14 (Yes, 14!) Surprising Reasons You Could Be Losing Your Hair

17/09/2018 - 01:35 PM

We all experience some hair shedding from time to time (in fact, it's normal to lose between 50 and 100 strands every day, as you'll learn more about soon), but if you've gotten to the point where you're noticing bald spots and/or are afraid to so much as touch your hair for fear of having it fall out, there may be a more serious problem at the root.

To help end your worrying (after all, stress can only make it worse), we consulted with Paul Cucinello, Beauty Expert and Creative Director at the Chris Chase Salon [1] in NYC, along with other experts, to break down some of the lesser-known culprits of hair loss.

Read on to find out who's really to blame — whether it be your ex boyfriend, your demanding job or genetics — and how to go about finding a solution.

Alopecia Areata

According to Cucinello, this autoimmune skin disease, also referred to as spot baldness, is another increasingly common culprit when it comes to hair loss: “When the body’s immune system begins attacking the hair follicles, it results in the form of smooth, circular bald patches that, if left untreated, can start to connect and create a snake-like pattern.”

What you can do: If you notice the symptoms described, visit your doctor about a solution that’s right for you. “Treatment usually includes cortisone injections in conjunction with topical steroids and hair regrowth products like Rogaine on the affected area," Cucinello explains.


Unfortunately, wrinkles aren't the only thing we have to worry about when it comes to getting older. "As we age, hair becomes less dense and the scalp may become visible. The rate of hair growth also slows and many hair follicles stop producing new strands. The scalp tends to tighten and can strangle new hairs before they reach their full growth potential,” Cucinello explains.

What you can do: Cucinello suggests using certain anti-aging hair care products, specifically geared toward softening the scalp, to help lessen the appearance of age-related hair loss. “I recommend Milbon's Plarmia Hairserum products [2] to my clients with this concern. They soften the scalp, allowing the hair to grow through a full growth cycle and evening out the diameter of each strand," he adds.

Gluten Allergy

Celiac disease, more commonly known as a gluten allergy, is a medical condition that is rarely taken serious, but Cucinello says should. “When someone with a gluten allergic consumes goods that contain wheat, barley or rye, it can create antibodies that attack various cells in the body, including hair follicles,” he explains.

What you can do: According to Julie Russak, MD [3], having a blood test for anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibodies, endomysial antibodies (EMA) and newer deamidated gliadin peptide (DGP) antibodies can help diagnose this disease. “Most people with celiac disease also have genetic predisposition to the disease encoded for by two human leukocyte antigen (HLA) gene variants. They're referred to as HLA-DQ2, found in 95 percent of those diagnosed, and HLA-DQ8. Definitive diagnosis is reached through a biopsy performed by the gastroenterologist from the stomach,” she explains. If diagnosed, Dr. Russak advises to avoid gluten at all costs, ingested through food but also in topical forms.


A severe emotional or physical stressor – examples include thyroid disease, celiac disease and even childbirth – may lead to nutritional deficiencies and consequently, to hair loss, Janie Zeitlin, RDN, CDN [4] cautions: “Any fad diet, especially a restrictive one, may similarly take a tremendous toll on you, and your hair."

What you can do: Seek professional help and strive to nourish your body with the proper fuel it deserves. “Eat a variety of brightly colored foods consisting of lean proteins, monounsaturated fats and fibers to protect your hair and consume all the vitamins and minerals you need. Focus on consuming unprocessed forms of lean protein (such as chicken breast, turkey breast, and salmon), consume Omega-3 fatty acids (such as walnuts and almonds) and make sure you’re getting enough iron, preferably from animal sources to enhance absorption,” Zeitlin advises.

Seasonal Changes

While it's natural for people to shed (between 50 and 100 hairs every day), Cucinello says you might see an increase in the Fall when the weather begins to change. “Analysis of trichograms demonstrates annual periodicity in the growth and shedding of hair, manifested by a maximal proportion of telogen or resting hairs in Summer with a second peak in Spring, but not as significant. This leads to more hairs falling out in the late Fall, corresponding mostly to October and early November. It is unclear exactly why this is so but it is speculated that the stress of heat and sun may play a role,” Dr. Russak further explains.

What you can do: Both Cucinello and Dr. Russak insist seasonal hair loss is nothing to be concerned about. “This is perfectly normal among almost all mammals – your dog or cat might be experiencing it at the same time you are! See a doctor if the shedding increases or ceases to stop after the change of season," Cucinello advises.

Chemical Burns

According to Cucinello, there have been numerous instances where chemicals, such as Sodium Hydroxide, applied to the scalp to straighten or relax the hair, can lead to hair loss. “Simply watch Chris Rock [5]'s documentary Good Hair, addressing how this chemical can melt an aluminum soda can. Pretty frightening," he warns.

What you can do: Cucinello cautions you should be sure to do research on a salon and speak to your stylist about the chemicals he or she is going to use before undergoing a treatment.


According to Cucinello, you might also want to think twice about super-bleaching your mane to match your favorite celebrity. "The process of getting your hair as close to white as possible can leave you with so much breakage that you might confuse it with actual hair loss,” he says.

What you can do: Make sure your goals are achievable and the look is something you plan to invest a lot of time and money in. “Instead of having your colorist apply bleach directly to your scalp, you can also trying asking them to add a lot more highlights. You’ll get a super blonde effect without having to have the chemicals irritating your skin,” Cucinello advises.

Clogged Hair Follicles

According to Cucinello, there may be a big difference between some drugstore and designer shampoos, after all. "There is a reason why some products are more expensive than others — the quality of the ingredients,” he notes. “Cheaper products tend to have larger molecules of waxes and oils that can build up on the scalp, clogging the hair follicle and causing excessive hair shedding."

What you can do: Cucinello says to look for ingredients that are refined or considered non-comedogenic (he’s personally a big fan of Briogeo products [6]). “Some of the more inexpensive drug store products are now starting to boast that they contain natural ingredients like cocoa butter and coconut oil. This might sound wonderful, but these can be some of the worst offenders when it comes to clogging hair follicles. These oils, while natural, are unrefined and contain larger sized particles that are considered to be comedogenic, a term we usually only hear when referring to skin care products, meaning that, ultimately, that they will clog pores,” he explains. “You can also combat clogged hair follicles by using a product that works at removing product residue with carbonation. Try Plarmia Spa Cleansing Foam [7]. This mousse-like formula deep cleanses the hair follicle without using harsh detergents or sulphates.”


Folliculitis, an inflammation due to an infection of the hair follicle, is another cause of hair loss. “If left untreated, folliculitis progresses and hair often falls out. In severe cases, it can cause extreme inflammation and permanently destroy hair follicles, leaving bald areas on the scalp,” Cucinello says.

What you can do: "Look for small spots with rings of inflammation around the hair follicle, accompanied by itching, irritation or soreness,” Cucinello says. If the signs are there, you can see your doctor about the best solution – It could be as simple as taking one of several antibiotics that are available.

Prescription Drugs

Unfortunately, one of the unpleasant side effects of some prescription drugs is a thinning of strands. “Some medications, such as those used to treat depression, ADHD, high blood pressure can cause hair to fall out," Cucinello says.

What you can do: “Consult your doctor to help assess whether the prescription you're taking is a known threat and if there are any hair-friendly alternatives,” Cucinello advises.


Last, but certainly not least, your hair may be falling out because you're literally pulling it out. "Trichotillomania is an obsessive compulsive disorder that urges people, as an outlet for handling stress, to pull out their own hair from the scalp, eyebrows or other areas of the body,” Cucinello says, adding the disorder affects approximately 200,000 people yearly.

What you can do: “If you’re affected by this disorder, a doctor can design a custom treatment – usually a combination of behavioral modification interventions and antidepressant medications – to help,” Dr. Russak advises.

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