5 Small Mistakes That Lead to Hair Loss
The problem: Supertight ponytails, buns, braids or any other style that seems glued to your head. They can lead to traction alopecia, or hair loss that results from too much tension on the hair and scalp.
The sign: If you start to notice little hairs along your hairline that aren't being pulled back, that's a sign that the alopecia has started, because the longer hairs that usually hide these short ones have fallen out, says Sejal Shah, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York.
The fix: Make sure your hair still has some movement when you put it back or up, says Pamela Jakubowicz, MD, dermatologist at Montefiore Medical Center in Scarsdale, New York, and make those braids a little looser. That's most important around your hairline, but it's a good idea to make sure you can wiggle the hair around the crown of your head a bit too.
And remember this: Extensions and weaves can also lead to traction alopecia, including clip-in kinds, which should never be left in overnight. The best idea is to give your hair a break from all of those styles–this kind of hair loss is the result of putting tension on your hair over and over, so a few days off here and there will help minimize the potential damage.
Forgetting to Ask About Side Effects
The problem: Certain medications are known to cause hair shedding, like hormonal birth control, blood pressure medications, isotretinoin for acne, cholesterol-lowering drugs and certain antidepressants, says Jakubowicz.
The fix: Ask your doctor whether hair loss is a side effect before you start taking a new medication. If it is, and that's a concern for you, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine that still addresses your underlying problem without adding hair loss as another.
Always Running Hot
The problem: Heat, whether it's from your blow dryer, flatiron, curling iron or whatever other hot tools are in your morning arsenal. It leads to thinning by creating air bubbles within the hair shaft that make individual hairs more prone to breakage.
The sign: You won't see more scalp showing, because this isn't hair loss in the traditional sense (where it comes out from the root), but you'll likely notice that your hair looks thinner or that strands break more easily than they used to.
The fix: Jakubowicz tells her patients to use the cool setting on hair dryers and to avoid other hot styling tools altogether. If you just can't live like that (we get it), follow Shah's advice instead: always coat your hair with a heat-protectant product first, use the medium settings on any hot tools (usually in the 200 degree range) and don't go over the same sections of hair repeatedly–one pass with the flatiron, not five.
And remember this: Use a wide-spaced, even-toothed comb to avoid hair getting stuck in it and breaking.
Not Checking Your Plate
The problem: Deficiencies of certain nutrients have been linked to hair loss, including protein, iron, vitamin B, zinc and selenium. While these are fairly uncommon causes of hair loss ("If your diet is well rounded, it's pretty hard to be vitamin- or nutrient-deficient," says Shah), it does happen.
The fix: Take a look at your diet and make sure you're getting your recommended daily allowances of all the key vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. That doesn't mean you need to go above and beyond those guidelines, because eating twice the recommended protein intake will not give you Connie Britton's hair. (Sorry.) You can find the recommended intakes here.
Skipping Too Many Shades
The problem: Dramatic color changes, which often require harsh chemicals. It can leave your hair weaker and prone to breakage. Meaning, going from platinum blonde to dark brown in one go at the salon is not a wise idea.
The fix: Stay within one or two shades of your natural color, says Jakubowicz, especially if you're prone to hair loss. If you're not experiencing thinning or it's never been a problem for you, you can do more drastic color changes, but do them gradually (one or two shades with each visit to the salon until you reach your desired color) to minimize stress on your hair.