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Our hair is a huge part of how we’re perceived in this world, and losing it can make us feel frustrated and helpless. If you’re reading this article and dealing with these feelings, you’re not alone!
Hair thinning is defined as mild to moderate hair loss, and it can happen to people of any gender or age. But the good news is that it doesn’t necessarily lead to baldness, and, depending on the cause, it may be treatable. Below, we cover the possible causes as well as common treatment options.
Keep in mind that while it’s great to stay informed about your health, there are many causes of hair thinning and the best course of action is always to seek professional help for diagnosis and treatment.
Treating based on self-diagnosis could lead to other problems down the road, so think of this as an intro guide to inform your conversation with a professional!
|Cause||Other symptoms to look out for||Possible treatment|
|an autoimmune disease or immune deficiencies||Fever, fatigue, rashes, muscle-ache, swelling and redness||depends on disease, but corticosteroids could be a good fit|
|hormonal changes, including pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, birth control||many, but can include sudden weight or mood changes, muscle/joint pain or stiffness, lump of fat between shoulders||Spironolactone (Aldactone)|
|vitamin deficiencies||signs are numerous, but can include poor night vision, bone and joint pain, irregular heartbeat and slow-healing wounds||vitamin Supplements|
|thyroid issues||menstrual or weight changes, stomach issues, heart palpitations, depression||talk to a doctor about blood testing and medication|
|skin/scalp infection||inflamed, scaly scalp; acne-like marks, hard nodes on hair||depends on the infection, but ketoconazole shampoo may work|
|excessive stress||stress can have many physical symptoms, ranging from headaches to heart palpitations||check out our guide for reducing stress.|
|eating disorders||weight change, change in skin condition, loss of tooth enamel, and more||please talk with a doctor or therapist!|
|using harsh products on hair, i.e. dyes, bleaches, perms, relaxers, styling products||scalp irritation or damage; dry, damaged hair||discontinue use, possibly platelet-rich plasma|
|regularly wearing your hair too tightly||scalp irritation, hair breakage||phenylephrine|
How to know if it’s alopecia areata
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss (usually on the scalp but other parts of the body can also be affected). It’s characterized by patchy hair loss, sudden onset, and most cases start before a person hit their 30s.
As you seek out treatment, remember to be patient with yourself. Medications work differently for everyone, and you may not find your perfect treatment on your first go.
Additionally, many hair growth medicines don’t provide permanent results. Meaning that if you stop using them, any positive results will fade.
Minoxidil is a well-known hair growth treatment. Give it at least 2 months to start seeing hair regrowth, with topical application to the scalp twice daily for optimum results. As mentioned above, when you stop using Minoxidil, expect to see results diminish.
Possible side effects of Minoxidil
- increased heart rate
- difficulty breathing
- edema (swelling)
- seborrheic dermatitis
- scalp itching
Topically applied phenylephrine makes follicle muscles contract, which can increase the hair’s resistance to falling out (say from brushing or other tension). One study used a formulation that decreased shedding from brushing by almost 40 percent.
Phenylephrine may affect the heart, so talk with a doctor before use.
Platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP)
PRP injections are a possible option, especially for those not responding to topical hair restoring treatments.
Made with isolated platelets (cell fragments) taken from a person’s own blood, the injections are have a healing, rejuvenating effect. (You might’ve heard about Kim Kardashian’s recent “vampire facial” — those were PRP injections.)
There isn’t a ton of conclusive research on PRP injections for hair growth specifically but one small study found significant increase in hair growth after just 4 weeks of treatment. It also has few side effects because the body is unlikely to reject its own blood.
Spironolactone works by inhibiting androgens like testosterone which can speed up hair loss for women. So it’s commonly recommended for people with hormonal issues.
However, pregnant people or people thinking about getting pregnant shouldn’t take Spironolactone as it can create problems for newborns. It can also cause weight, mood, and energy changes.
Finasteride is a prescription-only drug for male bodied people that can be taken orally to slow hair loss and possibly increase hair growth.
Most people will notice a difference within 3 months of use. Finasteride is also not a permanent fix, typically those who stopped taking the drug lose the hair gained during its use within 1 year.
Dangerous for female-bodied people
It’s important to note that female-bodied people, especially pregnant people, should stay far away from this drug as it can have dangerous side effects.
While some swear by the methods listed below, none have enough research behind them to be proven effective, so please proceed with caution if you choose to move forward. As always, make sure to patch test new products to avoid any widespread reactions.
Scalp massage is a popular remedy for hair growth in internet spaces, and one small study did indeed find that 4 minutes of scalp massage with a device daily for 6 months resulted in increased thickness of hair follicles.
However, that’s not the same as increasing the density of hair, or the number off hairs on your head. Thus, this might not be the best solution for some on its own.
There have been some small studies which indicate that onion juice topically applied to the scalp can kickstart hair growth. Though the research is slim, it’s possible that the sulphur in onions could promote collagen production, increase circulation, and decrease inflammation in the scalp.
While low-level laser light therapy hasn’t been tested on general hair thinning, some studies have shown it to be effective in increasing hair growth in men and women with androgenetic alopecia. Though pricey, it’s a noninvasive treatment and has no side effects to speak of.
There have been a few small studies indicating that essential oils could affect hair growth. One study found similar hair growth results between patients treated with rosemary oil and minoxidil 2 percent.
Another study had participants who were experiencing hair loss massage essential oils like thyme, lavender, rosemary and cedarwood mixed with carrier oils like jojoba and grapeseed oil into their scalps daily for 7 months. They found that 44 percent of those using the essential oils had increased hair growth at the end of the study.
Essential oils can cause chemical burns to the skin, so be sure to dilute with a carrier oil if you choose to use this method.
While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
They also make shampoos loaded with certain antioxidants and amino acids that promote a healthy scalp and thus thicker hair. You can grab one over the counter, but you can also talk to your doctor about prescription versions if you feel you need extra strength.
Try to minimize stress
Stress and hair loss can become a vicious cycle: stress can lead to hair loss, which can lead to more stress, which can lead to more hair loss… but the good news is that there are proven ways to stop the cycle in its tracks. Meditation, calming music, and even laughter are scientifically proven methods to de-stress.
Sometimes vitamin and nutrient deficiencies cause hair loss. However, it’s best to talk to a medical professional before you go vitamin or supplement shopping.
Iron, folic acid, and zinc
While it’s true that hair needs iron, folic acid, and zinc to grow and remain healthy, there’s conflicting evidence as to whether taking these supplements will help stop hair loss.
Omega-3 and omega-6 supplements
Don’t skimp out on your nuts, fish, and leafy greens! Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important to keep your brain and heart healthy and fortify your body against inflammation. Besides hair loss, severe deficiency can lead to skin issues and even arthritis, so be sure to supplement your diet if necessary.
There isn’t enough evidence to recommend supplementing for most people. Isn’t it a relief to have one less vitamin to worry about?
Hair thinning is caused by a variety of conditions and circumstances and there are many ways to treat it (both medically and naturally).
Finding the right treatment will depends on figuring out the underlying cause. And for that, you’ll need to work with a medical professional. Otherwise you may end up spending a lot of money on something that was never going to work in the first place.
It’s natural to feel anxious about hair thinning, but for most people, it’s not indicative of baldness to come. Remember that you are the most intimate with your own reflection, so the problem probably isn’t as obvious as you think.