Why is My Hair Falling Out? 6 Simple Causes of Male Hair Loss

Kristin Hall, FNP
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 9/10/2020

It’s a common situation: after taking a shower or brushing your hair, you notice more hairs than normal around the drain or stuck to the brush.

While everyone sheds a certain amount of hairs 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 hormone, starts to affect the integrity of your hair follicles. It’s also possible to lose hair for a variety of other reasons, from stress to nutritional deficiencies.

Below, we’ve listed some of 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 your hair if you’re prone to hair loss.

Male Pattern Baldness (Androgenic Alopecia)

The most common cause of hair loss in men is male pattern baldness. Commonly referred to as androgenic 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.

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 loss of hair 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. 

How to Treat Male Pattern Baldness

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 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. 

Stress

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. Most people affected by this form of hair loss notice diffuse hair loss, making their entire head of hair look thinner than usual. 

How to Treat Hair Loss From Stress

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 more time passess from the stressful or traumatic event. 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 counselling 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. 

Dietary Issues

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, or lacking in other essential nutrients, you may experience some level of hair loss.

How to Treat Hair Loss From Dietary Issues

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. 

Medication

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 hypertension.

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.

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 work by targeting fast-growing cells, are linked to a type of hair loss called anagen effluvium. 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. 

How to Treat Hair Loss From Medication

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. 

Medical Conditions

Hair loss can be triggered by a variety of medical conditions, including diabetes, lupus, thyroid disease and anemia. Certain skin infections, such as ringworm, can also cause hair loss when they develop in the scalp.

It’s also possible for 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.

How to Treat Hair Loss From a Medical Condition

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 the hair loss, options such as minoxidil may be effective at helping you maintain and regrow hair. 

Hair Care Products and Devices

Although most hair care and styling products are safe, certain shampoos, dyes, chemicals and styling 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 products and treatments that can contribute to hair loss. They include:

  • At-home coloring, perming, chemical straightening and hair relaxing products, all of which have the potential to damage hair. Instead of using these at home, it’s better to find a salon that specializes in these services.

  • Curling irons, flat irons and hot combs. These devices all heat your hair, creating the potential for damage and hair loss.

  • Hair dryers. 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 hair dryer to limit the potential for damage.

  • Shampoos with moisture-stripping ingredients. 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.

  • Certain hairstyles. Hairstyles that are overly tight, such as 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.

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. 

How to Treat Hair Loss From Hair Care Products

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 men’s shampoo

Factors That Don’t Cause Hair Loss

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. 

In Conclusion

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 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 products to treat hair loss, including prescription medications such as finasteride, subject to approval following an online consultation with a licensed healthcare provider.

Learn More About Male Pattern Baldness

Worried you might be losing your hair? Our male pattern baldness overview explains the main causes and symptoms of male pattern baldness, as well as what you can do to treat hair loss and maintain the hair you have. 

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.