Apple cider vinegar Is Pilates for you? 'Ambient gaslighting' 'Main character energy'
Haircutting and Hairstyling

Are you losing your hair? A dermatologist breaks down some FAQs.

If you’ve noticed an excessive amount of hair shedding, a receding hairline, or that the hair on the crown of your head becoming increasingly sparse, you’re probably experiencing a form of hair loss. Losing your hair can be a distressing experience, but you’re not alone.

Understanding the underlying cause of your hair loss is absolutely necessary in determining the best approach to halt and reverse any further damage to your hair and scalp. Individualized treatment is key, and to break down the reasons you might be experiencing hair loss, USA TODAY spoke with Dr. Oma Agbai, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of Multicultural Dermatology and Hair Loss Disorders at UC Davis.

Why am I losing my hair?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s completely normal to shed anywhere between 50 to 100 strands of hair per day. However, if you’ve noticed more strands falling out of your head than normal, you may be experiencing alopecia, the medical term for hair loss. Common diagnoses include androgenetic alopecia, alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, and lymphocytic scarring alopecia, Agbai tells USA TODAY.

There are several reasons why you might be losing your hair. According to Agbai, genetics, hormonal shifts, stress, underlying medical conditions, nutritional deficiencies, and scalp inflammation are notable factors. 

What is baldness?

Androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern or female pattern baldness, is one of the most common types of hair loss, Agbai says. “The term ‘baldness’ implies that hair has thinned to the point of having an abnormally-visible scalp.” she says. “Not everyone with hair loss experiences baldness,” but “baldness can occur in severe cases.”

Baldness is often hereditary, and is activated by a shift in your hormones. If you’re experiencing elevated levels of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), your body will respond by shrinking your hair follicles and reducing the length of the hair growth cycle, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Agbai further explains that the “miniaturization” of hair follicles contributes to the “thinning of the hair shaft and eventual hair loss.” Male pattern baldness is typically characterized by a receding hairline, and the thinning of hair on the crown. People experiencing female pattern baldness may also notice a general thinning of hair on the top of your head, but hair loss typically won’t occur on the front of your scalp, per Harvard Health. 

What other common types of hair loss are there?

According to Healthline, other common types of alopecia include traction alopecia, telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA), and lichen planopilaris (LPP). 

Traction alopecia is the result of environmental factors, such as wearing your hair in tight hairstyles, Agbai says. Telogen effluvium refers to the excessive shedding of hair follicles, and it occurs when hair follicles prematurely skip to the end of the hair growth cycle, she adds. 

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that is characterized by “round patches of hair loss on the scalp,” although it can occur elsewhere on the body, Agbai says. While the exact reason for this type of hair loss is unknown, it is generally understood that “the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, leading to hair loss,” she adds.

CCCA and LPP fall under the umbrella of lymphocytic scarring alopecia. The telltale signs of  these conditions are chronic inflammation of the scalp and the scarring of hair follicles, which can result in irreversible hair loss, Agbai notes.  

How do I know which type of hair loss I have?

Hair loss is often the result of both genetic and environmental factors, so “understanding the complexities of hair loss means realizing the different types of hair loss may not fit neatly into categories,” Agbai says. It’s also possible to experience two forms of alopecia at the same time. “Each type of hair loss needs its own diagnosis and treatment, even if they're happening in the same person.”

Got thin hair?You're not alone. A primer on how to get thicker hair.

On the whole, it’s important that you speak with your doctor about any symptoms you’re experiencing. A dermatologist can provide a proper diagnosis, and select a personalized treatment that will help restore health to you hair and scalp. 

Featured Weekly Ad