why does my hair fall out in clumps
First, let s debunk a few myths: Shampooing, brushing and towel drying your hair aren t making it fall out. People associate these things with hair loss because they see the hair come away. But these aren t the cause, says Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist with the Cleveland Clinic. In fact, Piliang says shampooing less frequently may make things worse. It can lead to dandruff and scalp inflammation, which can exacerbate hair loss, she says. Hats and ponytails also get a bum rap. If a ponytail is worn so tightly it pulls on your eyes, that could damage your hair and lead to breakage, Piliang acknowledges, adding that tight braiding, extensions and weaves which yank on small groups of hair follicles can also cause problems. But generally wearing a ponytail or a hat won t cause hair loss, she says. Men and women lose their hair for different and interrelated reasons, ranging from genetic factors to a poor diet, says Dr. Adam Friedman, director of dermatologic research at the Montefiore-Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. It s rare for hair loss to be caused by just one thing, he says. To understand these causes, it s helpful to know how your hair works. Similar to the way your skin s cells turn over, your hair is constantly sprouting, growing and falling out. Guys with healthy hair shed between 60 to 80 follicles a day, while women lose roughly 100, Friedman says.
When it comes to male- and female-pattern baldness the most common types of hair loss certain hairs grow in shorter and shorter over time, and eventually stop growing back at all. This is usually the result of a genetic sensitivity to hormones in the skin, Friedman says. In men, you see this most in the front and sides of the scalp, he explains. In women, it s more centrally located and diffuse. Friedman says this is a slow process, one that can take years to become apparent. For these people, drugs that block the production of skin hormones or keep hairs from falling out such as minoxidil and finasteride tend to work well, Friedman says. But both are better at stopping hair loss than they are at regrowing hair. If you re bald and want treatment, there s often not much you can do, he says. For this reason, it s imperative that you see a doctor as soon as you notice a problem. Poor nutrition is another potential contributing factor. Friedman says low levels of iron, vitamin D, some B vitamins and zinc have all been linked to hair loss. While typically not the main cause of your thinning mane, nutrient or vitamin deficiencies can make the problem worse, he says. Fixing your diet or taking supplements can help, but it s often just one part of a multifaceted solution.
If clumps come out when you shower or you notice thinning in just a few weeks or months, you re more likely dealing with another common condition called
acute telogen effluvium, Piliang says. This rapid hair loss is basically a short-term ramping up of your hair s normal shedding process. Any event that puts a lot of stress on your body like childbirth, surgery or rapid weight loss can result in this alarming, clumpy hair loss, which tends to start a couple months after the event, Piliang says. The shedding can last for six months and may result in your losing up to 70% of your hair. But typically the hair grows back, she explains. There are many more explanations for hair loss, including scalp infections, inflammatory diseases like alopecia areata, or systemic diseases like lupus. Treatments vary widely and may include a combination of oral or topical drugs, light therapy, dietary changes, and stress-reducing interventions. You really need an expert s help to assemble all the puzzle pieces, says Dr. Laurel Schwartz, a dermatologist in private practice at the Philadelphia Institute of Dermatology. If you re experiencing skin irritation, redness, scaling or pain, Schwartz recommends seeing someone ASAP to head off risks like permanent hair loss and scarring. More good advice: Stay away from miracle cures marketed online or in late-night TV infomercials.
They re not the answer. Hair loss is such an emotionally charged experience, Schwartz says. And when you re really upset, you re willing to try anything. Time spent experimenting with different over-the-counter or infomercial products is often time (and money) wasted. Your hair can offer a glimpse of what s going on in the rest of the body, Schwartz says. If you notice a problem, discuss it with a doctor to determine the ultimate cause. Stress Genes Matter Of course, my first question was, "Is this normal? " According to Dr. Gross, not necessarily. He told me, "ItБs rare to see this in patients under 30 years old, but absolutely possible. " Regardless of age, experts measure hair loss in two different ways: the actual strand count (are you losing hair from the follicle? ) and the strand diameter (is it getting thinner? ). ItБs possible for both to occur. "When hair thins in diameter, many times itБs because the scalp is oily when weБre younger; as we age, the scalp can dry out and cause thinness. Sometimes, hair falls out or you might not have a full head of hair due to genetic tendency Б this can start appearing in your early to mid-20s," says Dr. Gross. I wanted to figure out what in my lifestyle might be contributing to the issue.
First up: birth control. According to Pullan, "It's not uncommon for someone in their twenties to be experiencing hair loss due to going on or off oral contraceptives, thus affecting the sex hormones in a way that can contribute to hair loss. " Add a check mark to that box. Not only have I had allergic reactions to the prescription, I've had late periods and missed taking my pill a few times Б situations that affect my hormones and stress levels. Stress, Pullan explains, is often a factor. "Sustained stress releases other hormones, cortisol being one, that can affect the hair-growth cycle. [People in their 20s] are often entering the job market or changing jobs as they navigate a career. They are dating and perhaps enduring breakups. They may be exercising, or even over-exercising, and not making proper nutritional selections that are a must for optimum hair and scalp health. " I related to this Б hard. When the hair loss started, I was a month away from graduating, jobless, and growing more and more nervous about my financial stability. In fact, it was probably the most stressful period of my life until that point. On the bright side, Dr. Gross told me that while these life changes can affect hair thickness temporarily, it often goes back to normal when the stress levels do. Phew.
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