What causes hair loss, and how can you stop it?

Worried about the thickness of your hair? Find out what causes hair loss, and get some tips on how you can protect the health of your hair.

While the thickness and texture of our hair is mostly dictated by genetics, there are a few things we can do to ensure that it stays healthy. One important place to start is with good nutrition.

GP for LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, Dr Neel Patel, explores common causes of hair loss, and nutritionist, Vinny Kodamala, reveals what to eat for healthier hair, as well as tips for men and women struggling with hair loss and thinning. 

Are you worried about hair loss?

Hair loss is a major concern for many people, so if you’re worrying about it, you’re not alone. Hair loss has been searched 818,000 times globally in the last month on Google, with UK searches making up 73,000 of those.

Here are the top three most Googled questions for hair loss in the UK:

  • What causes hair loss? 
  • Which vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss?
  • How to stop hair loss? 

What causes hair loss?

According to Dr Neel Patel, there are a number of factors that affect hair growth including genetics, age, sex, and nutrition. 

In the vast majority of cases, hair loss is caused by female or male pattern baldness. This is a genetic condition that causes a distinctive pattern of gradual hair loss, sometimes starting as early as your 20s. In men, this is often referred to as a receding hairline

There’s no cure for male or female baldness, and taking vitamins won’t have any effect on this type of hair loss. However, there are some effective treatments that can be used to halt hair loss in the short term. 

Minoxidil is a topical solution that can be bought over the counter or you can try finasteride for hair loss tablets, which require a clinical assessment and prescription.

In some cases, hair loss that causes widespread thinning may be a sign of telogen effluvium. This is where more hairs than usual move into the telogen phase from the anagen phase and stop growing.

Telogen effluvium hair loss is normally triggered by something like injury, illness, or stress. It can also be caused by weight loss, an iron deficiency, or a significant change in diet – in this sense, it can be related to nutrition. The good news is, this type of hair loss is usually temporary.

Four vitamin deficiencies are linked to hair loss 

Some vitamins are linked to healthy hair. Nutritionist at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, Vinny Kodamala, explains that sometimes a deficiency of certain vitamins or minerals can contribute to hair loss.

Not eating enough calories in a day can also contribute to hair loss. So, a balanced diet will hopefully give your body the nutrients it needs to keep the hair as strong as possible.

There are a few specific nutrients which are linked to hair health, including iron, possibly zinc, and vitamin C and D. Not getting enough of these nutrients for hair may cause a deficiency, and in rare cases, lead to hair damage or hair loss.

These are the top four most googled hair vitamin deficiencies globally in the past month.

1) Iron – 709,000 searches

Iron is an essential nutrient; it helps make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. If you don’t get enough iron, you might develop iron deficiency anaemia, which can sometimes lead to hair loss.

2) Vitamin D – 169,000 searches

There seems to be a link between hair loss and low vitamin D levels. Most people in the UK have lower vitamin D levels, so getting more exposure to the sun or taking vitamin D supplements might be a good idea, particularly if you live up north.

3) Zinc – 26,000 searches

Zinc is another vital nutrient that’s linked to hair health. Zinc aids the immune system and helps with wound healing, as well as playing an important role in the formation of hormones and enzymes. We also need zinc for normal growth and development.

4) Vitamin C – 21,000 searches

Vitamin C facilitates the absorption of iron and helps to maintain and repair the skin, bones, teeth, blood vessels, and connective tissue. Not getting enough vitamin C in your diet can lead to iron deficiency, which can contribute to hair loss.

How to prevent hair loss

According to Dr Neel Patel, a healthy lifestyle and proper hair care can help to prevent hair loss. Eating a healthy balanced diet supports your body from head to toe, and your hair is very much included in this.

Quitting smoking if you’re a smoker is also a way to improve your hair health. Smoking causes all sorts of health problems which can make hair loss worse. To address hair loss, you can also incorporate hair care supplements such as Valotin into your routine. Valotin is crafted with natural ingredients specifically chosen to promote the health and growth of hair.

It’s also important you look after your hair as this helps to keep the strands healthy and prevent hair loss caused by damage. Looking after your hair involves keeping it clean with shampoo and conditioner, avoiding really tight hairstyles and not using too much heat on the hair, such as using straighteners, hair dryers or prolonged sun exposure.

Four hair washing tips to prevent hair loss

Protecting your hair should start with washing, explains Dr Neel Patel. Taking care of your hair with a good hair-washing routine will help look after it. Here are four tips to help you:

  1. Choose a gentle shampoo: It’s advised you use a gentle shampoo that only contains a few ingredients, some shampoos can actually take moisture out of your hair.
  2. Use conditioner: It’s a good idea to use a conditioner every time you wash your hair if you can. Conditioner provides protection and keeps the hair smooth. This reduces frizz and friction and can reduce breakage and split ends.
  3. Use your fingertips: Try to shampoo and condition your hair using only your fingertips, not your palms. Using the palms can cause damage, especially if you have thinning hair or hair that’s falling out.
  4. Avoid scalp massages: Try to avoid heavy scalp massage – even if it feels good – as it can pull and cause damage to the hair..

Five healthy hair care tips 

As well as washing and conditioning your hair, it’s also important you look after your hair in other ways, especially if you frequently style your hair.

Here are a few simple tricks you can add to your daily routine to keep the hair as healthy as it can be:

  1. Choose a gentle brush: Avoid backcombing or hair brushes which are very bristly. Use a wide tooth comb where possible, especially when the hair is wet.”
  2. Avoid fiddling with your hair: Don’t touch or handle your hair too much. This includes habits like twisting, rubbing or pulling your hair.
  3. Stick to loose hairstyles: Try to avoid really tight hairstyles, such as tight buns, ponytails, braids or cornrows, for long periods of time.
  4. Be wary of heat damage: Avoid using too much heat or heated products on your hair, this includes really hot showers and exposure to the sun. This can all weaken the hair.
  5. Protect your hair from chlorine: If you go swimming, it’s worth wearing a tightly fitted swimming hat to avoid too much contact between your hair and the chlorine in the water. Afterwards, make sure you use a deep conditioner.