Why Is My Hair Falling Out? Alopecia Explained

By: Renown Wellness Team

September 15, 2023

A woman in a yellow shirt pulls out hair from a hairbrush.

© MikeSaran via Canva.com

Hair is often considered a symbol of identity and self-expression, from scalps and eyebrows to beards and bodies. But what happens when this symbol starts to fall out? The 6.7 million people across the country living with alopecia know this feeling all too well.

Alopecia, or hair loss, is a medical condition with variable causes, presentations and treatments. Experts at Renown Health dive into the world of alopecia, its causes and how to address it – especially as we embrace National Alopecia Awareness Month this September.  

Types of Alopecia 

The term “alopecia” is a broad umbrella term that encompasses many different forms of hair loss that can present itself at any age, no matter your gender or ethnicity. The most common types include: 

  • Alopecia Areata: An autoimmune disorder where the immune system targets hair follicles, typically resulting in patches of hair loss on the scalp and/or other body parts. More severe forms of alopecia areata also exist, such as alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis.
  • Androgenetic (or Androgenic) Alopecia: A disorder also known as male or female pattern baldness that causes gradual hair thinning and loss often around the temples and crown. Unlike alopecia areata, this form of alopecia is usually hereditary.
  • Telogen Effluvium: A condition resulting in hair shedding, typically after high-stress or infectious events, such as after giving birth or after a COVID-19 infection. This usually resolves itself within a few months to a year.
  • Traction Alopecia: Hair loss resulting from the effects of tight braiding or styling of the hair, which can cause permanent loss over time.
  • Scarring and Inflammation-Mediated Hair Loss: Patterns of hair loss related to lupus, lichen planus or other autoimmune conditions that can unfortunately be permanent and progressive. 

Options to Treat Alopecia 

While there isn’t a cure for most types of alopecia, some treatments are available to help minimize the effects of the condition and promote hair growth. Treatment varies depending on the type of alopecia. Potential options can include: 

  • Topical Minoxidil: An FDA-approved over-the-counter medication available in foam or liquid form and applied directly to the scalp, which helps stimulate hair growth by increasing blood flow to hair follicles.
  • Hormone Therapies: A hormone regimen that can help minimize the resulting hair thinning and balding.
  • Corticosteroids: A topical cream or ointment – or an injection for severe cases – that help reduce inflammation and re-grow hair.
  • Low-Level Laser Therapy: A therapeutic, non-invasive intervention involving wearing special caps or combs that release painless, low-level lasers to stimulate hair follicles.
  • Healthy Diets and Nutritional Supplements: A diet rich in vitamins and minerals essential for hair health, such as biotin and collagen, can aid in recovery. Vitamin D and iron are also important hair growth nutrients.
  • Stress Management: Stress can impact the speed and frequency of hair loss. Managing your stress can help mitigate the effects of alopecia. 

Treatment for alopecia is not a one-size-fits-all approach. A scalp skin biopsy may help determine a cause for hair loss and help guide the best management strategies with your provider. 

Addressing the Emotional Impacts 

Even though alopecia isn’t life-threatening, the impacts of the condition can affect your self-esteem and self-image. The most powerful tool to help you manage alopecia is knowledge. Keeping yourself educated about your condition, and encouraging your loved ones to do the same, can help arm yourself with the acceptance and self-compassion you need and help combat misconceptions. 

With the rise in awareness in the mainstream media for alopecia and other hair conditions, beauty standards and fashion are shifting to become more inclusive for those experiencing hair loss. Celebrating the many diverse hairstyles and fashion statements can help you regain your confidence. There are many options you can advantage of to help style your hair and protect your scalp: 

  • Hairpieces: Wigs, extensions and other hairpieces can help cover up balding or thinning patches and add volume to your hair. Hairpieces have come a long way in the past few decades, and many use real human hair.
  • Hats: Hats serve a dual purpose – a fun fashion accessory to help boost your confidence and a method of protecting your scalp from the sun. As someone with alopecia, your scalp is more exposed, and hats can provide that extra layer of protection you need.
  • Scalp Sunscreens: While regular body sunscreens can provide good scalp sun protection, they can result in oily scalp and hair appearance. Sunscreens that are specifically designed for the scalp are available at most beauty stores or online.

Remember, patience is fundamental, as many treatments require consistent use over time to see noticeable results. Stay resilient, and don’t give up – you are not alone in your alopecia journey. 

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