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Hair Loss: Causes and Prevention

Feb 7, 11:08 am

          Somewhere between college cramming and dropping the kids off at school we discover that our hair just isn’t what it used to be. Those gorgeous thick locks that were once the envy of all have gradually been banished to ponytail purgatory.

          It’s difficult to accept, but we naturally lose anywhere from 50 to 100 strands a day. Why the big range? The number can vary on any given day, but on average, the difference can be explained by how fast a person’s growth cycle lasts.

          There are three growth stages for hair: the anagen (growth), catagen (resting), and telogen (shedding) phases. About 85% of the hairs on one’s head is in the anagen (growth) phase which can last up to eight years on a healthy scalp! As you may have guessed, the longer one’s hair stays in the anagen phase, the faster and the longer it will grow.

          But not all of us are lucky enough to keep our strands for so long. Telogen effluvium is the most common phenomenon that explains hair loss, which occurs after the body has taken on great emotional and physical stresses. The seeming hair loss is actually due to the hair going through its “growing” phase to its “resting” phase more quickly and thus shedding faster.

Some of the common triggers behind this unwanted shedding:

1. Stress stress stress!: Stress over our grades, our jobs, our kids spikes cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and forces hair follicles to go into a dormant state as our bodies stop production on some of our less essential bodily functions, in order to prepare for whatever dangers lie ahead.
          If you are facing a particularly trying period in your life, you can experience hair loss anywhere from six weeks to six months after the peak of a stressful period.

2. Physical Stress: Dramatic or sudden weight loss, trauma from a surgery or intense illness can also lead to temporary hair loss.

3. Poor Nutrition: Anemia, or iron deficiency is a common culprit.

4. Hormonal: There are instances where low estrogen levels have been associated with hair loss. This is usually why women tend to experience noticeable hair loss with the onset of menopause, or taking birth control pills.

5. Drugs and Supplements that contribute to hair loss:

  • Blood thinners like warfarin and heparin
  • Seizure medication
  • Blood pressure medication, particularly beta-blockers
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs like prednisone.
  • Mood altering drugs, like anti-depressants
  • Thyroid medications
  • Oral contraceptives (those high in progestins)
  • Diet pills
  • High doses of vitamin A

6. Hair Stress: Another common reason why women are losing strands is because they are unwittingly pulling them out! When your hair is pulled back repeatedly, hair loss can start to occur in those areas of pro-longed tension. In extreme cases, this can induce permanent hair loss in those areas. Take it easy on the ponys, gals!

7. Damaged Breakage: If you’re guilty of frying your hair day after day with irons and dryers, you may be experiencing hair brittleness, in which damaged hair breaks off before the root.
          One way you can tell whether your hair fallout is due to Telogen effluvian or heat damage is by tugging at a section of hair and examining the hair that falls out. If you can see the “bulbs” at the end of the root, that means your hair has gone through it’s complete cycle of growth (perhaps prematurely). If not, it’s probably breakage due to your iron.



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