When thinking about hair loss, most people believe it’s predominantly a male problem. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Women experience hair loss just like men do, and although it is seen mostly after women enter their 50s, it can happen much sooner. Understanding how hair grows and the various things that can interfere with that growth may help you determine if you should consult with your physician to learn what can be done.
Just like skin, hair has a life cycle. It goes through three phases. The growth or anagen phase can last as long as eight years. After that, the hair follicles begin to transition (catagen phase) for a few weeks before going dormant in the telogen phase for two to four months. Since the majority of hair, about 80 percent, is in the growth phase at one time, anything that significantly disrupts the growing process will be noticeable in terms of hair loss.
On average, people lose 50–100 hairs per day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Hair loss can be caused by so many additional things that it is difficult to compile a comprehensive list. Some of the most common causes include:
- Physical illness
- Autoimmune diseases
- Excess vitamin A
Aside from growth cycle interruptions, additional hair loss occurs when washing your hair. Those extra strands would have been shed anyway, so there’s no need to forego shampooing, especially since a healthy scalp grows hair more effectively. The causes listed above may be beyond your control, but don’t forget that hair styles and rough treatment can cause breakage and additional hair loss, too, so loosen up that ponytail and take an occasional break from blow drying.
When to Visit Your Doctor
If your scalp becomes noticeably visible, or your part seems wider than it was in the past, your hair may be thinning. Lost locks on your pillowcase or in your comb, or hair that falls out in a circular pattern are clear signs that a visit to the doctor is in order. There are blood tests to check for things like an autoimmune disorder or thyroid condition that may be the culprit.
Androgenetic alopecia, a condition that causes hair follicles to shrink and affects approximately 30 million American women, tends to run in families and causes new hair to grow in thinner. The follicles may also quit growing completely, so reach out to your female family members and have a frank and open conversation about it to see what can be done.
To your hair health,
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