It is normal to lose and shed hair every day. On average, a person loses 50 to 100 strands daily. This is because our hair follicles have normal cycles they go through including a growing phase, resting phase, and shedding phase. Thus at a given period of time, it is normal to have some of your hair follicles in the shedding phase. However, different forms of hair loss can increase hair shedding beyond normal levels especially in the shedding type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. Hair loss is complex. There are many different types of hair loss including:
- Patterned hair loss (also called androgenetic alopecia)
- Telogen effluvium (a shedding type of hair loss)
- Alopecia areata (an autoimmune type of hair loss)
- Scarring alopecias (also called cicatricial alopecias) including lichen planopilaris, frontal fibrosing alopecia, central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, folliculitis decalvans, and dissecting cellulitis of the scalp among others
- Traction alopecia
- Hair loss secondary to other conditions including inflammatory scalp conditions, scalp infections, or cancer affecting the scalp
- Others including radiation and chemotherapy related hair loss
Additionally, there are many different individual factors and internal conditions that can contribute to hair loss including the following:
- Genetic factors
- Nutritional deficiencies including iron, Vitamin D, etc
- Dietary factors
- Hormonal changes and imbalances including menopause, thyroid disorders, increased testosterone levels, etc
- Certain medications
- Recent stressors on the body including surgeries, infections such as COVID-19, pregnancy and childbirth, etc
- Emotional stress
- Hair care and styling practices
Thus it is very important to see a doctor to have your hair loss evaluated and to discuss the best treatment plan for your individual case. Although individuals do not frequently openly discuss their hair loss currently in our culture, hair loss is extremely common. The month of August is National Hair Loss Awareness Month. We wanted to help bring awareness to hair loss, start more open and honest conversations regarding hair loss, and educate individuals on steps they can take to address their hair loss.
Here Are 10 Tips to Help You Minimize Hair Loss
1. Eat More Protein
Hair follicles are made of a protein called keratin. Healthy hair requires adequate protein intake. Sources of protein include foods such as chicken, fish, beans, peas, eggs, and nuts. If you are vegetarian or vegan, ensure that you are eating enough plant-based protein such as from nuts, beans, lentils, rice, and other sources of protein such as pea protein. There are also protein supplements available if you are unable to achieve your protein requirements from whole foods. Make sure to work with your doctor and/or a nutritionist or dietitian to determine your individual protein needs.
2. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
A number of vitamins and minerals are essential for hair growth.  These include iron, and Vitamin D. There are also studies showing that low levels of inflammation and oxidative stress may contribute to common causes of hair loss such as androgenetic alopecia.
A well-balanced diet with adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, rich in antioxidants, and limited in pro-inflammatory foods is ideal for healthy and thick hair. If you are unable to achieve necessary amounts of certain vitamins or minerals, then a supplement may be helpful. Additionally there are some supplements with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents available. Be sure to always consult with your doctor and/or a nutritionist or dietitian to discuss your individual dietary needs. Always consult with your doctor prior to starting any vitamins or supplements.
3. Wear Gentle Hair Styles
Repeatedly wearing any hair styles that pull on the hair such as tight ponytails or braids can affect the hair. Initially these can cause breakage or temporary loss. However with continued pulling of the hair, the hair follicles can become irreversibly damaged and scarred down. This form of hair loss is termed traction alopecia. Thus any hair styles that tightly pull or increase tension on the hair should be avoided to avoid breakage and hair loss. Alternative hairstyles that minimize pulling on the hair should be used such as leaving the hair down, tying the hair in a loose braid or loose bun, or using a loose claw clips to keep the hair up.
4. Minimize Heat Damage
Minimize using heat to style your hair. Avoid curling irons, hair straighteners, and blow dryers as much as possible as this can damage the hair over time. There are heatless styling options available such as wearing the hair in a loose braid or using satin heatless curlers (make sure to avoid pulling the hair tightly if using these) to obtain heatless waves or curls. Any time that you do use heat on your hair, make sure to use heat protectant. When blow drying your hair, make sure to keep the blow dryer away from the hair and avoid direct contact with the hair.
5. Reduce Chemical Treatments
Chemical hair treatments such as hair dye, chemical straightening, chemical blow outs, and perms can cause hair breakage and scalp irritation. Try to minimize the number of chemical treatments if possible.
If you are going to have such treatments, make sure to work with an experienced hair stylist and communicate that you are experiencing hair loss so that they can use the most gentle treatment techniques possible. Generally, staying about 1 cm off the scalp can help minimize scalp irritation. Additionally, using semi-permanent dye rather than permanent dye, keeping color close to the natural color, avoiding bleaching the hair, and undergoing multiple sessions rather than a single session for dramatic lightening in color can help to decrease damage from these treatments. However some degree of damage is always possible even with best practices, so reducing chemical treatment of the hair is ideal.
6. Consider Using Minoxidil
Topical minoxidil is an FDA-approved treatment for both male pattern and female pattern hair loss. Minoxidil works by increasing blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles. This can help to minimize further loss, thicken the existing hair, and in some cases even grow new hair. Minoxidil is available up to 5% over the counter usually as either solution or foam. It is also available at high concentrations as a prescription topical and by mouth as a pill. However, as with any medication there are potential risks and side effects. Thus, always consult with a hair loss specialist prior to starting a product with minoxidil including over the counter topicals with minoxidil.
7. Massage Your Scalp Regularly
Scalp massage may increase blood flow to the scalp and follicles and has been shown to potentially help to stimulate the dermal papilla of the hair follicle through stretching it.[3,4] Daily scalp massage for 4-20 minutes per day has been shown to potentially increase hair thickness and stabilize hair loss.[3,4] One option is to use your hands to press, pinch, and stretch the scalp and another is to use a scalp massager.
8. Minimize and Manage Stress
Emotional stress can contribute to hair loss. Minimizing stress in your life can be beneficial for hair health as well as your general health. For stress and stressors that cannot be removed from life, then finding ways to manage and relieve stress are key. These include practices such as yoga and meditation. Try incorporating regular yoga and a daily meditation practice into your routine to minimize stress that may be contributing to your hair loss.
9. Get Evaluated by a Doctor
Given that there are many different types and causes of hair loss which are discussed above, it is important to be seen by a doctor who specializes in hair loss to determine what type of hair loss you have and to evaluate if any work up such as a scalp biopsy or blood work are needed.
10. Consider Starting Treatment
Consider treatments such as low-level light therapy (LLLT), platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, medications, and hair restoration surgery to treat your hair loss. There are risks, benefits, and alternatives to each. Additionally, not everyone is a candidate for all therapies. Thus, it is important to see a doctor who is a hair loss specialist who can discuss these treatment options with you and help determine what treatments may be appropriate in your case.
Although hair loss is common, many individuals do not know what to look out for as people are not regularly educated on this topic. If you experience sudden hair loss in patches, increased shedding, or thinning of the hair over time, then these are signs of hair loss. It is important to see a hair loss specialist such as one of our doctors at Root Hair Institute. If you would like to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors, contact us today!
- Almohanna, H.M., Ahmed, A.A., Tsatalis, J.P., et al. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatology and Therapy. 2019;9:51–70.
- Kash, N., Leavitt, M., Leavitt, A., et al. Clinical Patterns of Hair Loss in Men: Is Dihydrotestosterone the Only Culprit?. Dermatology Clinics. 2021;39(3):361-370.
- Koyama, T., Kobayashi, K., Hama, T., et al. Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue. Eplasty. 2016;25;16:e8.
- English Jr., R.S., Barazesh, J.M. Self-Assessments of Standardized Scalp Massages for Androgenic Alopecia: Survey Results. Dermatology and Therapy. 2019;9(1):167-178.