If someone's telling you that you're losing your hair because it's hereditary, they're WRONG.
Hair loss happens for a variety of reasons, not just because your grandfather lost his hair at a young age.
Let's face it – most likely, we will ALL have thinning hair as we get older, it's a fact! But if you're having onset early hair loss, you can most-likely blame it on a lot more than your genes. Let's take a look at the most common reasons why we are losing our hair, according to the World Trichology Society and a whole pile of research that has been done to date.
1. Are you losing your hair because it's hereditary?
The truth is, yes and no. There are over 200 different genes in your body that affect whether or not you're going to lose your hair because of your dad. Or your mom, as both parents are equally to blame for your hair genes, so don't go around blaming Pops! Even identical twins can lose their hair at different rates, or none at all.
Your hair type, colour, thickness is not hereditary but genetic. What's the difference? As described by the National Human Genome Research Project, we have over 20,000 genes made up of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Of these, about 99% are the same in every person, with the balance (hereditary) being passed down over generations, defining our hair colour, height, skin colour, and so on. Just as while some forms of cancer can run in your family, most are not linked to your family's genes but may also be affected by your environment, such as tobacco smoke, unhealthy eating habits, or even stress.
2. General health can affect hair loss.
Your general health wellbeing will affect your whole body. If you're not feeling well – whether you have a cold, have high-or-low blood pressure due to illness or stress, you've been partying too much (drinking alcohol, lack of sleep), or feeling blue from the loss of a loved one, your body will be affected. Many times you may not actually see the effects of hair loss, or at least not immediately until it's obvious, but if you're generally unwell, your hair will fall out more than usual. The only remedy here is to assess your overall health and change your lifestyle habits to improve it – eat better, drink water, sleep more, yadda yadda.
Put it this way – when your body is unwell, it will slow down as your energy is needed to help your body heal so you will feel better. When it slows down, you'll feel more tired, less hungry, and will naturally want to sleep more. Sleep is healing. When you rest and sleep, your body heals, focusing on mending what has gone wrong. Boosting your immune system takes a lot of energy! Such is the case for hair growth: The body will cut back on hair production so it can focus on the proper function of organs first. An unhealthy body cannot make hair or retain it as well as a healthy body.
3. Medication can affect hair loss.
So you've been feeling unwell or have a health condition and your health care provider has prescribed some medication. Many medications can affect your immune system, such as (to name a few):
Anti-hypertensives (for high-blood pressure, beta-blockers, diuretics)
Mood stabilizers (that help with anxiety and depression)
Medications for Alzheimers and Parkinsons
Hormone replacement therapy
Weight loss medications (or even drugs to increase appetite)
Chemotherapy medications (adriamycin, docetaxel, fluorouracil, there are a whole list here!)
Even anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Aspirin or Ibuprofen can affect hair loss
This is a complicated one and it can vary from person-to-person. The recommended course of action is to speak with your family doctor and tell them you're experiencing hair loss since you've been on the medication, then they can possibly change to a different medication – don't give up! You have to work with your healthcare providers as it's your body and they cannot know if you're losing hair on top of everything you are experiencing.
4. Hormones can affect hair loss.
This is actually reported as the number one reason why females will experience hair loss: Hormones. It can also affect men, of course – men are not the only ones who have issues with thyroid, testosterone, progesterone. Many times the prescribed medication for hormone balance can over-produce hair growth in both men and women, and then as hormones regulate the excess hair will fall out in faster-than-wanted quantities, which is when we would normally think we're suffering with hair loss.
Even children going through puberty can have hair loss, yet they will typically either not see it or be affected by it, because they have such a high production (faster growth) of hair that it's quickly replaced by new hair.
Diabetes medication is another common culprit for hair loss. Just as menopausal women can have erratic blood glucose levels, so does a person struggling with Diabetes. Naturally, the medications used for normalizing blood glucose and insulin levels can have this effect.
5. DHT and hair loss (a hormone on a class of its own)
DHT (short for dihydrotestosterone) is a sex hormone that is a derivative of testosterone. It could go on the "hormones can affect hair loss" point, yet it's such a massive topic that it really needs its own point, as it's been noted as one of the main causes for hair loss and other health issues – such as increased unexplained weight gain, decreased libido, prostate issues, loss of body hair (not just on the head).
As we age, estrogen levels peak in the mid-20s in women and then decline by 50% as we age and begin their rapid decline in men after their 40s. DHT is one such testosterone hormone by-product, affecting hair loss at different rates – some men can have a 20% decrease by age 20, while some will begin to see its decline by age 30 or 40. When hair loss is not treated at an early stage, it can be extremely difficult to treat because the hair growth cycle weakens and can slow down to a halt, until hair follicles can no longer produce hair.
There are various ways to slow down the body's production of DHT, as high levels of it can shrink your hair follicles and cause their weakened, shorter hair growth cycle. Some of these remedies range from DHT blockers and inhibitors such as the very popular and not-so-natural Finasteride and Minoxidil, to the more natural plant-derived Biotin (vitamin H), Vitamin B12 complex, peppermint and rosemary essential oils, to pumpkin seed oil – and pumpkin seed in general, even when consumed, as we discussed in this article blog post [HERE].
6. Iron deficiency can increase hair loss.
We can suffer from iron deficiency for many reasons. Whether due to health issues, menopause, andropause, stress or diet, iron deficiencies can cause a whole list of issues aside from hair loss – it can make us feel like crap!
Iron deficiencies don't necessarily mean you're anemic. We can also be taking iron tablets, yet our bodies may not properly absorb the iron pills we're taking. Ferritin is the blood protein that is responsible for how much iron you're storing, and usually your ferritin levels are also detected in a blood test, indicating whether the level is below acceptable. Low ferritin levels can most definitely equal hair loss. If you suspect your iron levels are low – whether because you're feeling fatigue, dizzy, or weak – then ask your healthcare practitioner for a full blood work-up and you'll know.
7. Hair loss due to over-processing of hair.
Can blow drying, straightening or curling of hair cause it to fall out? FOR FREAKIN' SURE!
The scalp doesn't like to be heated to such high temperatures. It gets weak. And your hair can naturally dry out by being heated to such high temperatures like those from a hair dryer or curling iron; or being pulled by straighteners. Hair is made up largely of keratin which are proteins, and high heat affects the natural proteins in the hair strand, breaking it down. If you can, avoid over-processing of hair at all costs!
8. The wrong hair care ingredients can cause hair fall.
I think by now most people know that there are quite a few hair ingredients used in hair products – from shampoos and leave-in conditioners, to hair styling agents. One big culprit has been the overuse of silicones, which act as plastic-forming over the scalp and hair. It's like the scalp is being coated with plastic, preventing it from breathing and affecting its natural microbiome. Over time, the hair follicles are weakened and good manufacture of hair is halted. If you see any products with the ingredients "cyclomethicone" or "dimethicone" then you're best to skip these hair-fall causing ingredients immediately! There are much better and natural plant-alternative silicone ingredients, like the ones we use for all our haircare products. You can read more about these [HERE].
9. Why are you washing your hair so often?
We've become accustomed to believing we need a daily shower. We don't. Our skin and hair has a natural microbiome that needs to be respected and left alone to do its own thing. Just like gut flora in our digestive system, our skin (remember, scalp is skin!) has a natural colony of microorganisms that protect it, so washing it often can do more harm than good. Read more about the microbiome in the blog post by global leader cosmetic formulation school, Formula Botanica. [THIS POST] also features an interview that is featured in their ever-so-popular Podcast, Green Beauty Conversations.
Many people feel they just have "greasy hair" and that's why they need to wash their hair daily. This is totally the wrong approach, and counteractive, as the more you cleanse the scalp off its natural sebum (natural protective oils) the more oils the scalp will produce to protect itself. It IS possible to retrain your scalp to "last longer" between washes and anyone can do this! You can learn more about this in our blog post [HERE] - on "why is my scalp so greasy". Read it up!
10. Stress and hair loss, oh my!
Finally, there's stress and we live in a time when we all feel so much of it! We've become multi-taskers who feel there aren't enough hours in the day, and even "rest time" can be stressful as you feel you need to be constantly doing something. Sound familiar?
The body can handle stress for sure, but long-term (chronic) stress has its effects on the whole body, as the body and mind work together like one beautiful machine. Stress can cause heart issues, digestive issues, high-blood pressure, and of course, hair fall. The reason for hair loss related to stress is due to how the body makes hair and how it is affected by the nervous system and proper blood flow. You can read more about this through the US Department of Health & Human Sciences research, [HERE].
What to do about hair loss, and how to find help with hair loss issues.
The very first thing you should do if you're notificing you're losing hair at an alarming rate, is to ask your healthcare provider, who can help you determine the reason for your hair loss. This is super important as well, because you want to first ensure there isn't an underlying condition for your hair loss. Scalp massages and scalp oils are not always going to fix the issue, and it can cause you even more stress to spend $$$ and time trying to figure it out on your own.
So next time someone suggests you're losing your hair because it's hereditary, you know there are more than the fair share of reasons for the issue. Seek help first, then come back and revisit our naturally-sourced products to help strengthen your scalp and hair! Like with everything that affects your body, you will never regret having reached out for help.
- - - -