Ok, so we talked about getting an understanding of your hair...now let me clue you in on a few things that could be affecting yours right now...
We've all been there right? You're washing your hair in the shower and as you take your hand away you realise its coming out in handfuls... and YOU. FREAK. OUT!! All of a sudden your mind is racing ahead of yourself and you're questioning every hair colour choice you've ever made and simultaneously googling alopecia!
Well stop right there! It's often not a sign to panic and more just a nudge from your body that it needs your attention. So here's a little insight into what may actually be to blame for the lack of life in your mop. Have a read and take back control of your thinning locks...
STRESS - one of the most common reasons for hair loss. It may sound cliché, and let's face it, none of us ever want to believe that we're under THAT much stress that it's causing our to fall out?! We're stronger than that!!? I mean, firstly being under stress really isn't a sign of weakness so you can leave that train of thought right now! And secondly, as much as it does take a significant amount of stress to cause hair loss...we do all live in a world of impossible standards and immense pressure and stress can come from all angles at times. So don't rule it out as a possible cause and if there is a chance stress is to blame...its a pretty good sign that you might need to give yourself a break. When we're stressed, our body produces the stress hormone cortisol, which causes a switch in the signals to the hair follicles, sending them from growth phase to rest phase, which in time can cause more hair to fall out. The medical term for this being - Telogen Effluvium. It's when you have hair thinning or loss caused by excess shedding. In a lot of people (myself included) you'll notice it at the temples, a small area on each side might appear to be slightly receded. Don't panic. It's a lot more common than you think. However, that being said, if you are experiencing hair loss that could be stress related, be kind to yourself and look into some recommended ways to manage or reduce the stress your under, this is your body's way of letting you know its time to look after you. And if you feel the hair loss you're experiencing is significant, worrying or prolonged please speak to your GP.
CHILD BIRTH -Postpartum hair loss is normal and really common. The good news is - for the majority of women its only temporary and their normal hair growth cycle will resume within 6-12months. The science part - 85-95% of your hair at any given time is in the growth phase, (anagen) which lasts on the scalp for about 3 years in most people, then the hair enters the resting phase (telogen) where it will stay within the follicle until the new stage of anagen begins and the fresh hair growing through pushes it out. However, when pregnant there is in an increase in that percentage of hair in the anagen stage, hence - so many of us get to experience that wonderful, thick mane of hair while we're pregnant! You see where I'm going with this don't you? When we give birth and our hormones shift once again, the result is that the percentage of resting phase hair is also a lot higher and in turn when that resting phase ends our hair loss is higher too. If you haven't caught on yet to the cycle I've just mentioned though, be reassured...the hair in the telogen phase only falls out when...the new hair has begun to grow! So though it may take a while (the 6-12 months I mentioned) for you to feel the benefit of all that new hair - it is there and this isn't forever! One more thing you might be glad to know - is that breastfeeding is completely unrelated so whether you breastfeed or not, this sequence is caused by the hormonal change between pregnancy and birth. You'll probably notice the loss around 3 months post partum so no need to worry if you thought you had escaped it and then 3-6 months later your brush starts filling with hair! I'd recommend taking this time to get a good haircut and give your hair some tlc. Use a treatment every couple of weeks to replenish the moisture in your hair and strengthen the ends. Always use heat protection and maybe invest in a light hair oil for added benefit.
POOR DIET - Unfortunately weight gain and weight loss are not the only signs of a poor diet. When we don't nourish our body with a sufficient amount of nutrients - guess what? Our hair isn't priority for receiving them! Yep, any nutrients your body can find will be sent to the vital organs...and our hair? Well...it'll just need to starve! If our body experiences a shortage in iron, zinc, protein or B vitamins you won't be long in noticing it up top. So why not try upping your intake of nutrient rich foods and see if you notice a difference. Some you might find helpful are - Eggs (protein), Nuts/Seeds (zinc, B vitamins, Vitamin E & Fatty acids), Spinach (iron, Vitamin A, Folate & Vitamin C), Berries (Vitamin C), Avocado (Vitamin E & Fatty Acids), Meat (protein), Sweet peppers (Vitamin C), Sweet Potato (Vitamin A), Salmon, Mackerel, Herring (Omega 3) Shrimp (zinc, B vitamins, Vitamin D, protein & iron), Beans (iron, zinc, protein & biotin) Again, if you have any symptoms of vitamin or iron deficiency please pay your GP a visit.
LACK OF SLEEP - No need to panic if you've had a late one, it takes a prolonged lack of sleep to cause effect. However if you're having chronic insomnia or prolonged sleep troubles this could be to blame for your hair loss for sure. When our bodies don't have enough time to rest and "repair" then once again, our hair doesn't rank too high on its priority list. I mean I get it, I totally support its choices here, its not like we can't survive without a thick lustrous mane of hair, so no complaining here. This is yet another situation where our bodies cleverly point out that its under pressure and needs a little more help from us in charge. So, if the case is that your just burning the candle at both ends - then listen up because your body is sending you a strong message that its time to get a better sleep routine! Some tips I like are- try some meditation, give yourself a routine with a set bedtime and wake up call and make sure you give yourself at least 7 hours of sleep each night, limit screen time before bed and maybe even keep your phone in another room or out of your reach so you're not tempted to reach for it when you give up tossing and turning, try some herbal tea, have a bath before bed (raising your body temperature a few degrees can help make you sleepy), try some sleep aid products like pillow sprays or bath salts, try herbal remedies, brain dump (write it all down or write a to do list before bed to clear your mind) and finally try a light projector and/or ambient noise, you'd be surprised how looking up to a watery reflection or a starry sky paired with some sounds of the ocean can relax you. If you're suffering from insomnia and you can't seem to break the cycle it's another sign you owe your GP a call.
MEDICATION & RECREATIONAL DRUGS - Many types of drugs both prescribed and recreational can cause hair loss. Just like hormonal changes - chemical changes can also cause Telogen Effluvium (premature entry of the resting phase) The chemical reaction affects the signals to the hair follicle and in turn causes premature loss of hair. Drugs known to cause this are - certain Acne medications, Antibiotics, Antidepressants, Birth control, Anti-clotting drugs, Cholesterol lowering drugs, Drugs that supress the immune system, Cancer treatment drugs, Epilepsy drugs, High blood pressure drugs, Hormone replacement therapy, Mood stabilisers, Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, Parkinson's disease drugs, Steroids, Thyroid medications, Weight loss drugs, and a number of recreational drugs. If you think you may be experiencing hair loss due to medication consult your GP.
THAT HABIT YOU'VE FORMED OF SCRATCHING/RUBBING YOU'RE SCALP - or wearing tight hats/headscarves, braids - all of these things can damage the hair follicle and cause hair loss and traction alopecia. So if you've gotten yourself into a habit of scratching on your scalp, or tightly twisting or pulling your hair - you might want to try and break that cycle. Let's not be causing ourselves unnecessary hair loss guys?!
MENOPAUSE - Another hormonal change causing us hair loss?! These hormones have a lot to answer for!! Can't we catch a break!? This time its related to lower levels of Estrogen & Progesterone. These hormones play a part in prolonging the anagen (growth) stage of your hair. So when our body lacks in the production of these hormones we have an increase in the production of androgens (male hormones) which result in the shrinking of hair follicles and lead to hair thinning. If you think you could be experiencing menopause consult your GP.
THYROID PROBLEMS - Disruption of the normal thyroid hormones can result in hair thinning and hair loss. If you are experiencing any other signs of thyroid problems such as fatigue, weight gain/loss, changes in heart rhythm, swelling in the neck, sensitivity to cold etc please consult your GP.
SUDDEN WEIGHT LOSS OR PROLONGED CALORIE RESTRICTION - Much like having a poor diet, if you are restricting your calories and in turn depriving your body of much needed energy and nutrients it will restrict the delivery of nutrients to the hair follicles causing hair loss/thinning.
So there you have it. 9 reasons that you could be experiencing hair loss. And most of them temporary or fixable so please DON'T stress!! But DO listen to your hair!! It's a regular form of communication from your body, to let you know something else is going on. So take a step back and work out how you can help get things back on track. And remember - be kind to yourself.
Self care is the most important step in your wellbeing.