Everyone loses hair.
In fact, it’s normal to lose up to 100 hairs every day. However, anything more than this may be a red flag for something more concerning, experts say, and that goes for both men and women.
“Hair loss is not limited to men,” says Dr. Karen Jordan, a dermatologist who owns and practices at Dermatology Associates of Northwest Indiana. “Lots and lots of women also experience hair loss.”
In fact, about 80 million men and women in the United States have hereditary hair loss—and that’s just one reason that baldness may occur.
The Root of Hair Loss
Though hereditary baldness is the most common cause, affecting both men and women, it may appear differently in each sex.
“For women, the first sign is often a widening part,” Jordan says. “For men, the first sign is a receding hairline and bald patches on the top of the head.”
Other hair disorders include alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes smooth, round patches of hair loss on the scalp, and scarring alopecia, a rare disease that destroys a person’s hair follicles and causes scar tissue to form that then prevents hair from regrowing, she says.
Hair loss also may be a sign of an underlying disease or illness, such as thyroid disease, anemia and ringworm of the scalp. Cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy also cause hair loss.
“Some prescription medicines cause hair loss, such as medications for arthritis, depression, gout, heart problems, high blood pressure, blood thinners and steroids,” Jordan says.
In women, hormones may be the cause of hair loss after pregnancy, due to falling estrogen levels.
“This is temporary and most women see their hair regrow,” Jordan says.
Menopause may cause temporary hair loss in women older than 40, and even some women who take birth control pills may experience it, she says.
A traumatic event also may be the cause.
“Hair loss is also common after the body has undergone a stressful physical experience, too, such as a major surgery, high fever or even the flu,” Jordan says. “This type of hair loss is called telogen effluvium and is not permanent. The hair will grow back on its own without treatment.”
Have poor nutrition? Those who do not eat enough protein may experience hair loss, as well as those who have low iron levels or eat too much vitamin A, Jordan says.
“Hair loss is also common after losing a large amount of weight—more than 15 pounds,” Jordan says. “This is temporary and the hair will regrow.”
Even over-styling hair can lead to hair loss, she says.
“Frequent coloring, bleaching or improper use of relaxers and hair products can damage the hair and cause it to break more easily,” Jordan says.
Too much shampooing and brushing also can be a problem.
“Be very careful with your hair when it’s wet,” Jordan says. “Hair is more elastic and more prone to breakage when it’s wet.”
Medications for Hair Loss
A simple change in diet or habit may prevent hair loss, Jordan says, and hormonal and stress-related causes are often temporary. However, if hair loss is due to an underlying disease or illness, treating that illness may improve the hair loss, she says.
For hair disorders like hereditary baldness and alopecia, medications are available, Jordan says.
“Minoxidil is an over-the-counter medicine that is applied to the scalp, found in products such as Rogaine,” she says. “It stops hair from getting thinner and stimulates hair growth. It’s the only FDA-approved hair regrowth product approved for men and women.”
Another prescription medication, finasteride, is used to treat men with hair loss.
“It’s a pill that helps to slow hair loss and stimulate hair regrowth,” Jordan says. “It works by stopping the body from producing the hormone dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.”
Corticosteroid also helps with hair loss caused by inflammation of the body, and assists with treating alopecia areata.
Surgery for Hair Loss
Another option for those suffering from hair loss are surgical procedures such as hair transplantation, scalp reduction, scalp expansion and scalp flaps.
“Overall, the tips that I give to patients to manage their hair loss are to take good care of your hair,” Jordan says. “Be gentle with it; don’t wear hairstyles or use products and tools that damage the hair.”
She advises those who are worried about hair loss to talk with a physician about any medications that could be contributing to hair loss, and to see a dermatologist if they are losing more than 100 hairs per day.
“If your hair loss is due to a hair disorder, it’s important to identify and treat it as early as possible,” Jordan says.