Understanding Hair Loss: Detailed Guide

This comprehensive guide provides you with an in-depth understanding of hair loss , including, causes, symptoms, diagnostic methods, types of hair loss, and the most frequently asked questions.

What Is Hair

Hair is composed of a protein known as keratin and emerges from tiny pores in the skin called hair follicles. The human body typically has approximately 100,000 hair follicles responsible for producing the visible hair strands. 

However, various factors can cause damage to the hair follicles and shafts, resulting in hair fall or hair loss. There are several hair conditions that can occur at any stage of life and lead to significant hair loss or even baldness.

Here are some common hair problems:

  • Telogen Effluvium
  • Androgenetic Alopecia
  • Traction Alopecia
  • Alopecia Areata
  • Anagen Effluvium

Hair Loss

Hair loss, also known as alopecia, is distinct from hair shedding and involves the excessive loss of hair from the scalp without noticeable regrowth. 

Unlike hair shedding, hair loss can result in permanent effects and is influenced by a variety of internal and external factors. Hair loss persists until the underlying cause is addressed, underscoring the importance of timely diagnosis and treatment. 

Understanding the specific causes of hair loss and implementing appropriate treatments are crucial. Here are some key points:

Hair loss is different from hair shedding and involves excessive and often permanent loss of hair from the scalp.

Losing more than 125 hair strands per day may indicate hair loss.

Hair loss continues until the underlying cause is treated.

Timely diagnosis and treatment are essential to address the cause of hair loss effectively.

There are various types of hair loss conditions, each caused by different factors.

Understanding the specific cause of hair loss is important in determining the appropriate treatment approach.

Hair Shedding

Hair shedding is a natural part of the hair growth cycle, and it is normal to lose approximately 50-100 hair strands each day. The hair growth cycle consists of four phases:

Anagen Phase: This is the active growth phase, during which the hair follicles produce new hair strands. The anagen phase typically lasts for 4-7 years.

Catagen Phase: Following the anagen phase, the catagen phase occurs, which is a short transitional period lasting around 2-3 weeks. During this phase, the hair follicles shrink and prepare for the next phase.

Telogen Phase: The telogen phase is a resting period for the hair follicles, lasting approximately 3-5 months. During this phase, the hair follicles are dormant, and no significant growth occurs.

Exogen Phase: The exogen phase is the shedding phase of the hair growth cycle. In this phase, the old hair strand detaches completely from the hair follicle, and new hair gradually emerges.

After the exogen phase, a new hair growth cycle begins, and the hair re-enters the anagen phase.

Causes Of Hair Loss

Hair loss can occur at any stage of life when there is a disruption in the normal hair growth cycle. There are various internal and external factors that can contribute to excessive hair fall. Here are the major causes of hair loss:

Hormonal Changes and Medical Conditions:

Hormonal changes during pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, or thyroid disorders can disrupt the hair growth cycle.

Genetical Composition:

Androgenetic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness, is a hereditary condition caused by the overactivity of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that shrinks hair follicles.

Mental and Physical Stress:

Physical or emotional shocks, such as surgery, illness, stress, or trauma, can lead to hair thinning due to the body redirecting nutrients to vital functions.

Improper Diet and Lifestyle:

Inadequate intake of essential nutrients like zinc, iron, and proteins can contribute to hair loss.

Unhealthy habits like smoking, lack of exercise, and poor sleep patterns can reduce blood circulation to the hair roots and weaken the hair.

Medications and Radiations:

Certain medications used to treat various diseases, as well as chemotherapy for cancer, can disrupt the hair growth cycle and cause hair loss (anagen effluvium).

Incorrect Hair Care and Frequent Styling:

Harsh chemicals, excessive heat styling, and tight hairstyles can lead to traction alopecia, a form of hair loss caused by hair pulling and damage to the hair follicles.

What Are The Symptoms Of Hair Loss?

Hair loss can manifest through various symptoms, depending on the underlying cause. Here are some common symptoms of hair loss:

Hair Part Widening:

In women, a noticeable symptom is the widening or broadening of the hair part.

The hair starts to thin and fall out, leading to a broader hair parting.

Receding Hairline:

Men commonly experience a receding hairline as a symptom of hair loss.

The hair becomes thin and gradually recedes from the forehead.

Circular or Patchy Bald Spots:

Hair loss can result in the formation of smooth, circular bald patches on the scalp.

These spots may increase in size over time, with no hair growth within the affected areas.

Sudden Extreme Hair Fall:

A sudden increase in hair fall beyond the usual shedding can be a symptom of hair loss.

Excessive hair may be noticed on combs, towels, or floors.

Itching and Redness in the Scalp:

Presence of redness, flakes, itching, or painful bumps on the scalp can indicate scalp infections such as ringworm or folliculitis.

These infections can contribute to hair loss.

Loosening of Hair:

Hair may become loose and thin from the hair follicle, easily falling out in large quantities when touched or combed.

Hair Loss Diagnostic Methods

When experiencing hair loss, it is essential to consult a hair doctor who can perform various diagnostic methods to determine the underlying cause of the condition. 

These diagnostic tests aid in effective treatment strategies. Here are some commonly used hair loss diagnostic methods:

Pull Test:

The doctor gently pulls a small cluster of hair to assess how many strands are shed.

This test helps determine the stage of the hair growth cycle.

Blood Test:

A dermatologist may recommend blood tests to identify any underlying medical conditions that could contribute to hair loss.

These tests can assess hormone levels, nutritional deficiencies, and other factors.

Light Microscopy:

Hair loss specialists utilize a light microscope or trichoscope to examine the scalp and hair roots.

This instrument allows for a closer examination of any changes at the scalp or hair root level.

Scalp Biopsy:

In a scalp biopsy, the doctor collects samples of hair roots and a small portion of the skin.

By observing these samples under a microscope, the doctor can identify any underlying scalp or hair structure changes contributing to hair loss.

How To Prevent Hair Loss?

To prevent hair loss and maintain healthy hair, it is important to consider the following preventive measures and incorporate them into your lifestyle:

Proper Nutrition:

Ensure your diet includes a variety of nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, minerals, zinc, iron, and healthy fatty acids.

Include green leafy vegetables, eggs, seeds, nuts, and fruits in your diet to promote hair regrowth and overall hair health.

Minimize Styling:

Avoid excessive use of styling products, harmful chemicals, gels, straighteners, curlers, and blow dryers.

Frequent styling and tight hairstyles like ponytails can weaken the hair, making it dull, brittle, and more prone to breakage.

Opt for gentler styling methods and products to maintain the natural shine and strength of your hair.

Stress Management:

Engage in outdoor activities, yoga, and exercises to manage and reduce stress levels.

Stress can contribute to hair loss, and practices such as hair pulling can lead to traction alopecia.

Find activities that bring you joy and help you relax to alleviate stress and prevent its negative impact on hair health.

Proper Lifestyle:

Avoid extreme dieting or starving yourself, as inadequate nutrition can affect hair health.

Maintain a balanced diet to provide essential nutrients for your hair and overall well-being.

Ensure you get enough sleep, aiming for around 8 hours of quality rest each night, to allow your body to rejuvenate and reduce the risk of hair loss.

Say no to poor lifestyle habits that can negatively impact hair health.

Androgenetic Alopecia



Androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern hair loss or female pattern hair loss, is the most common form of hair loss in the United States, affecting millions of men and women. This condition has a hereditary component but can be effectively managed through various treatment options.

Male Pattern Hair Loss:

Hair loss in men can start after puberty and progress gradually over the course of several years or even decades.

It typically begins with thinning above the temples and continues around the perimeter and top of the head.

Eventually, many men with male pattern hair loss develop a characteristic ring of hair along the bottom of the scalp.

In severe cases, male pattern hair loss can lead to complete baldness.

Female Pattern Hair Loss:

Women with androgenetic alopecia experience a gradual thinning of hair throughout the scalp.

Unlike men, the hairline in women usually does not recede.

Female pattern hair loss is often considered a natural part of the aging process, although it can start at any time after puberty.

While hair can dramatically thin in women with this condition, it rarely progresses to complete baldness.

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is characterized by the shedding of hair due to a disruption in the hair growth cycle, specifically the resting phase known as telogen. 

This type of hair loss does not typically result in complete baldness, but it can lead to thinning of the hair, especially at the crown and temples.

Triggers for telogen effluvium include various medical events or conditions, such as thyroid imbalances, childbirth, surgery, fever, vitamin or mineral deficiencies (commonly iron deficiency in women), and certain medications like isotretinoin for acne or warfarin as a blood thinner. It can also be caused by starting or stopping oral contraceptives.

Telogen effluvium usually begins around three months after the triggering event. If the underlying cause is temporary or resolved, such as recovering from an illness or discontinuing medication, hair may start to regrow after about six months. 

In some cases, telogen effluvium can last for years without spontaneous hair regrowth. In such instances, dermatologists may prescribe medication to help stimulate hair growth. The exact reasons for the prolonged duration of this type of hair loss remain unclear to medical professionals.

Other types of hair loss

Other types of hair loss are:

Anagen Effluvium

Anagen effluvium refers to the sudden and rapid loss of hair caused by certain medical treatments, notably chemotherapy. 

These powerful medications are effective against cancer cells but can also disrupt the production of hair follicles in the scalp and other areas of the body. 

Once chemotherapy is completed, hair typically regrows naturally. However, dermatologists can provide medications that can accelerate the regrowth of hair.

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is characterized by an autoimmune response where the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, leading to hair loss and inhibiting new hair growth.

This condition can manifest suddenly in both adults and children, resulting in the loss of hair in small patches on the scalp.

Hair loss caused by alopecia areata is typically painless, and it may extend beyond the scalp to affect areas like eyebrows and eyelashes.In some cases, alopecia areata can progress to alopecia totalis, which involves complete hair loss.

Dermatologists offer various medications to help stimulate hair regrowth and counteract the autoimmune response associated with alopecia areata.

Tinea Capitis

Tinea capitis, known as scalp ringworm, is a fungal infection primarily affecting children and can result in hair loss. This condition causes patches of hair to fall out, often in circular shapes, leading to the development of bald spots that may increase in size over time.

Symptoms of tinea capitis include redness, scaliness, and itchiness in the affected areas of the scalp.Sores or blisters with pus may also be present, and the child may experience swollen glands in the neck or a mild fever as the immune system fights the infection.

Dermatologists can prescribe oral antifungal medications to eradicate the fungus responsible for tinea capitis.Early diagnosis and prompt treatment of tinea capitis are crucial for successful hair regrowth in affected children.

Cicatricial Alopecia

Cicatricial alopecia, or scarring alopecia, is an uncommon form of hair loss characterized by inflammation that leads to the destruction of hair follicles and the formation of scar tissue.

Once scar tissue develops, hair cannot regrow in the affected areas.

Hair loss in cicatricial alopecia may occur gradually, making symptoms difficult to detect, or it may happen suddenly.

Additional symptoms of this condition include intense itching, swelling, and the presence of red or white lesions on the scalp that resemble a rash.Cicatricial alopecia can affect individuals of any age and is observed in both men and women.


How Can Genetics Influence Hair Loss?

Genetic factors play a significant role in hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia, also known as pattern baldness, is commonly inherited and more prevalent in men. It is caused by a combination of genetic susceptibility and the effects of hormones on hair follicles.

Can Stress Lead To Hair Loss?

Yes, excessive physical or emotional stress can disrupt the hair growth cycle and lead to temporary hair loss. This condition is known as telogen effluvium and can typically be reversed with time and stress management.

Are There Any Effective Treatments For Hair Loss?

Treatment options for hair loss depend on the underlying cause. They can include medications like minoxidil or finasteride, hair transplant surgery, laser therapy, or lifestyle changes to promote hair health.

Can Diet And Nutrition Impact Hair Loss?

Yes, a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins is essential for healthy hair growth. Nutritional deficiencies, such as iron or biotin deficiency, can contribute to hair loss, so maintaining a healthy diet is important.

Is It Possible To Prevent Hair Loss?

While not all types of hair loss can be prevented, certain measures can help minimize the risk. These include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding excessive heat and chemical treatments, protecting the hair from sun damage, and managing stress levels.

When Should I Consult A Doctor About My Hair Loss?

It is advisable to consult a doctor if you notice sudden or excessive hair loss, hair loss at a young age, accompanying scalp redness or itching, or if hair loss is causing significant distress or affecting your self-esteem. A healthcare professional can evaluate the underlying cause and provide appropriate guidance and treatment options.

Is Hair Loss Only A Problem For Older People?

No, hair loss can affect individuals of all ages, including children, teenagers, and young adults. While it is more common as people age, certain types of hair loss, such as alopecia areata or genetic factors, can occur at any age.s.

Can Wearing Hats Or Using Hair Products Cause Hair Loss?

Wearing hats or using hair products does not directly cause hair loss. However, excessive pulling or tight hairstyles (traction alopecia) or using harsh chemicals can damage the hair follicles and lead to hair breakage or loss over time.

Can Medications Contribute To Hair Loss?

Yes, certain medications can cause hair loss as a side effect. Examples include chemotherapy drugs, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, beta-blockers, and some hormonal medications. If you suspect that a medication is causing your hair loss, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional.

Are There Any Natural Remedies Or Home Treatments For Hair Loss?

While there is limited scientific evidence for the effectiveness of natural remedies, some people claim that certain herbs, oils, or supplements like saw palmetto, rosemary oil, or biotin can promote hair growth. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before trying any alternative treatments.

Dr Vinod Pachade

Dr. Vinod Pachade is the founder and director of the PVR Aesthetica Cosmetic Surgery Center. He is the member of Association of Plastic Surgeons of India (APSI) and also the winner of Asia Book of Records.

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