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This Is Why Your Hair Is Falling Out (AND How To Stop It)

Rule number 1: Don't freak out.
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Hair shedding is a part of everyday life, yes it clogs up your shower drain, and yes, it means you have to vacuum every other day or your floor turns into a hairy rug... But the fact is, hair loss is totally normal.

On average we lose around 80 strands a day, if you begin to shed significantly more than that or you notice they aren't growing back, well, that's when things start to get a bit hairy (sorry, couldn't help it).

The thing is, when it comes to hair loss there are so many potential triggers, which means it can be tricky to pinpoint the exact reason why your strands are falling out, and henceforth, how to remedy the situation.

To help break down the possible reasons why you're losing hair we spoke to hair loss expert, Anabel Kingsley, a leading Trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Clinic in London and founder of Get Ahead of Hair Loss, Dr. Sharon Wong.

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Firstly, here’s a little bit about the hair growth cycle

Ok, it’s science-y but very cool, basically “each hair follicle on our scalp undergoes three stages of a life cycle,” explains Dr. Wong.

Anagen ­– “This is the active growing phase, which can last between 2-7 years during which the hair becomes longer and thicker.”

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Catagen – “After anagen, the hair follicle moves into the short transitional phase called catagen when the hair fiber stops growing, followed by the resting phase telogen which lasts around 3 months.”

Telogen  ­ “During telogen the old hair is gradually pushed up towards the skin surface before it is then shed naturally and replaced with a new emerging anagen hair.

On a typical head of hair, each follicle is at a different stage at different times so you probably won’t notice it happening. Very cool. “This cycle continues repeatedly throughout our lifetime and each hair follicle is cycling independently of neighboring follicles meaning that human hair growth is synchronized,” says Dr. Wong.

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It’s important to note that hair loss is a very common problem for women—much more so that people realize. "Research shows that at least one in three women will suffer from hair loss or reduced hair volume at some point in their lifetime," says Anabel. So, if you are losing strands, it's important not to freak out, your mane will recover. In the meantime, here's everything you need to know.

Note—there are different types of hair loss, genetic and reactive

GENETIC

There's a chance you're genetically predisposed to hair thinning, which means you may see a progressive, gradual reduction in hair volume. "In these instances, certain hair follicles are sensitive to male hormones – and this sensitivity causes follicles to gradually shrink and produce slightly finer and shorter hairs with each passing hair growth cycle." Explains Anabel.

REACTIVE

This means your hair loss is the result of a trigger. "Excessive daily hair shedding (which is know as telogen effluvium) is not reliant on having a genetic predisposition, it occurs as the result of an internal imbalance or upset, such as a nutritional deficiency, severe stress, crash dieting or an illness," says Anabel.

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8 Most Common Causes Of Hair Loss

  1. Hormonal imbalance

    A hormonal imbalance can lead to a multitude of annoying health and beauty issues, from adult acne to weight gain. If your hormones are out of whack the effects will radiate throughout the whole body (and of course, that includes your hair). 

    "Hormones play a huge role in regulating the hair growth cycle" explains Anabel. "Oestrogens (female hormones) are 'hair friendly' and help to keep hairs in their growth phase for the optimal length of time. Androgens (male hormones) are not very hair-friendly, and can shorten the hair growth cycle." "An excess of androgens (which could be caused by an endocrine disorder, such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) can cause hair loss. The extent of this is often down to genes - If you have a genetic predisposition to follicle sensitivity, a hormonal imbalance can affect your hair more than it would someone who does not have a predisposition."

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  2. Stress

    It's no myth that excess stress can literally make your hair fall out. How does this happen? Well, it can raise androgen (male hormone) levels, which in turn, can cause hair loss. "Stress may also trigger scalp problems, such as dandruff, disrupt eating habits, and mess with the digestive system—all of which can have a negative impact on hair," says Anabel. 

  3. Iron deficiency or anemia

    "One of the most common causes of hair loss in women is an iron deficiency. Iron is essential for producing hair cell protein", without it, your strands will suffer says Anabel. If in doubt, it's best to speak to your doctor for advice regarding an iron deficiency, as they may recommend a blood test to confirm the correct treatment.

  4. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism

    "The thyroid gland helps to regulate the body's metabolism by controlling the production of proteins and tissue use of oxygen. Any thyroid imbalance can therefore affect hair follicles", Anabel explains. Also, if hypothyroidism is left untreated it may result in anemia, which - as we've just discussed - is another condition that can impact the hair (or lack of it).

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  5. Vitamin B12 deficiency

    A lack of vitamin B12 can leave you feeling tired and low on energy, sound familiar? Well, the fun doesn't stop there, it can also take its toll on your hair.

    "Vitamin B12 deficiency often causes hair loss as it can affect the health of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your tissues," says Anabel. "It's most common in vegans as you can primarily only obtain B12 through animal proteins."

  6. Dramatic weight loss

    A steep drop on the scales can impact your tresses, "Six to 12 weeks after dramatic weight loss, whether it be intentional or unintentional, hair commonly comes out in excess" says Anabel.

    "While our hair is incredibly important to us psychologically, physiologically it is non-essential; we could survive without it with no detriment to our physical health. This means that any nutritional deficiency often first shows up in our hair."

  7. Age

    If you're going through or about to enter menopause, changes in your body may also have an effect on your hair. "Hair loss becomes more prevalent leading up to and after the menopause" reveals Anabel. That being said, "it's important to realize that our hair ages, and as we get older, hair naturally gets finer. It's a totally normal part of the aging process."

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  8. Traction alopecia

    Got Afro hair? Listen up... If you love a protective style, make sure you’re giving your hair a break in between. “The most common cause of hair loss in this hair type is traction alopecia. This is the hair loss caused by repeated and prolonged tensile (pulling) forces applied to the follicles through wearing certain hairstyles such as braids and long dreadlocks,” warns Dr. Wong. “The pattern of hair loss mirrors where the hair is under the most strain and this is typically over the edges/hairline.” Just make sure you’re going easy on your edges so they’re in it for the long haul.

And here's what you can do to fix it:

Ok, so now you know what triggering the hair loss, here's how to deal with it:

RECOGNIZE THE PROBLEM

Hair loss doesn't happen fast, our strands grow in cycles, which means it can take up to three months for the hair to fall out after a trigger has caused it. "If you notice excessive daily hair shedding for longer than three months, see a trichologist or your GP, there could be an underlying factor that needs to be addressed", Anabel advises. "Very importantly, try not to panic. Telogen effluvium (excessive shedding) is almost always self-eliminating and hair will start to grow back as usual once any internal imbalance is put right".

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CHANGE UP YOUR DIET

    1. Get more protein

      "Hair is made of protein, making adequate daily intake of protein-rich foods essential. Include at least a palm-sized portion of protein at breakfast and lunch (approx. 120g in weight)." Anabel recommends.

    2. Complex carbohydrates are essential

      "They provide our hair with the energy it needs to grow. Snack on healthy carbohydrates (i.e. fresh fruit, crudité or whole wheat crackers) if longer than four hours is left between meals; as energy available to hair cells drops after this amount of time." That being said, Anabel explained that if you are losing your hair because of something other than diet, like stress or an illness, changing what you eat will not remedy it. hair loss reasons female hair loss.

      "Being non-essential tissue, the hair's nutritional requirements are unique – and supplementation can be very helpful in boosting levels of vitamins and minerals available to your follicles. But, they must be taken alongside a healthy diet for full benefit."

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      Anabel recommends looking out for the following ingredients: Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, Copper, Zinc, Selenium, and the essential amino acids, L-Lysine and L-Methionine. Supplements like Hair Gain are specifically for preventing excessive hair loss and contain Zinc and biotin to stimulate healthy hair growth.

    TAKE A SUPPLEMENT

    Anabel recommends looking out for the following ingredients: Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, Copper, Zinc, Selenium, and the essential amino acids, L-Lysine, and L-Methionine. Supplements like these are specifically for preventing excessive hair loss and contain Zinc and biotin to stimulate healthy hair growth.

    Head massage = more than self-care

    Nikita Mehta, Co-founder of Fable & Mane swears by traditional head massage to encourage scalp health as it stimulates blood flow to the area. “Hair oils makes the hair stronger from the roots. It’s really great for anyone who struggles with hair loss and breakage as it strengthens and protects hair follicles and strands, conditions the scalp skin and cultivates healthy hair growth. Applying the right oil with Ayurvedic herbs such as Amla, Ashwagandha, Brahmi, and Dashmool to dry hair as a pre-wash treatment allows the oil to soak into your hair shaft making it less vulnerable to breakage when hair gets wet.”

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    GET SMART ABOUT STYLING

    Yes, that snatched ponytail may look cool, but it could be placing stress on your strands. "Avoid hairstyles that place traction on the hair and hair follicles," Anabel says. She also recommends avoiding heavy styling creams and serums, as they can add unnecessary weight to the hair. It's also well worth avoiding harsh chemical treatments during this time, so steer clear of relaxers and hair dye.

    DON'T FREAK OUT

    Losing your hair can leave you feeling stressed, but Anabel explains that it's incredibly important to realize how common female hair loss is—and that if you are experiencing it, you are not alone and it is nothing to be embarrassed about.

    "One product alone will not remedy hair loss—you must also look at your general health, your diet, as well as optimize the health of your scalp and the condition of growing hairs. Above all, although it is very difficult, be patient and do not despair. Due to the nature of the hair growth cycle, it takes at least six weeks to see an improvement."

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    ***

    This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.