What Causes Hair Loss?

Toppik on 19 June 2017

Hair loss (alopecia) is a problem that affects men and women for a variety of reasons. In some cases, this physical change is gradual and less obvious, and the individual may make peace with their altered appearance over the years. In other instances, the changes are swift and dramatic, and can profoundly affect a person's sense of self-esteem and identity.

woman thinning hair supporting

Whatever the case, if you are experiencing hair loss you may have a lot of questions including 'what causes hair loss', and 'what can I do about it?'

Losing your hair can be a lonely experience. You may not feel comfortable discussing it to find out the truth about what causes hair loss. But it is natural to want to know what causes hair loss, to understand why it is happening, and what options are available to you.

Different types of hair loss causes

If you are wondering what causes hair loss, it is helpful to know that there is not one singular reason but a variety of factors that can contribute to the onset of hair thinning.

You may find yourself identifying with one of the circumstances below, which may provide context to your situation and a starting point from which you can open a discussion with your GP. Here are some of the most likely hair loss causes:

  • A Major Body Stress (Telogen Effluvium): A significant physiological stress, such as surgery, can cause hair loss in this condition. Hair loss may occur in the months following the stressful event, and hair typically grows back within the natural cycles of rejuvenation (6-24 months).
  • Drug Side Effects: Check the side effects of any medication you are currently taking, as many prescription drugs such as amphetamines, blood thinners (Warfarin), lithium and ribavirin may contribute to hair loss.
  • Fungal Infections of the Scalp (Tinea Capitis): One of the most common hair loss causes in children, this condition involves hair breaking off close to the scalp, which becomes scaly and flaky.
  • Hair Styling Damage (Traumatic Alopecia): Harsh and damaging hairdressing techniques and chemicals used too frequently on their hair causes hair loss in many women.
  • Male Pattern Hair Loss (Androgenetic Alopecia): One of the most common reasons for hair thinning in men is male pattern hair loss, which relates to hormone levels and genetics.

The Most Common of Hair Loss Causes: Male Pattern Hair Loss

Who does it affect?

As the name suggests, this condition affects males only, although there is a less common female equivalent. Male pattern hair loss can occur at any age from about 20 years onwards. It affects approximately 20% of men in their twenties, 30% in their thirties, and more than 40% once they reach their forties, according to the Andrology Australia article, Male Pattern Hair Loss. By 60 years of age, almost all men will experience some of the signs of male pattern hair loss.

Do genes play a part?

Another common name for this condition is Hereditary Pattern Hair Loss, and there is no doubt that a predisposition to male pattern hair loss is passed down genetically. However, it can certainly skip generations or be less or more severe. There is incredibly complex biology at play in the passing down of this condition, and the reasons for this are still not completely understood.

Read more: Hair Loss Treatments for Non-Hereditary Alopecia

What are the causes?

balding man supporting

Ultimately, what causes hair loss in Androgenetic Alopecia can be narrowed down to two factors: genetic predisposition, and changes in the male sex hormone levels. Of all the hormones (collectively called androgens), testosterone is the primary culprit. Testosterone, responsible for the growth of pubic and facial hair at adolescence, is also essential to the regrowth of scalp hair follicles. As testosterone levels decrease with age, the hair follicles become less inclined to regrow.

Will male pattern hair loss affect my general health?

This condition does not have an impact on a person's general health or well-being. If you suffer symptoms of ill-health that coincide with the loss of hair, please see your doctor as a precautionary measure.

What are the signs of male pattern hair loss?

Picking up on the early signs and getting treatment is the best way to keep your hair, as it is much easier to retain the hair you have than to regrow it. As the name suggests, there is a pattern to the development of male pattern hair loss. First, the hairline thins. Next, the hair thins in the crown area. If you always had a double crown, you may notice that this has disappeared. The hair at the front may begin receding in an “M” shape. Following this, the crown may visibly thin, before the whole front of your hair back to the crown disappears completely, leaving a horseshoe-shaped area of bare skin.

Want to know more?

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