1. You're stressed out
Whether it's physical or emotional, stress can have an enormous impact on where your body sends its resources to—and when you're really overwhelmed, your scalp is pretty low down on the list of priorities. Stress that affects your sleep patterns or appetite, or upsets the balance of your hormones, is likely to be affecting your thinning hair—and the catch? The loss of hair ends up stressing you out a million times more. Find stress-busting techniques that work for you—anything from mindfulness or therapy, to a super hot bath and a Netflix binge—and do your best to address problems before they get out of control. The better you feel, the easier your hair will restore itself.
2. Over-styling your hair
If you're the kind of gal who rocks a ballerina bun or tight braids all day, every day, your hair may be thinning as a result of traction alopecia—a condition where the tension caused by particular hairstyles results in patches of fine or thinning hair, particularly around your hairline and behind your ears. Sounds familiar? Start wearing your hair down now—if you spot it early and stop wearing such restrictive styles, your hair should recover by itself; but if the follicles are too far gone, you'll need to speak to a dermatologist or a hair loss specialist to see if any aspect of the damage is reversible. On a similar note, heat styling doesn't cause the same type of damage, but it's just as much of a culprit when it comes to making hair brittle and prone to breaking, so ease off with the straightener/tong/blowdryer situation, too.
3. Your follicles are blocked
Awesome hair requires an awesome foundation, so it's unsurprising that when your scalp isn't looking or feeling healthy, the locks that grow out of it won't play ball either. Choose products that are designed to make your hair and scalp stay strong and thriving, and use a clarifying shampoo regularly—most experts suggest every two to three weeks—to rid your scalp of all of the build-up from both your products and your body's daily processes (dead skin cells and oils, to be precise).
4. Your diet needs changing
You are what you eat is the oldest saying in the book, but it's also totally true—when you're not putting the good stuff into your body, the outside will reflect it. Hair loss caused by nutritional deficiencies usually applies to extremely restrictive diets (it's common in those with eating disorders like anorexia, for instance), or simply diets where you're eating enough, but not of the right things. Hair is made of protein, so it needs plenty of that to thrive, and it doesn't hurt to top up on omega 3s, vitamins A, D and E, and zinc. Fish, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and lean meats like chicken are a great place to start.
5. You're anemic
In addition to all of the above, a lack of iron, which can develop into full-blow anemia, can also hit your hair hard. It's especially common in women, because in addition to all the other joys your period brings, you lose a shit ton of iron at that time of the month. But it can also affect people with conditions like Crohns, which prevents them from absorbing iron efficiently. Eating enough iron isn't always easy, especially if you're a vegetarian or vegan, as the most common source of iron is red meat, but leafy greens like spinach, pulses like beans and lentils, and enriched cereals can all make a dent. You could also consider taking iron supplements—just be sure to speak to your doctor to assess your levels and make sure there are no underlying issues.
6. You just had a baby
Post-partum hair loss is a) 100 percent normal and b) absolutely nothing to worry about. Basically, all those hormones that give you that pregnancy "glow" start to rebalance once your baby is here, so the lovely thick locks you've become so used to over the last nine months are just going back to normal. It can look dramatic, sometimes even causing hair loss in clumps, but by the time your baby turns one, you should find that your hair is restored to its former glory (although not quite as much glory as your voluminous pregnancy hair, we're afraid).
7. You changed contraceptions
Seeing as pregnancy hormones cause changes in your hair, it kinda makes perfect sense that changing or stopping your contraceptive pill can have a similar effect, no? Women who are susceptible to hormonal hair loss often see that their hair is thinning when taking a variety of pill with high progesterone levels, or in the weeks after they decide to come off the Pill altogether. The good news is that contraceptive-related hair usually reverses itself once your body has become used to the make-up of the new tablets (or the fact it's not getting any tablets at all), but see your gynecologist if you're worried for any reason that your birth control might not be right for you.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.