Ways to stop hair and some reasons behind that?

Get answers about hair loss — what causes it, what helps keep it at bay and what steps to take when it happens.

Published: March 18, 2024

Written by: Jessica Sebor

Illustration of a woman looking at her lost hair gathered in a comb.

It might start with a clogged shower drain or a glimpse of a candid photo. You ask yourself: “Why am I shedding so much? Did my part always look so sparse? Am I really losing my hair?”

People who experience hair loss should know they’re not alone. This widespread condition affects more than 50 percent of men and women throughout their lives.1 But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with. For some people, losing hair may contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, decreased confidence or social withdrawal.2

“Losing hair is an incredibly emotional experience,” says Silvina Pugliese, MD, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at Stanford University.3 “We may think of it as a cosmetic problem, but it can actually make a big difference for peoples’ self-esteem and quality of life.”

The good news is there are effective ways to help manage and address hair loss, which we’ll be sharing below. Here’s what to know about the problem — and how to get to its root(s).

In this article:

What causes hair loss?

Hair loss — also known as alopecia — can occur for a variety of reasons.4 “Hair loss is extremely complicated,” says Mary Lupo, MD,5 a New Orleans based fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Because hair loss may need to be addressed differently depending on the underlying issue, it’s important to get a diagnosis before creating a plan, according to Lupo. “As a physician, I do a thorough workup,” she adds.

Some common causes of hair loss include:

  • Autoimmune disease. Alopecia areata occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own hair follicles. Patients might also notice shedding of eyelashes or eyebrows.6

  • Genetics. Androgenetic alopecia, the most common type of hair loss, affects roughly 50 percent of men and women. Genetics likely play a role.7 It also plays a role in central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, a form of hair loss more commonly found among Black women.8

  • Hormone and endocrine imbalance. When diagnosing hair loss in women, a dermatologist may ask about or check for signs of low estrogen, polycystic ovarian syndrome or thyroid issues, because shifts or imbalances in hormone levels can create hair loss.9

  • Major stress. Stressful events, severe infections, childbirth and high fevers are some causes that can trigger a condition known as telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium can cause a high volume (up to 70 percent) of hair to shed. Shedding usually slowly decreases over six to eight months once the cause of the hair loss is no longer present.

  • Medical treatment. Certain medical interventions, including some chemotherapy, can cause hair loss.10 Dr. Pugliese explains that the emotional toll of hair loss can be high in these situations, because the lack of hair can be a visual reminder of the disease.

  • Scalp infections. Certain infections, like ringworm, can impact the scalp, causing hair to fall out.11

  • Skin conditions. Skin conditions affecting the scalp, like psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, can lead to hair loss.12

  • Tight hairstyles or hair pulling. Any kind of tugging on the hair can damage follicles and may lead to irreversible hair loss.13

  • Vitamin or nutrient deficiency. Low intake or levels of iron, protein or vitamin D can have a negative effect on hair growth.14

Hair loss in women

Overall, hair loss affects more men (check out the article on hair loss products for men) than women, but it can still occur in women.15

Patterns of hair loss do vary between the sexes. In androgenetic alopecia, the most common form of hair loss, men usually start balding above their temples.16 Women “will often notice a widening of their part or will be able to see their scalp more easily,” says Marie C. Leger,17 MD, PhD, a board-certified dermatologist practicing at Entière Dermatology in New York City.18

Due to hormonal changes, women may experience hair loss following big life events. A few months after having a baby, for example, many new moms notice hair loss. That can be caused by a decrease in estrogen levels.19 Declining estrogen and progesterone can also cause hair loss for women during menopause.20

How to recognize thinning hair

With a healthy scalp, hair is in a constant state of regeneration. So, a bit of extra hair caught in your brush is no reason to worry. It’s completely normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs each day.21

Go a little too long between washing, adds Dr. Lupo, and you’re likely to notice even more hair swirling down the drain. “That’s cumulative dead hair that was going to come out anyway,” she says.

If you do notice a significant uptick in hair shedding, it could be telogen effluvium, the reversible condition that can be triggered by stress.22

So how does someone know if their hair is actually thinning? Keep an eye on the part and scalp and be sure to consult a physician.

“You can do an internal inventory, but there’s nothing like seeing a really good board-certified dermatologist,” Dr. Lupo says. “We’re really the only specialty that understands the physiology of the scalp, the hair follicle and hair growth.”

Hair loss management

“Most kinds of hair loss are treatable to some extent,” says Dr. Leger. The plan of attack will depend on what’s causing the problem. People who are losing hair due to thyroid disease or a skin infection, for example, should work with a health care professional to address that underlying issue first.

Over-the-counter hair loss products

Some of the most effective ways to address hair loss conditions, including androgenetic alopecia, can be found over the counter, explains Dr. Lupo.

Minoxidil, for example, is one approved medication for hair loss.23 It is available in a number of different solutions.

A few products to consider include CVS Health Hair Regrowth Treatment Foam For Women, BosleyMD Women’s Hair Regrowth Spray Minoxidil and Hers 2% Minoxidil Solution for Hair Regrowth.

Prescription medications and in-office options

A health care provider or dermatologist may also recommend prescription medication or other treatment options, depending on the circumstances.

Minoxidil, for instance, is also available as a prescription. “Some people prefer to just take a pill because they know they will be more consistent,” says Dr. Pugliese.

Ways to help address hair loss at home

It’s best to seek the help of a medical professional, but there are some at-home methods that might help stave off hair loss or hide its effects.

Dr. Lupo explains that one of the simplest steps is to wash hair regularly. This is especially true for people with flaky scalps. “Flaking is from the oil glands being inflamed, producing scaliness that literally suffocates the follicle,” she says.

Depending on the person’s activity level and natural oils, Dr. Lupo recommends washing hair two or more times per week with a zinc-based shampoo. On other days, people can use their normal shampoo to wash hair.

If a person is low in iron or vitamin D, over-the-counter supplements may also help support hair growth, adds Dr. Lupo.

Styling solutions won’t cure hair loss, but they can help make hair look fuller. Products like Toppik Hair Building FibersNexxus Unbreakable Care Root Lift Hair Thickening Spray and Goodline Grooming Co. Thickening Styling Cream may be able to help give hair some extra volume.

How to help stop hair loss

“Prevention is hard,” says Dr. Pugliese. “A lot of hair loss is either hereditary or related to factors outside your control.” She notes, though, that taking basic steps to improve overall health — like eating a well-rounded diet and avoiding unhealthy caloric restriction — may help.

“Hair loss is a really emotional thing,” she adds. “Never feel ashamed if you need to talk to a therapist. Sometimes just having an outlet can be incredibly helpful.”

*This content is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Consult with your health care provider before taking any vitamins or supplements, and prior to beginning or changing any health care practices.