The Types and Causes of Hair Loss

Brush that has collected thinning hair

According to the American Hair Loss Association, more than half of American males will experience some hair loss by age 35. Despite this high number, and the popular idea that hair loss is more of a male problem, 40% of women experience it as well. 

Hair loss, or alopecia, is one of the most common concerns that dermatologists treat. Various types and causes of hair loss can impact which treatment options that are right for you. Learn more about the types of hair loss and what can cause them. 

What Is Hair Loss?

Hair loss occurs when new hair doesn’t replace hair that has fallen out. It is a disorder in which there is an interruption of the body’s natural cycle of hair production. 

The cycle of hair growth has three stages. The anagen phase is when hair grows actively, and it can last for years. 

The second stage is the catagen phase, when the hair stops growing. It separates from the structure that holds the hair in place, which is called the follicle. This phase can last about ten days. 

The third stage is the telogen phase, where the hair rests for a couple of months and then falls out. Once that happens, the cycle begins again, with the follicle creating new hair. 

As part of this cycle, most people lose 50 to 100 hairs per day. 

When you experience a disruption to this cycle, hair starts falling out more rapidly than it can regenerate. That can lead to receding hairlines, overall thinning, and patches of hair falling out. 

Symptoms of Hair Loss

One of the most common early signs of hair loss in women is gradual thinning on the top of the head. In men, hair begins to recede at the forehead, while women generally experience a widening of the part in their hair. 

You may also experience circular or patchy bald spots. Before the hair falls out, your skin may feel painful or itchy. You may also notice that your individual hairs may appear and feel thinner. 

Your hair may also suddenly become loose, which is commonly referred to as “hair fall” or “shedding”. You may begin to notice handfuls of hair coming out when you brush or wash your hair. 

Causes of Hair Loss

Heredity is one of the most common causes of hair loss. Genes are a significant factor in causing male-pattern baldness and female-pattern baldness. These are gradual processes that appear in predictable patterns.

Hormonal changes can also have an impact on your hair. Many conditions can cause permanent or temporary hair loss, including the following: 

  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth 
  • Menopause
  • Thyroid issues
  • Scalp infections, like ringworm

Some medications cause hair loss. Hair loss may be a side effect of certain medications used to treat cancer, depression, arthritis, heart problems, high blood pressure, or gout.

If you have undergone radiation therapy to your head, you may also experience hair loss. Additionally, cancer treatments like chemotherapy trigger a rapid onset of hair loss. While this hair loss is normally temporary, the hair that grows back may not be the same as before your treatment. 

Stressful events can cause hair loss, as well. After an emotional or physical shock, you may experience a general thinning of your hair along with hair loss. 

Another cause of hair loss is subjecting your hair to harsh styling procedures and products, such as permanents and dyes, as well as excessive use of flat irons and other high heat styling tools.

Types of Hair Loss 

There are many types of hair loss. Knowing which one you have can help you find the right treatment for it.

Androgenetic Alopecia

Androgenetic alopecia is hereditary hair loss that results in male-pattern baldness and female-pattern baldness. 

In men, loss of hair can start soon after puberty. Usually, it begins over the temples and spreads through the head’s perimeter as well as to the crown. Many men who have male-pattern baldness end up entirely bald. 

In women, the thinning of their hair can begin all over the scalp, but the hairline doesn’t recede. It rarely leads to complete baldness. 

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium occurs when many follicles enter the telogen stage at the same time, and the next phase doesn’t begin. Hair will start falling out without any new ones growing in. 

People with telogen effluvium can lose 300 to 500 hairs a day, and the rest of the hair can look thin. But this condition usually does not lead to complete baldness. 

A medical condition or event can trigger this type of hair loss. Surgery, childbirth, and even a fever can cause it. In some people, a vitamin deficiency can be a cause, as well. Iron deficiency is a common trigger of telogen effluvium in women. 

Some medications can also bring on this kind of hair loss. 

Telogen effluvium can start three months after the medical event. If it lasts more than six months, it can become chronic. 

Anagen Effluvium

Anagen effluvium is the rapid loss of hair after medical treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. While they kill cancer cells, these medications can also damage hair follicles. Once you finish treatment, your hair can grow back. 

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition. If you have alopecia areata, your immune system attacks healthy tissues, including hair follicles. Your hair falls out, and new hair does not grow.

This condition starts without warning and can cause hair all over the body to fall out. It can lead to complete hair loss over time. 

Tinea Capitis

Also called ringworm, tinea capitis is an infection of the scalp caused by a fungus. It is one of the most common causes of hair loss in children. Hair tends to fall out in circular patches that get bigger over time. 

The scalp can be itchy, and the skin can look scaly and dry. There may be sores that ooze pus. Children with this condition can have swollen glands in the back of the neck and may develop a fever. 

Cicatricial Alopecia

Cicatricial alopecia is one of the rarest types of hair loss. Also called scarring alopecia, it is a condition in which inflammation destroys hair follicles and causes scar tissue to form instead. Once the scar tissue forms, hair stops growing. 

With this condition, hair loss can begin so gradually that you may not notice it is happening, or it can happen suddenly. You may notice red or white lesions growing on your scalp and experience itching and inflammation. 

There are a few types of cicatricial alopecia: 

Lichen Planopilaris

Lichen planopilaris is more common in men than women, and it occurs when a skin condition called lichen planus reaches the scalp. It can cause a dry and flaky rash to appear on your skin, making hair fall out. 

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus

Discoid lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin, leading to scarring and sores around the ears, on the face, and on the scalp. 

Folliculitis Decalvans

With folliculitis decalvans, inflammation, swelling, and lesions can accompany the destruction of hair follicles. This type of hair loss is not reversible. 

Dissecting Cellulitis of the Scalp

Dissecting cellulitis of the scalp is a rare condition that causes lumps to form on your scalp. It can also create scar tissue, which destroys hair follicles. 

Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia

Frontal fibrosing alopecia usually occurs in a receding hairline pattern. It can also cause eyebrow hair loss. It most commonly affects postmenopausal women. 

Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia 

Products and styling techniques that damage hair follicles can cause central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia. Hair relaxers, curling irons, blow-dryers, and hair extensions can all cause this condition. If you use gels, oils, or pomades, you may also experience it. 

Hair Shaft Abnormalities

Some hair shaft abnormalities can also cause hair loss. They can weaken hair and make it more prone to breaking. 

With this type of hair loss, the break doesn’t occur at the follicle but at the shaft. 

Loose Anagen Syndrome

Loose anagen syndrome is most commonly present in children. With this condition, hair is not rooted in the follicle. Hair can fall out while still in its growth phase. It falls out on its own when it reaches a particular length or during even gentle brushing. 

Although the cause of this syndrome is still unknown, it may be due to a problem in the hair growth cycle that does not allow the hair to stay in the follicle. 

Trichotillomania 

People who have trichotillomania find it impossible to stop pulling out their hair. If the person stops the behavior, the hair can grow back. If the behavior continues for too long, however, hair loss may be permanent. 

Traction Alopecia

Some hairstyles, like tight braids and ponytails, pull hair away from the scalp so forcefully that the hair gets damaged and falls out. The best option is to change the hairstyle; otherwise, you can end up with bald spots or thin hair. 

Hypotrichosis

Hypotrichosis is a rare genetic condition in which little to no hair grows on the scalp or body. People with hypotrichosis tend to be bald by the age of 25. 

Get Help for Hair Loss

By knowing about the different types of hair loss and what causes them, you can turn to experts to help you resolve the problem. Many conditions are treatable, allowing you to restore your hair to its previous volume. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with a hair loss specialist in your area, we encourage you to find a REVIAN partner HERE.

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