Individuals who suffer from hair loss do so for different reasons, which is why each hair loss patient is given a personal evaluation and treatment plan specific to his or her particular pattern of hair loss. Some factors that can play a role in hair loss include diet, consuming certain medications, environmental pollutants, mineral deficiencies and genetics. For whatever reasons, one-third of the population experiences some form of hair loss, and although the majority of people suffering from hair loss is men, a significant number of women are also dealing with the problem. Before you can address your own issues with hair loss, it is important that you understand as much as you can about it.  Here we provide tips on understanding and preventing hair loss, and hair loss treatments for those who have had the condition confirmed.

1. What Causes hair loss?

Hair loss, also called alopecia, primarily affects the hair that grows on your head, although body hair loss can also occur. Hair loss effects between 30 and 40 percent of the population in just about any country, and it can start at any age. If you are trying to determine the cause of your own hair loss it’s not always an easy diagnosis since causes of hair loss are as individual as the people dealing with it. Generally, you can point to genetics, aging, disease, stress and poor diet as primary causes. Hair loss can be due to one or a combination of causes. Childbirth can cause hair loss, as high hormone levels drop quickly and dramatically with the delivery of a baby, but this type of hair loss is usually self-correcting in the months after the baby is born.

Androgenetic alopecia, or male-pattern balding is the most common type of hair loss. Although not as commonly discussed, it is also identified with female pattern baldness. Primarily, genetics and/or hormone triggered, androgenetic alopecia is hereditary and it can come from either your mother’s side of the family or your father’s side. It can even skip generations. Male pattern balding most commonly affects the crown of the head and the temples, and when the expanding areas of hairless scalp eventually meet up, the entire top of the head is bald. Statistically, this type of hair loss affects 30 percent of men in their 30s, 50 percent of men in their 50s, and 70 percent of men in their 70s.

Female pattern balding surfaces differently, with the hair thinning initially in the front and crown, and moving down the sides of the head. The back of the woman’s head will maintain a full mane. Female pattern baldness is hereditary and generally begins to affect women after menopause.

Alopecia areata:  This type of alopecia takes place when a skin disorder, believed to be caused by an autoimmune malfunction, results in hair growing on the affected areas to fall out. Young people are most often plagued by alopecia areata, and the hair usually grows back when the skin disorder is arrested.

Toxic alopecia: People who suffer from this type of hair loss tend to do so as a result of trauma or stress. Scalp infections, sudden weight loss, illness, drug use, surgery, pregnancy and childbirth can all trigger toxic alopecia. Certain diseases such as diabetes, lupus, and thyroid disease can also trigger hair loss, as well as chemotherapy, medications for heart disease, and radiation therapy.  Stress-related hair loss can occur two or three months after the stressful event triggered the hair loss cycle.

Alopecia universalis or totalis: This type of hair loss occurs over the entire body, including eyelashes and eyebrows. However, hair follicles remain intact, so it is possible to get the hair to grow back from a physiological standpoint. However, reversing this type of hair loss can be very challenging.

Scarring alopecia: This type of hair loss occurs in areas on the body in which the hair follicle is destroyed or permanently altered, such as on the site of scars, areas damaged by skin cancer or areas damaged by burns.

Trichotillomania:  Put simply, trichotillomania is a disorder in which the sufferer has a compulsive urge to pull their hair out. The disorder usually strikes teenagers, but it can start at any time in life. People suffering from this disorder can overcome it with proper treatment.

2. Hair Care.

Obviously, if there were any sure fire ways to completely avoid hair loss, everyone would know about them. There simply are no absolutes when it comes to preventing hair loss, especially since there are so many causes that are out of our control. You may be genetically predisposed, or you may have to take certain medications that list hair loss as a side effect. What you can do is the best you can do – take care of your health through diet and exercise, and take good care of your hair while you can.

Use mild shampoos and wash your hair regularly. Keeping your scalp clean helps to prevent infections and other skin conditions that can inhibit hair growth. Protein shampoos that promise fuller, thicker looking hair don’t actually thicken your hair, and they don’t prevent hair loss. Stick to a mild shampoo that does not strip your hair of natural oils, but does get your scalp clean.

Never brush wet hair. Instead, use an anti-tangle conditioner and comb your hair with a wide tooth comb when it’s wet. Brushing wet hair is very damaging, breaking off hair at the shaft. Brush your hair only when it’s dry, and even then only once or twice a day with a soft-bristled brush. Don’t manhandle it, over-process it, heat it with irons, curlers and dryers any more than is absolutely necessary.  If you must color, try to keep the dyeing process to no more frequently than every six to eight weeks. Hair dyes can be damaging, and you want to preserve your hair.

Even hair styles can be rough on your hair and scalp, and if you’re trying to avoid hair loss then you certainly don’t want to be rough on it. Styles pulled tightly and secured with a rubber band can cause hair loss if the hair is worn that way daily. Tight ponytails, braids, corn rows, can all cause serious hair loss problems when they hair is pulled into these styles every day. Even rolling hair too tightly over heated rollers can lead to hair loss.

There is a medical name for hair loss caused by too-tight hairstyles; “traction alopecia” is the result of pulling hair too tightly into certain hairstyles and it is totally preventable.

3. Understanding Hair Growth.

Hair growth actually has a routine that is pretty much universal. Approximately 90 percent of your hair goes through a two to six year growth phase, and at the same time the remaining 10 percent is in a dormant or resting phase. When the resting face ends and the follicles become active again, new hair growth pushes out old hair, and we shed anywhere from 80 to 150 hairs daily. Hair grows at a rate of about 1 cm per month, and the number of hairs lost daily can depend on your hair type and genetics. Eyebrow hairs shed and replace themselves every 10 weeks or so.

4. Stress.

Stress is damaging to the entire body, not just hair. Hair loss, interestingly, can intensify during high stress periods in life, and it can serve as a good indicator that you might need to slow down and lessen the stress in your life as much as possible.

Sleep deprivation is a common and serious symptom of stress. For many reasons, not just hair care, you need to get a good, healthy night’s sleep regularly.

Regular exercise can also relieve stress. Plus, physical activity gets the blood and oxygen circulating, which is great for the scalp and hair follicles.

5. Diet.

Your body is going to let you in on its dismay when you’re not nourishing it properly, and hair loss is a symptom of poor nutrition. A well-nourished body is most likely going to have beautiful, shiny, healthy hair. Good nutrition can help prevent hair loss, and should be the first policy you abide by in your program to prevent hair loss.  It is believed that hair loss can be slowed down by something as simple as a healthy diet that includes:

— Iron. An essential mineral found in animal food sources (heme iron) and plant food sources (non-heme iron).  Excellent sources of iron include liver, beef, pork, fish, leafy greens vegetables, nuts, legumes and pumpkin seeds. Women who eat a vegetarian diet may need to find other sources of iron to supplement.
— Protein: Essential for healthy living, protein in the diet delivers protein’s benefits to your hair. In fact, a protein deficiency can lead to hair loss, as protein provides the amino acids necessary to grow strong, healthy hair.   Get your dietary protein from seafood, white-meat poultry, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, beans and legumes, pork, soy, lean beef, and protein bars. For vegans and people who do not consume dairy, non-animal protein can be found in tofu, whole wheat bread, peanut butter, brown rice, lentils, quinoa, nuts, beans, broccoli, potatoes, and other foods.
— Foods rich in vitamin C help the body absorb iron. Include your vitamin c source foods with your protein source foods when preparing a meal.
— Omega-3 fatty acids:  The “good” fats, these help maintain healthy hair and play a role in keeping hair moisturized.  You’ll find your Omegas in tuna, salmon, mackerel, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
— Biotin:  B vitamin critical to healthy hair, biotin is contained in brewer’s yeast, bulgur wheat, lentils, sunflower seeds, soybeans, and walnuts.
— Zinc is good for healthy hair, and can be found in oysters, lean beef, peanut butter, turkey and pumpkin seeds.

6. Avoid dietary trends that can actually inhibit hair growth or encourage hair loss.

— Avoid very low-calorie liquid diets that can deplete your energy and trigger hair loss.
— If you consume raw egg whites for any reason, stop. They can harbor bacteria and also contain a substance that binds biotin and prevents its absorption.

7. Learn more about supplements

Think about taking supplements that contain biotin, inositol, iron, vitamin C and saw palmetto, with the approval of your physician. Saw palmetto is an herbal remedy that some experts believe can stimulate hair growth in men.

8. Try this at-home test.

There is a test you can try to determine whether your hair is thinning. Hold 10-20 strands of hair firmly between your thumb and index finger, and pull slowly. If six or more hairs come out easily, you may need further analysis to confirm if you are in the early phase of hair loss. This type of test does not prove that anyone has a hair loss problem, and should only be considered an at-home step to seeing whether or not a consultation with a physician or hair loss specialist is in order.

9. Have some medical tests performed

Your doctor can test your thyroid, test to see if you are iron deficient, and even take skin biopsies to test for any medical conditions that might be causing your hair loss. Also, make sure to discuss any medications you have been taking with your physician.

10. Consider trying hair loss treatments if your best homeopathic prevention isn’t working

Preventing hair loss should be the first concern, but if you suspect your hair loss has moved beyond your control, or have had a hair loss specialist confirm that you do indeed suffer from some form of alopecia or trichotillomania, treatments can slow, halt, or even reverse hair loss. The treatments that will work best for your particular hair loss problem can be determined by a hair loss specialist who can discuss your options for effectively treating the condition.

While this article is mainly concerned with prevention of hair loss, treatments can be used to arrest hair loss. Your first line of defence is in getting an accurate diagnosis. Just because your father went bald doesn’t mean your hair loss has the same causes as his. Temporary causes of hair loss usually correct themselves or can be addressed with proper treatment.  But if you find you have a form of hair loss that can be permanent, some treatments you may want to consider include:

— Hair loss medications are often the first option tried. Both men and women have responded well to Minoxidil (Rogaine), which is applied topically twice a day.  Finasteride (Propecia) for men only is an oral drug obtained through a physician. Minoxidil can halt hair loss and in some patients, even lead to hair regrowth.  Both treatments take about a year before their effectiveness can be determined, and while Finasteride works in about 60 percent of the men who take it, make sure you research its possible side effects before you begin a regimen. Studies have linked Finasteride to potentially irreversible sexual dysfunction. Additionally, Finasteride can adversely affect a fetus and should not be used by anyone who is pregnant or trying to conceive.
— Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help some women who are experiencing hair thinning and hair loss, but should be carefully discussed with your physician before participating.
— When it comes to treating alopecia areata, steroid creams, corticosteroids, or PUVA (a light/drug combination therapy) can sometimes stimulate hair growth, but can cause irritation.  Discuss the pros and cons of these treatments thoroughly with your physician.
— Hair transplants, or micro-transplants are more commonly used for male pattern balding than you might realize. Just one or two hairs at a time are taken from parts of the scalp with plenty of hair growth and moved to areas that are bald or balding, and the results are very natural.
— Hair restoration surgery, almost exclusively performed on men, is the actual transplant of hair and follicles from areas of the head with good hair growth to balding areas. Since the transplant includes the follicle, the transplanted hair is permanent, continues to grow even into old age, and turns gray along with the other hair on your head.  Through micro-transplant surgery, a strip of hair and follicles is taken from the back of the head, and the results are virtually unnoticeable after healing. In areas of the scalp where a scar or damage to the skin has interrupted just a small area of hair growth, a section of scalp can be removed and hair-bearing areas surrounding it can be stitched together, ultimately eliminating the bald spot.
— Laser treatment may stimulate hair growth by increasing blood flow to hair follicles.  Some dermatologists and hair loss treatment centers offer laser treatments in their offices. Laser combs and brushes are also available to purchase and use at home.
— New treatments are continuously being developed to stimulate dormant hair follicles, which leads to thin, tiny non-growing hairs visible on the scalp, growing under the skin, or only visible with a microscope.
— Stem cell therapy may be the next direction for hair loss treatments. Ongoing research has experts optimistic that a cure for hair loss will be found, and in the meantime research for treatment options continues with new solutions becoming available all the time.