into the sun, make sure that you know it’s photosensitive, or photo toxic. If you get out into the sun it could cause a burn so if you’re using lemon, then make sure that you wash it off really well before going to the sun, or wear a hat. Geranium or rosemary oil can be added to your shampoo or conditioner, or you can add a few drops to an unscented carrier oil, like argon oil, jojoba, olive, or almond, all unscented, applied to your hair like a mask. Just put it on your scalp, massage it, and then just set and forget it for about 30 minutes. Aloe vera should be applied to the scalp several times a week or look for a natural shampoo and conditioner with aloe vera as a leading ingredient.
- Style your hair less. Go natural. Let the hair air-dry and avoid hair ties. These cause your hair to break in addition to falling out. Also use a hair tie that does not hurt your hair follicles at all, or doesn’t cause any breakage.
- Wear a swim cap if you’re going to the pool, especially if it’s chlorinated. Also a great trick is to dunk your head, or sit underneath the shower head and put cold water on your head. Drench your hair with cold water and then put the swim cap on so it’s already full of water, it can’t absorb any more of the chlorinated water.
Today we covered some of the basic healthy hair information. Hair loss is perfectly normal. Your hair is in one of three stages at any given time and this includes the shedding phase. If you tried the pull test — which involves taking a section of dry and clean hair and then pulling it at the end and counting how many strands you ended up with — If you have 10 or more strands in your hand, then you might be suffering from excess hair loss, and it might be a good idea to schedule an appointment with the general practitioner or your dermatologist.
If you notice you are losing a lot of hair, causes could include: stress, a preexisting condition that mirrors diabetes or heart disease, excess weight, a recent fever, or chronic inflammation, among other possible contributing factors.
There are things that you can do naturally to heal your hair and keep it looking healthy, vibrant, and strong. This includes applying a hair mask several times a week, styling it less, giving yourself a head massage, using oils, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and wearing a protective swim cap after you saturate it with cold water, if you know that you’re going to be swimming in a chlorinated pool.