Why Is My Hair Falling Out?--Causes and Top 10 Natural Remedies
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What Is My Hair Falling Out?--Causes and Top 10 Natural Remedies

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Last updated August 1, 2016 (originally published January 13, 2010)
By MUIREANN PRENDERGAST, Contributing Columnist

How do you feel when finding a bald patch?  Embarrassed?  Stressed?  Sad? Maybe all of these things at once? However, hair loss is much more than an aesthetic issue-- it is also a medical one. Here we will look at the various causes of hair loss. We will also try to answer the questions asked by everyone who has ever found a bald patch. Is there anything we can do to restore hair that has fallen out? Are there natural remedies that can help?

What is Alopecia?

There are many types of hair loss, known medically as alopecia. The two main strands are androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata.

Androgenetic Alopecia

A 2000 study carried out at Canada's Vancouver Hospital asserted that androgenetic alopecia or pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss, affecting 50% of men by age 50 and 20-53% of women worldwide by the same age. In men this kind of alopecia usually starts as a receding hairline and thins towards the crown of the head.

Alopecia Areata

According to the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a body of the National Institute of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease affecting the hair follicles or the skin from where the hair grows, that causes hair to fall out in men, women and children. The Institute explains that the disease affects people to different degrees. Some people lose small round patches of hair. Others lose more hair. However, it is rare that all head and body hair would be lost as a result of it. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology explains that the disease affects 1% of the American population, with children being the dominant group among those affected by alopecia areata.

Causes of Androgenetic Alopecia

A 2004 study carried out at Germany's Universitts-Hautklinik in Marburg, explained that androgenetic alopecia is caused by the sensitivity of hair follicles to hormones called androgens. It can be genetic. It can also be caused by chemical factors that might lead to an increase in the body's production of androgens. Androgenetic alopecia can also be caused by high insulin levels and diabetes.

Causes of Alopecia Areata

A 1950 clinical study carried out at the Rupert Hallam Department of Dermatology Royal Infirmary, Sheffield, England found that up to 19% of cases of alopecia areata had a previous family history of the disease. Factors that prompted an episode of hair loss were found to be most commonly psychological including stress, shock and anxiety. Other causes of alopecia areata were found by the study to be viral infections such as measles and influenza. The study also concluded that local trauma and hormonal changes such as those occurring during pregnancy could also cause the disease.

A 1999 study carried out Virgin Macarena University Hospital, Seville, Spain, found that certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also lead to alopecia.

Radiation therapies and medications like chemotherapy can also cause alopecia according to a 2006 study undertaken by the College of Pharmacy at Ohio's State University.

Top 10 Natural Remedies for Alopecia

We've scoured our resources to find a list of natural remedies for alopecia. Remember to check with your medical practitioner before consuming any of the suggestions below.

1. Essential (and Carrier) Oils

A 1999 Scottish study carried out at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, found that essential oils (thyme, rosemary, lavender, cedarwood) when mixed with carrier oils (jojoba, grapeseed) and massaged into the scalp daily showed increased hair growth in 44% of participants in the study.

2. Onion Juice

A 2002 study carried out at the Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Baghdad Teaching Hospital, Iraq found that crude onion juice, when rubbed into the head of sufferers of alopecia areata, was significantly more effective in promoting hair growth than tap water when applied to the skin twice daily over a two-month period.

3. Soy

In a 2003 study on mice at Philipp University, Marburg, Germany, found that the regular consumption of dietary soy oil content could increase resistance to the onset of alopecia.

4. Hypnosis

A 2010 Belgian study undertaken at Vrije University Brussel found that 10 individual sessions of hypnosis was effective in improving the effects of alopecia areata when carried out over a 6 month period. The study found that hypnosis reduced levels of stress and anxiety in patients and that this psychological improvement contributed to the symptoms of alopecia.

5. Massage

In a 1994 study by Cameron University, Oklahoma, daily hair massage was used as a treatment for alopecia in a 16 year old boy. The study found that after 3 months the hair loss stopped and that in the remaining 4 months new hair growth was evinced. The study concluded that massage reduced the stress and anxiety often thought to trigger alopecia.

6. Saw Palmetto

A 2002 study carried out by the Clinical Research and Development Network, Aurora, Colorado, found that extract of Saw Palmetto, a native fan palm indigenous to the Florida region of the US, effective in reducing hair loss. The study found that an oral administration of 400 mg to 10 men daily over a 5 month period saw a 60% in hair growth.

7. Iron

A 2010 study carried out at Duke University Medical Hospital in Durham, North Carolina found that iron deficiency can play a role in female pattern hair loss. Iron supplements can help redress this deficiency.  (Read more about the Top 10 foods high in iron.)

By the way, certain things you do block your body's ability to absorb iron. One is drinking too much tea. Another is getting too much Vitamin D.

8. Zinc

Zinc supplements can also reduce hair loss according to a 2007 study carried out at Cold Spring Medical Center, Kentucky. This study found that when given a 50 mg zinc supplement daily for 6 months, a four year old girl's severe hair loss stopped in three weeks with no further loss after 4 months.

9. Folic Acid

Folic acid supplements can also halt hair loss according to a 1988 study undertaken on cattle at University of Guelph, Canada when administered as 1mg/kg per day over a two month period.

10. Biotin

A 1999 study carried out at Virgin Macarena University Hospital, Seville, Spain, found that deficiency of Biotin, a water soluble vitamin sometimes referred to as Vitamin H or Vitamin B7, can lead to hair loss. Egg yolk and liver are natural sources of Biotin.

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