Why Do We Lose Our Hair?

La Jolla plastic surgeon talks about why people lose their hair.

Myths persist about hair loss, even in this age of information. There are a number of genetic and environmental reasons why certain people have thinning hair or bald spots, but washing your hair too much isn’t one of them. We thoroughly review the medical histories of patients seeking hair transplants at my San Diego-area practice to figure out the reasons for someone’s hair loss, basing our diagnoses on science rather than guesswork.

The most common reason for hair loss in men is androgenic alopecia, commonly known as male pattern baldness. Male pattern baldness is a genetic condition that is characterized by a hormonal sensitivity that gradually shortens the growth phase of the hair follicles at the front and crown of the head. Because follicles around the ears and at the back of the head aren’t affected, they can be used in hair transplant procedures.

Other, less common, reasons for hair loss include:

  • Thyroid problems: Because the thyroid regulates the body’s hormone levels, a thyroid disorder could cause hair loss.
  • Scalp infections: An infection that penetrates the scalp may result in hair loss, although it’s usually temporary.
  • Certain skin conditions: A disease that causes scarring, such as some types of lupus, can lead to permanent hair loss.
  • Physical or emotional shock: Sudden physical or emotional trauma can actually trigger hair loss.
  • Environmental factors: Silicone-based shampoos and heavy waxes choke the scalp, and heavy smoking is also linked to hair loss.

What about wearing a ball cap? That causes men to go bald, right?

No, wearing a hat or helmet doesn’t cause hair loss, just as washing your hair “too much” won’t result in thinning hair. There’s also no truth to the idea that poor circulation in your scalp is the reason for going bald, so standing on your head for hours won’t help.

The best thing anyone worried about hair loss can do is to visit a physician with the training and experience to diagnose the cause based on a physical evaluation and medical history.

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