Why am I losing my hair?
Reasons for hair loss and supplements to help
If you’re experiencing hair loss, you likely feel frustrated and confused, and possibly embarrassed or upset. For many, our hair is an important part of our identity and how we present ourselves in the world. Facing sudden or unexpected hair loss can be a challenge that changes how you see yourself. If you’re dealing with thinning hair, your first question is probably “why?”
While consulting with your doctor is always important when you’re dealing with distressing physical symptoms and don’t know the cause, this post will provide some common reasons for hair loss and things you can do to help.
Hair loss: Why is my hair thinning?
Hormones are at the root of most hair loss cases, which tend to fall into one of the two following categories:
The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary and known as male- or female-pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia). In fact, per the American Hair Loss Association, by 35, approximately 66% of men will have lost some hair, and by 50, 85% will have experienced significant thinning or hair loss.
The hormone responsible for androgenetic alopecia are called androgens, hormones that play a large part in male sexual development, and hair growth and sex drive in both men and women. Hereditary or pattern baldness is specifically driven by DHT, a by-product of testosterone.
While women also suffer from this type of hair loss, it is more common after menopause because of a drop in female-specific hormone levels that accounts for higher androgen activity.
And, even though hereditary baldness is, well, hereditary, it’s not possible to predict based on your family history. It can also be affected by personal stress levels, diet, etc.
When your body experiences severe trauma or stress, the flood or cortisol can cause hair in the growing (anogen) or resting phases to immediately shift to the shedding (telogen) phase. This is called telogen effluvium, and usually occurs 6 weeks to three months after the high-pressure experience. In this experience, people can lose handfuls of hair at a time, but usually fully recover if allowed to maintain a state of reduced stress.
Common stressors inducing hair loss include:
- Death of a loved one
- Significant weight loss
- Any extreme of emotional or physical stress
Hormonal imbalance isn’t the only cause of hair loss, though. Here are a few others:
The most common type of non-hormonal hair loss is called alopecia areata. In this case, you may have round patches of hair lost on your scalp, or patchy eyelashes or brows. Why this autoimmune disease happens is not known for sure, though some suspect some cases may be related to stress. It can be highly unpredictable, with sufferers losing only a small patch of hair, or the whole scalp, fast regrowth, or no regrowth at all.
Chemo or radiation
Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cancer cells — which means it can also affect your body’s other rapidly dividing cells, like hair follicles. The hair follicles are disrupted, creating a weaker hair shaft, which then breaks.
When you first notice your hair loss, you can ask yourself questions to help start to determine which of these causes you’re dealing with:
- Am I losing spots of hair or thinning evenly all over?
- Does pattern baldness run in my family?
- Have I experienced extreme levels of stress recently?
While you may not be able to diagnose your condition yourself, thinking through these questions will help you come to your doctor more fully prepared for a hair loss discussion.
Supplements to help with hair loss
While supplements will not help you reverse whatever hair loss condition you have, they can help support healthier hair growth. Nutrients like zinc, iron, niacin, selenium, fatty acids, folic acid, biotin, amino acids, protein, antioxidants, and vitamins D, A, and E all have the potential to affect hair growth, according to nutritionist Kristen Kirkpatrick.
Here’s a quick breakdown of why:
The role of supplements in hair growth
Zinc: Zinc is important for hair tissue growth and repair, and supports healthy follicle function. Zinc deficiency is known to be correlated to hair loss.
Iron: Iron deficiency limits your production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen to cells for growth and repair – including hair growth cells.
Niacin: Niacin helps the body distribute energy to cells, improving blood circulation and bringing oxygen and other nutrients to the hair follicle, supporting healthy hair growth.
Selenium: Selenium is a very popular nutrient for hair, as it’s responsible for killing off dandruff-causing fungus as well as producing the thyroid hormones that help regulate growth.
Folic acid: Folic acid is often prescribed to pregnant women to support healthy fetal development. Its role in new cell production makes it helpful for hair growth as well.
Protein, Amino acids, and Biotin: Keratin is a type of protein your body makes and uses to build skin, nails, and hair. Protein (made up of amino acids), biotin, and Vitamin A are all crucial for helping your body produce keratin.
Antioxidants: Antioxidants can help support hair growth and maintenance by maintaining the collagen in your body and preventing oxidative damage from free radicals.
Vitamin D: Low levels of D have been linked to alopecia, though the role of vitamin D in hair growth is unknown.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A is essential for all cell growth, as well as the production of sebum, an oily substance produced by the skin which supports healthy hair.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant shown to support an increase in hair growth with supplementation.
Hair, Skin, and Nail supplement formulations
You could take any of the above supplements individually, but if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, try a pre-formulated, pharmaceutical grade option that combines the best ingredients in one capsule.
Here are some options we’d recommend for people dealing with hair loss:
Pure Encapsulations® Hair/Skin/Nails Ultra
These vegetarian capsules are specially formulated to support collagen and keratin production and counter the effects of oxidative stress.
Gaia® Herbs Hair, Skin & Nail Support
These vegan capsules are made with mineral-rich herbal ingredients such as Horsetail, Alfalfa, Burdock root, Gotu Kola, and Nettle-leaf, all used to promote healthy hair, skin, and nail tissue.
Sona® Hair, Skin, & Nails (RF)
These tablets contain the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids required for the body to create healthier hair, skin, and nails. Includes selenium, silicon, biotin, and antioxidant ingredients.
And, if you think you may be dealing with a stress-related hair loss condition, there are several supplements we’d recommend for the purpose of helping to regulate your stress. Take a look at our post about 5 over-the-counter supplements we recommend to learn more.