There are dozens of causes of hair loss and it’s very important to understand how you can lose your hair, so you’ll know how to prevent it. It's true that men are more likely to lose their hair than women, mostly due to male pattern baldness. In many cases, there are ways to treat male hair loss. It all depends on the cause.
1. The leading cause is one that we can’t do much about. Male pattern baldness, medically known as androgenetic alopecia, refers to hair thinning in an “M-shaped" pattern that is typically mentioned when men talk about balding. Over time, the hair follicles will change and shrink leading to thinning hair. While many treatments are available, they aren’t guaranteed to work and most only slow progression and are not permanent solutions for hair loss. In the end, we’re all victims of our genes and that’s something that will never change.
2. Severe physical stress or severe psychological can have strange effects on the body. Severe stress typically sends the body into a state of shock, flooding it with various hormones and metabolites. This may lead to telogen effluvium, a shedding of the hair that we mentioned above. While the effects of acute stress on hair are well-understood, what isn’t as clear is how chronic or long-term stress affects hair loss.
3. Whether it’s because of a crash diet, general malnutrition or some genetic or biological defect, deficiencies in certain nutrients can cause hair loss. Probably the most common deficiency thought to contribute to hair loss is iron. Being severely low in iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, a condition that causes the body not to have enough red blood cells. Red blood cells are important because they carry oxygen to nearly every cell in the body, helping those cells maintain normal function. Deficiencies in other nutrients — such as vitamin B12 and protein — are thought to contribute to hair loss as well.
4. Most of the human population is well aware that chemotherapy drugs can lead to hair loss, but there are, in fact, dozens of other drugs that might cause hair to fall out. These include anti-thyroid medications, hormonal therapies, medicines for epilepsy, anti-coagulants, beta-blockers and many others. These medications tend to cause telogen effluvium, a rapid shedding of the hair which arises when a large number of hairs suddenly shift from a growth phase to a resting phase) and then fall out when new hairs begin to grow.
5. Cancer cells typically divide and grow faster than the body’s healthy cells. This is what allows chemotherapy to be so effective in stopping cancer, by targeting cells that grow rapidly. Unfortunately, there are other cells in the body that grow rapidly as well. While there are cancer myths out there, experiencing near-total hair loss after chemotherapy isn't one of them. The loss could be gradual or dramatic, depending on the type of drug, but the end result is usually the same. Thankfully, the hair usually grows back!
*Jacob is a health writer and epidemiologist with experience in all facets of health care.