What It Means When Your Hair Falls Out
What's going on: Drastic dietary changes, like suddenly going super high-protein or trying one of those "cleanses" you know you shouldn't have done can impact the health of your hair. "When the body thinks it's not getting the nutrition it needs, it's going to starve the stuff that it thinks doesn't matter as much," says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology and professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "Your internal organs matter. Your brain matters. Your hair? Not as much." The result: About three months after you've started a new diet or done a cleanse, you'll see a lot more hair coming out than usual.
How to fix it: Once you get your diet back on track, your hair loss should return to the normal 100 or so strands per day. Keep these hair-healthy foods in mind next time you head to the grocery store.
What's going on: Major psychological stress, whether it's chronic work anxiety, the end of a relationship or the loss of a loved one, can trigger hair loss, says Ranella Hirsch, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Boston. "It's one way of the body saying, 'Hey, we have to work on this,'" she says. (Hair loss can also happen if you've been through a major physical stressor, like pregnancy or illness.)
How to fix it: Figure out the best way to keep your stress in check, whether that means seeking the help of a therapist, meditating, exercising, etc. Once you're in a better place psychologically, the hair loss should start to resolve itself, Nazarian says.
What's going on: There are a handful of health conditions that can lead to hair loss, including thyroid issues and autoimmune conditions. In fact, the most common cause of hair loss that Nazarian sees is alopecia areata, a localized form of hair loss (think quarter-size bald patches) caused by your body's immune system attacking your hair follicles—experts aren't exactly sure what triggers it, but it's believed that genetics play a role.
How to fix it: Talk to your doctor to see what internal issues could be leading your hair to fall out. With some issues, like lupus, the hair loss may not be reversible, but Hirsch says that most commonly, once you solve the underlying problem, your hair will return to normal. With alopecia areata, the most common course of treatment is topical or injectable steroids applied to the affected area.
What's going on: Hair loss is a common side effect of many medications, but there are some that are more prone to causing it. Those include blood thinners like heparin and Coumadin, blood pressure meds like ace inhibitors and beta-blockers, thyroid medications, cholesterol drugs and some antidepressants, Hirsch says.
How to fix it: Talk to your prescribing doctor about whether there are alternative medications that will treat your condition just as effectively but won't cause your hair to fall out. Once you switch, you should start to see regrowth within a few months.
What's going on: If your go-to hairstyle is tight braids or a ponytail pulled back so tight it doubles as a natural facelift, you could be the source of your own hair troubles. It's called traction alopecia, and it's when the hair along your hairline starts to fall out because there's too much consistent force pulling on it, Nazarian says.
How to fix it: Simply loosening up your hairstyles won't solve the problem, but topical hair growth products, like those containing minoxidil, can make a difference. Ask your dermatologist what products he or she recommends. If you want to keep your hair as full as possible, check out these five other habits that can lead to hair loss too.