Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/27/2021
It’s a common situation: after taking a shower or brushing your hair, you notice a bit more of your hair falls out more than normal and collects around the drain or is stuck to your brush. You may even start to wonder how much hair loss is normal.
While everyone sheds a certain amount of hair daily (for most people, it’s around 100), losing more hair than normal could be a sign that you’re beginning to lose your hair as a result of a health condition like male pattern baldness.
Hair loss due to male pattern baldness occurs when DHT, a male androgen hormone, starts to affect the integrity of your hair follicles and disrupts your hair growth cycle.
myths about hair lossIt’s also possible to lose hair for a variety of other reasons, from stress to nutritional deficiencies.
If your hair is falling out, there can be any number of permanent and temporary causes, from genetic conditions to hormonal imbalances to severe stress.
In fact, hair loss can occur for any of the following reasons:
Male pattern baldness. High levels of the DHT can cause damage to your hair follicles, eventually leading to your hair falling out. This condition is typically genetic.
Stress. Stress from traumatic events can cause excessive shedding, known as telogen effluvium.
Poor diet. Eating an unbalanced diet or following a crash diet fad may cause rapid weight loss, but you may also notice your hair temporarily falling out too.
Certain medications. Chemotherapy, high blood pressure medicine, blood thinners, beta blockers, oral retinoids, thyroid medications and more are all linked to hair loss.
Medical conditions. Certain medical conditions, such as lupus, thyroid conditions, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, skin infections and more, can be the cause of hair loss.
Hair care products and tight hairstyles. Repeated use of hair products and styling tools may weaken your hair, causing it to become brittle and prone to breakage.
Below, we’ve explained the reasons why your hair may be falling out. We’ve also looked at some of the treatment options that are currently available for maintaining and restoring healthy hair if you’re prone to thinning hair or hair loss.
One of the most common causes of hair loss in men is male pattern baldness. Commonly referred to as androgenetic alopecia, this condition usually begins in our 20s or thirties. By age 50, more than 50 percent of men are affected to some degree.
If you’re prone to male pattern baldness, you’ll usually notice your hairline starting to recede and become more mature. Some men also lose hair around the crown — a form of hair loss referred to as vertex baldness.
Male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of your genetics and your body’s production of certain hormones.
As we’ve covered in our guide to DHT and male hair loss, hair loss from male pattern baldness is the result of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an androgenic steroid that your body produces as a byproduct of testosterone.
According to StatPearls, DHT plays a role in a variety of processes in the body. Before birth, it plays a role in developing male genitalia.
During puberty, it helps you develop male secondary sexual characteristics like a deep voice and body hair.
However, DHT can also affect your hair follicles. If you have a genetic sensitivity, the DHT that’s produced by your body can target your hair follicles and cause them to shrink in a process that’s known as miniaturization.
Over time, these hair follicles stop producing new hairs, resulting in permanent bald patches on the affected part of your scalp.
While every male produces DHT, not everyone is equally sensitive to its effects on hair. Men who aren’t genetically prone to male pattern baldness can maintain a complete head of hair well into old age. For other men, however, even a small amount of DHT can lead to significant hair loss.
Dealing with male pattern baldness can be a stressful experience, especially if it strikes early. If you’re worried that you might have male pattern baldness, you can use our list of the common early signs of baldness to check.
Thankfully, if you’re genetically prone to male pattern baldness, options are available. One of the most effective treatments for male pattern baldness is a medication called finasteride, which lowers the level of DHT in your body by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to DHT.
If your body produces lower levels of DHT, you’ll typically lose less hair.
Finasteride is an oral medication designed for daily use, with results usually showing after two to three months.
You can learn more about finasteride in our guide to finasteride results. Like other medications, finasteride has the potential to cause certain side effects, although most of these only affect a small percentage of users.
There are also several other medications and products that can help to treat hair loss from male pattern baldness.
Minoxidil is a topical solution that can stimulate hair growth for thinning hair or bald spots and help you keep the hair that you already have.
While it doesn’t block DHT like finasteride, it does improve the supply of blood to your hair follicles, helping to deliver nutrients that can stimulate consistent, steady growth.
Like finasteride, minoxidil needs to be applied daily over the course of several months to be fully effective.
Several studies, including this 2015 study published in Dermatologic Therapy, indicate that minoxidil works best at stopping hair loss when it’s used at the same time as finasteride.
Other non-prescription products, such as ketoconazole shampoo, appear to improve hair growth in men affected by male pattern baldness, although the results of studies aren’t as conclusive as they are for finasteride or minoxidil.
Although it’s less common than male pattern baldness, feeling overly stressed can cause you to lose hair. This type of hair loss is referred to as telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium usually occurs after a traumatic event, or simply during periods of your life in which you’re subjected to consistently high levels of stress.
This stress can either be emotional or physiological, with common causes including emotional disorders, illnesses and surgery.
Stress-related hair loss tends to affect the entire scalp at once, meaning your hair won’t fall out in a typical receding hairline pattern, but you may notice excessive shedding.
Most people affected by this form of hair loss notice diffuse hair loss, making their entire head of hair look thinner than usual.
Unlike hair loss from male pattern baldness, stress-related hair loss isn’t linked to hormones like DHT. This means that hormonal medications like finasteride that block DHT aren’t effective.
Most of the time, telogen effluvium improves gradually as time passes from stressful or traumatic events.
According to the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, hair shedding takes three to six months to cease, with most “cosmetically significant” regrowth taking 12 to 18 months.
Depending on the source of stress, options like counseling and lifestyle changes may also help to stop further hair loss.
Also, topical medications like minoxidil may help to improve hair growth and speed up the recovery process.
Telogen effluvium, the form of stress-related hair loss we covered above, can also develop as a result of dietary issues.
Crash diets and eating disorders may cause temporary hair loss in both men and women. If you have recently lost a lot of weight very quickly or stopped eating as much as normal due to stress or another factor, this could affect your hair.
As we’ve covered in our guide to lifestyle factors and hair growth, vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, biotin and vitamin D are all linked to optimal hair health.
If your diet is lacking in these (such as an iron deficiency), or if you are lacking other essential nutrients, you may experience some level of hair loss.
If you believe that your diet or rapid weight loss is causing your hair to fall out, it’s best to talk to a healthcare provider.
Depending on your personal situation, they may recommend changes to your diet and lifestyle to maintain your hair and help you regrow the hair that you’ve lost.
In some cases, topical medications such as minoxidil may also be effective at speeding up hair regrowth after rapid weight loss or a dietary issue.
Certain medications can interrupt your hair’s natural growth cycle and cause you to lose more hair than normal.
Hair loss is most commonly associated with drugs used to treat cancer, such as chemotherapy medications.
However, it can also be triggered by medications used to treat conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
Medications that affect your hormonal levels can also affect your hair growth (for example, some women experience hair loss when they take contraceptives, such as birth control pills).
There are two types of hair loss caused by medication. The first is telogen effluvium, the form of emotional or physiological stress-related hair loss that we covered above.
The second is called anagen effluvium, a form of hair loss that occurs during the hair’s growth phase.
According to an article in Drugs - Real World Outcomes and a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, medications such as certain anticoagulants (blood thinners), beta blockers, anticonvulsants, oral retinoids, amphetamine stimulants and antithyroid medications are all linked to telogen effluvium hair loss.
Chemotherapy drugs, which target fast-growing cells, are linked to a hair loss called anagen effluvium, according to a study published in StatPearls.
As well as affecting the growth of hair on your scalp, medications used in chemotherapy can also stop the growth of your eyebrows and body hair.
Most of the time, if you lose hair due to your use of a certain medication, it will grow back on its own after you stop taking the drug that’s responsible for the hair loss.
In other cases, you might be able to avoid hair loss by adjusting your dosage -- something to discuss with your healthcare provider.
If you’re convinced that a medication you’re prescribed is causing hair loss, do not stop using it without consulting your healthcare provider.
Instead, talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. Depending on your specific situation, there may be a way to control or limit your hair loss.
For some forms of medication-related hair loss, treatments like minoxidil may help you maintain and regrow hair. Again, this is something you’ll need to discuss with your healthcare provider.
Hair loss can be triggered by a variety of medical conditions, including diabetes, lupus, thyroid disease, hormonal changes and anemia.
Certain skin infections, such as ringworm, can also cause hair loss when they develop in the scalp.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, it’s also possible for an autoimmune disease to cause a form of hair loss called alopecia areata, in which the immune system targets the hair follicles.
Alopecia areata usually causes small, round patches of hair loss, rather than the pattern hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.
Because a wide range of medical conditions can contribute to hair loss, there isn’t one treatment option for each case.
Instead, treatment for hair loss caused by a medical condition typically involves treating the primary condition first, then taking action to improve hair growth.
For some conditions, such as skin infections, treatment might be as simple as a short course of medication. For others, you may need to use one or several medications for the long term.
If you have a medical condition that could cause hair loss, it’s best to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider.
In addition to treating the condition responsible for hair loss, options such as minoxidil may be effective at helping you maintain and regrow hair.
Although most hair care products are safe, certain shampoos, dyes or chemicals products that you might use at home could damage your hair and/or scalp, resulting in a form of temporary hair loss.
In a list of tips for managing hair loss, the American Academy of Dermatology lists several hair care products and treatments that can contribute to hair loss. They include:
At-home coloring, perming, chemical straightening and hair relaxing products all have the potential to damage hair.
Instead of using these at home, it’s better to find a salon that specializes in these services.
Some shampoos contain ingredients that can strip the moisture from your hair, resulting in damage and hair loss.
If you think your shampoo is affecting your hair health, consider switching to a gentle shampoo.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no conclusive scientific evidence to show that hair gel, wax or pomade is linked to hair loss.
Although these products might make your scalp oily and affect the appearance of your hair, they won’t cause you to go bald.
Similar to at-home hair care products that can dry out and damage your hair, certain hair styling devices and hairstyles that you may use every day could be setting you up for hair loss -- without you even knowing it.
These devices all heat your hair, creating the potential for damage and hair loss. The higher the heat, the dryer your hair can get, leaving you with hair that is more likely to break.
Luckily, this damage isn’t to your follicle, so any hair loss is not permanent.
Just like curling irons and hot combs, hair dryers can heat your hair, leading to damage and hair loss.
Whenever possible, dry your hair using a towel or use the lower heat settings on your hairdryer to limit the potential for damage or breakage.
Tight hairstyles, such as braids, cornrows, dreadlocks or a man bun, can pull on your hair and damage the follicles.
As we’ve covered in our guide to growing your hair out, these can result in a form of hair loss called traction alopecia.
Although hair dyes, shampoos and other products can cause you to lose hair temporarily, they aren’t linked to male pattern baldness.
This means that your hair should grow back on its own after you stop using the product that’s damaging or irritating your hair.
To stimulate hair growth, you can use a non-prescription medication like minoxidil. It may also help to switch from a harsh shampoo to one that’s formulated for hair loss prevention, such as our saw palmetto-based hair thickening shampoo.
If you’re losing hair, it’s likely caused by one of the factors we’ve listed above. All of these hair loss causes are well documented, with real scientific data to support each one and a range of treatment options that may be helpful for you.
Unfortunately, there are also a lot of persistent myths about hair loss. If you’re starting to lose your hair and aren’t sure why, you can rest assured that it most likely isn’t caused by any of these factors:
Wearing a hat. Contrary to popular belief, wearing a hat doesn’t contribute to hair loss.
Your mother’s father. While genetics certainly play a role in hair loss, there’s no proof that your mother’s father’s head of hair will determine whether or not you go bald.
Masturbation. There’s absolutely no scientific evidence that masturbating causes you to lose hair. Similarly, having sex doesn’t contribute to male pattern baldness or affect your hair in any way.
Using gel, wax or pomade. As we mentioned above, there’s no reliable scientific proof to show that these products cause you to lose hair.
Sugar. While there’s evidence that diabetes can cause temporary hair loss, there’s no reliable scientific evidence that sugar consumption affects your levels of DHT or causes you to lose your hair prematurely.
A variety of factors can cause you to lose your hair. Some, such as male pattern baldness, can result in permanent hair loss.
If you think you’re prone to male pattern baldness, it’s best to talk to a healthcare provider or dermatologist about treatment options as soon as possible to maintain your hair.
Others, such as stress or the use of certain medications, can result in types of temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium or anagen effluvium.
This type of hair loss usually reverses after you successfully treat its primary cause.
If you’re worried about hair loss, talk to a healthcare provider. We offer a range of hair loss treatment products, including prescription medications such as finasteride, subject to approval following an online consultation with a licensed healthcare provider.
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