10 most common causes of hair loss
Reviewed by our clinical team
Hair loss is a condition that affects lots of men over 50, but can also effect men in their 20s, 30s and 40s. We've created an illustration of 7 common potential causes of male hair loss. If you're concerned about your hair loss please read below, visit our hair loss clinic and see what you can do about it...
Types of hair loss
There are lots of different types of hair loss, some of the most common types include:
- Male or female pattern baldness
- Telogen effluvium
- Alopecia areata
- Alopecia totalis
Depending on the type of hair loss you have and it's cause you might experiene
Genetic causes of hair loss
Hereditary hair loss
The most common cause of hair loss is male pattern baldness, which causes the familiar “U-shape” balding patch on many men. Despite popular belief, this condition is not caused by stress but is purely genetic and passed on by both sides of the family.
Treating hereditary hair loss
The most effective treatment for genetic hair loss is a prescription tablet called Finasteride (often sold as “Propecia”). This treatment stops hair loss in 90% of men.
Hair loss with age
Unfortunately you can’t fight Mother Nature on this one. Both men and women will see at least some hair loss and thinning as they age. From 30 onwards, hair growth starts to slow and volume decreases.
Treating hair loss from ageing
Nowadays, many men simply embrace hair loss in older age and wear it with style. However if you’re not happy about losing your hair, then effective treatments include prescription tablets Finasteride, and hair transplants which have become increasingly safe and effective.
Lifestyle causes of hair loss
Food and hair health
Like anything else, your hair needs nutrients to grow and stay healthy. Sudden weight loss, low iron levels, or a poor diet can all lead to patchy hair shedding – albeit on a temporary basis.
Treating hair loss caused by diet
You can buy hair vitamins that claim to help with hair health. Bultimately eating a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of protein, iron, zinc and biotin is the best way to make sure your hair is getting the nutrients it needs. Legumes like kidney beans and lentils are a great place to start.
You’re too stressed
Despite what most people think, stress is a rare cause of hair loss. Only one type of hair loss (telogen effluvium) is caused by intense physical or emotional stress. This type of hair loss causes a sudden widespread thinning, rather than a receding hairline.
Treating stress-related hair loss
Removing the cause of your stress is best, but when this isn’t possible (i.e. from a job you can’t quit) then consider trying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and taking regular exercise to manage the stress. Hair growth should return to normal within 6 months.
Your hair is too tight
Fashion and healthy-hair often sit together about as well as oil and water – tight braids, man buns, cornrows and harsh treatments can all damage your scalp significantly. And if the roots are damaged, that means hair loss.
Treating hair loss caused by tight hairstyles
Be sensible, and don’t follow hair damaging trends that pull your hair too tight. Take care of your scalp by using moisturising shampoos and conditioners, and avoid dying your hair too often without a break.
Skin and scalp conditions
Easily mistaken for dandruff, psoriasis of the scalp causes an overproduction of skin cells visible as large white flakes. This condition can sometimes damage hair follicles and lead to temporary hair loss.
Treating psoriasis-related hair loss
If you suspect psoriasis is the cause, consult your doctor who can provide treatments such as medicated shampoos. Hair growth should return to normal once this condition is treated.
A harmless skin condition sometimes found on the scalp, indicated by small red patches that are often itchy. This is caused by an inflammatory response in your scalp and can cause hair loss in large patches on the head.
Treating hair loss related caused by seborrheic dermatitis
Try to avoid scratching as this can lead to a secondary infection, then seek advice and treatment from your doctor – hair growth should resume once the scalp is less inflamed.
If you get small patches of hair loss, like circles, that crop up on the scalp, this is known as alopecia areata. It’s thought to be an autoimmune condition, this a condition where the body starts to accidentally attack itself, rather than fight off bugs. Cells in the immune system gather at the hair follicles and attack it, causing the hair to fall out.
This kind of hair loss can be set off by recent illness, certain medications or stress, but often no direct cause can be identified.
Treating alopecia areata
For lots of people the bald patches start to regrow hair, so no treatment is needed. If you have one small-medium sized patch, you might be prescribed steroid injections. These aim the suppress the local immune system, allowing the hair to grow back. You can also get steroid creams or gels to rub onto the patch. But generally, these don’t work as well as the injections.
You can also buy a treatment called minoxidil (known as Regaine). This is rubbed onto the bald patch and for some people it will encourage the hair to regrow.
Sexually transmitted infections are not a common cause of hair loss. But some people who catch syphilis might experience patchy hair loss in the disease’s ‘second stage’.
Treating hair loss caused by STIs
If you experience patchy hair loss along with any of the other symptoms of second stage syphilis (blotchy rash, white patches in your mouth, growths like warts near the anus or vulva) you should go to your GP or local sexual health clinic as soon as possible. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics, but if it’s left untreated it can cause serious damage to your heart, brain and nerves.
Hormonal changes can sometimes also contribute to hair loss. Pregnancy and childbirth for example can cause temporary hair loss, as can the menopause.
Hormones during pregnancy can make your hair grow thicker, after giving birth, your hormones begin to get back to pre-pregnancy levels, and this can cause the hair to thin.
Some women might experience hair loss after pregnancy due to a process called telogen effluvium. This is when the normal life cycle of the hair is interrupted due to a major stressful event like childbirth. The hair comes to the end of its cycle much sooner than normal and so begins to shed up to three months after the event.
Treatment for telogen effluvium
Generally speaking, there’s no treatment for this type of hair loss, as it will usually start to grow back on its own. If you’re worried about it, it’s always good to speak to your GP as in some rare cases, telogen effluvium can be caused by an iron or zinc deficiency.
When to see a doctor about hair loss
You should speak to a doctor if you’re worried about your hair loss, but especially if:
- It’s sudden
- You’ve got bald patches
- Your hair is falling out in clumps
- You find your hair is itchy or burns
Hair loss happens to almost every man at some point in his life. Treatments are becoming more advanced every year, so identify the cause of your hair loss first and then seek the best possible treatment.