Hair loss is a common problem for men and women, and can be caused for a number of reasons.
While half of men will experience male pattern baldness by the age of 50 – often due to genetics – women can lose their locks too.
A common cause is pregnancy, and postpartum hair loss tends to affect women after they give birth. Thinning hair can also happen because of stress or certain conditions.
Your hairdresser will usually be able to alert you to unexplained hair loss possibly caused by a medical problem, and would recommend you see a GP as soon as possible.
“If hair loss is more a result of an underlying health condition there are some things to look out for,” explained Edward James, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Edward James Salons and Spas (edwardjameslondon.com), who also recently spotted melanoma skin cancer on the scalps of two women.
“Hair loss around the hairline and temples can often be a result of a hormonal imbalance or a thyroid issue.”
However, everyday habits may be the real trigger for hair breakage. Do you do any of these on a regular basis?
Tying hair up in a tight top knot
If you tie your hair up a lot in a ponytail or bun it could be causing hair loss.
“When done repeatably, tying your hair up using certain hair ties, and if it’s tied tightly, can cause hair loss and breakage,” explained James.
“It causes excessive strain on the hair and hair follicles which weakens the part of the hair near the hair tie.”
He acknowledged that in most cases this is only temporary, but warned that if pressure is repeatedly caused on the hair it could become permanent.
Tying hair up straight after washing before you o to sleep is particularly damaging.
“The hair is very fragile when damp, and if it’s then rubbed against a pillow it could cause more breakage,” said James.
He recommended wearing hair down whenever possible to avoid hair loss and breakage, and that if hair is put up in a top knot to keep it loose and soft.
Using shampoo containing damaging ingredients
Certain hair products may be causing your unexplained hair loss due to their harmful ingredients.
James explained one of the most common culprits was sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS).
“It makes shampoo bubbly and lather up, but in the products of certain brands – where it is enlisted by manufacturers to make hair thicker – it can be as harsh on our hair as a household cleaning product,” he explained.
“But in fact it has the effect of stripping the hair of its natural oils and breaks down the protein in the hair. This can also cause a dry itchy scalp which encourages hair loss.”
James added that if the shampoo also contains fragrances not made from essential oils it can leave you with more irritation to the scalp.
As well as SLS, he recommended avoiding shampoos and conditioners containing isopropyl alcohol, proplyene glycol (PG) and polyethylene glycol.
“These ingredients are used in many industrial strength cleaners for car engines and household items, however they are becoming increasingly used in certain drug store shampoo brands,” he said.
“In short, if it can degrease an engine it shouldn’t be going near your lovely locks.”
He recommended choosing products containing natural ingredients, with low PH levels, no or naturally-derived sulphates and minimal fragrances.
Eating a restrictive diet
As well as being essential for glowing skin, ensuring we fuel up on a wide range of vitamins and minerals can help ward off hair loss too.
If you don’t consume a lot of meat, fish, eggs, pulses or green leafy vegetables, you may find yourself with thinning hair.
That’s because they are all rich in iron, a key mineral.
“If hair falls out without much tension being applied this can be a result of a dietary imbalance, and can often indicate an iron deficiency,” said James.
Enjoying foods rich in vitamin B12 and zinc could also help us keep grey hair at bay.