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Why the Heck is My Hair Falling Out!?

The answers to all of your questions

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Unexplained, excessive hair loss can be worrying and scary. The good news is, there’s often a way to fix it.

Everyone loses hair. It happens during your morning shower, while you’re blowing it dry, or when you give it a quick brush—and that’s normal. “On average, we lose fifty to a hundred hairs a day,” says Francesca Fusco, MD, a New York City dermatologist who specializes in hair loss. “That’s just hair going through its cycles, and there will be a new one to replace it.”

Physical stress

Any kind of physical trauma—surgery, a car accident, or a severe illness, even the flu—can cause temporary hair loss. This can trigger a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. Hair has a programmed life cycle: a growth phase, rest phase and shedding phase. “When you have a really stressful event, it can shock the hair cycle, (pushing) more hair into the shedding phase,” explains Marc Glashofer, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.
What to do: The good news is that hair will start growing back as your body recovers.

 

Pregnancy

Pregnancy is one example of the type of physical stress that can cause hair loss (that and hormones). Pregnancy-related hair loss is seen more commonly after your baby has been delivered rather than actually during pregnancy. “Giving birth is pretty traumatic,” says Dr. Glashofer.

What to do: If you do experience hair loss, rest assured that your hair will grow back in a couple of months. “It’s a normal thing and it will work its way out,” Dr. Glashofer says.

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Too much vitamin A

Overdoing vitamin A-containing supplements or medications can trigger hair loss, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The Daily Value for vitamin A is 5,000 International Units (IU) per day for adults and kids over age 4; supplements can contain 2,500 to 10,000 IU.

What to do: This is a reversible cause of hair loss and once the excess vitamin A is halted, hair should grow normally.

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Heredity

Female-pattern hair loss, called androgenic or androgenetic alopecia, is basically the female version of male pattern baldness. “If you come from a family where women started to have hair loss at a certain age, then you might be more prone to it,” says Dr. Glashofer. Unlike men, women don’t tend to have a receding hairline, instead their part may widen and they may have noticeable thinning of hair.

What to do: Like men, women may benefit from minoxidil to help grow hair, or at least, maintain the hair you have, Dr. Glashofer says.

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Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is the medical term for having an underactive thyroid gland. This little gland located in your neck produces hormones that are critical to metabolism as well as growth and development and, when it’s not pumping out enough hormones, can contribute to hair loss. Your doctor can do tests to determine the real cause

What to do: Synthetic thyroid medication will take care of the problem. Once your thyroid levels return to normal, so should your hair.

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Vitamin B deficiency

Although relatively uncommon in the U.S., low levels of vitamin B are another correctible cause of hair loss.

What to do: Like anemia, simple supplementation should help the problem. So can dietary changes. Find natural vitamin B in fish, meat, starchy vegetables, and non-citrus fruits. As always, eating a balanced diet plentiful in fruits and vegetables as well as lean protein and “good” fats such as avocado and nuts will be good for your hair and your overall health.

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Emotional stress

Emotional stress is less likely to cause hair loss than physical stress, but it can happen, for instance, in the case of divorce, after the death of a loved one, or while caring for an aging parent. More often, though, emotional stress won’t actually precipitate the hair loss. It will exacerbate a problem that’s already there, says Dr. Glashofer.

What to do: As with hair loss due to physical stress, this shedding will eventually abate. While it’s not known if reducing stress can help your hair, it can’t hurt either. Take steps to combat stress and anxiety, like getting more exercise, trying talk therapy, or getting more support if you need it.

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