Hair Loss FAQs, Answered
A collection of the most commonly asked questions around hair loss and the available treatments, answered by our Pharmica experts!
Updated: Thursday 06 July 2023
Hair loss is a very common condition, meaning there is a sea of information available online which is not always verified. This can be daunting if you are looking for accurate, definitive and quick answers. In this article we explore and answer some of the most frequently asked questions on the condition.
1. What are the different types of hair loss?
There are several different types of hair loss. The most common types include:
- Alopecia areata: this is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system targets and attacks healthy hair follicles by mistake. This leads to the hair follicles shrinking down and falling out in random patches. It is still unclear why the body sends white blood cells to attack the hair follicles, but research shows there may be a connection to genetics - 10-20% of people with alopecia areata have a family member who also has the condition .
- Alopecia totalis: this is a chronic condition involving a complete loss of hair on the scalp, affecting a small number of those with alopecia areata.
- Alopecia universalis: this form of hair loss is an autoimmune disorder involving the loss of hair all over the body, including on the scalp, body, eyebrows and eyelashes.
- Androgenetic alopecia: this genetic condition is also known as male or female pattern baldness, as it involves the hair being lost in a well-defined pattern.
- Telogen effluvium: this condition involves large numbers of scalp hair follicles entering the resting phase of hair growth (telogen), but the issue arises when the next growth phase does not start. This leads to hair falling out without new hair growth occurring. Typically, this form of hair loss does not lead to complete baldness but you can lose between 300 - 500 hairs each day.
2. What is the most common form of hair loss?
The most common form of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness. This form of hair loss is hereditary, but can be managed with medication. According to research, male pattern baldness affects up to 80% of men over the course of their lives  and around 7.4 million men in the UK . The age at which onset of androgenetic alopecia in men is likely to occur is typically between 20 - 25 years, with the prevalence and severity of the condition increasing with age.
3. What is the difference between hair loss and hair shedding?
Hair shedding typically refers to the 50 - 100 hairs we lose every day, as part of the ongoing hair growth cycle. This is a normal process, and the hair strands that are lost are usually replaced by new hair growth. Hair loss refers to the condition known as alopecia, or ‘balding’ whereby hair follicles begin to shrivel up and fall out, thinning the hair as a whole.
4. How much hair loss is normal?
It’s normal to lose hair every day. Typically men and women lose between 50 and 100 hairs each day, and the majority of hair is lost when brushing, washing or drying the hair.
5. What causes hair loss?
Hair loss can have a variety of causes - some we have control over and some we don’t, including:
- Hormone levels
- Medical conditions
- Cosmetic hair procedures
- Burns or injuries
6. How does stress impact hair health?
There are three hair loss types that are associated with high stress levels. These are:
- Telogen effluvium: stress can cause large amounts of hair follicles to enter the resting phase of the hair growth cycle, without the next growth phase starting. The affected hair follicles may then fall out over a period of several months.
- Trichotillomania: this hair loss condition involves an irresistible urge to pull out clumps of hair from the scalp, eyebrows, eyebrows or other parts of the body. The hair pulling can begin as a way of dealing with feelings of stress.
- Alopecia areata: this form of hair loss can be triggered by stress. It’s not entirely clear as to why this occurs, but it has been theorised that an increase in stress hormones can impact the immune system, causing it to target and attack random hair follicles.
7. What is seasonal hair loss?
Seasonal hair loss involves hair strands falling out at an increased rate due to changes in weather patterns and temperatures that occur because of shifting seasons. The exact cause of seasonal hair loss is still unclear, but evidence shows that this condition is more likely to occur in women than men and that this phenomenon is more likely to occur during autumn.
8. How does diet affect your hair health?
When it comes to factors that can impact your hair health, there are some that you have little control over, such as genetics, age and the effects of medications. However one factor that has a huge impact on hair health that you can control, is your diet. In order for your hair to be healthy and progress through the hair follicle growth cycle without issue, you need to ensure you are consuming an adequate intake of vitamins whilst eating a balanced diet.
Research has shown that saturated and unsaturated fatty acids make up the majority of hair lipid content, meaning they play a pivotal role in keeping the hair healthy and strong . Previous studies have also shown that omega-3 fatty acids in particular can help move hair follicles into their active growth phase, boosting growth . You can find fatty acids in fish (salmon, herrings, sardines), extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts and avocados.
In regards to the vitamins and minerals that can promote hair health, these include:
- Iron (found in beans, dried fruit, red meat and fortified breakfast cereals)
- Vitamin D (found in oily fish, red meat, egg yolks and liver)
- Vitamin A (found in cheese, eggs, oily fish and yoghurt)
- Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli and potatoes)
- Vitamin E (found in plant oils, nuts, seeds and pumpkin)
- Zinc (found in red meat, shellfish, eggs and nuts)
- Magnesium (found in dark chocolate, avocados, nuts and whole grains)
9. How can you boost hair growth?
Depending on what form of hair loss you are experiencing and the underlying cause, it may not always be possible to boost hair growth. However for some hair loss conditions, there are a number of methods that have been recommended to boost hair growth and stimulate the hair follicles, including:
- Essential oils (such as rosemary oil, pumpkin seed oil and peppermint oil)
- Scalp massages
- Reducing heat styling and drying
- Eating a nutritious and balanced diet
- Staying hydrated
- Taking a daily multivitamin
- Avoid brushing hair too much
10. What treatment options are available for hair loss?
If you are experiencing hair loss but still have active hair follicles, there are several treatments that may be available to help to reverse the effects of hair loss. These include:
- Minoxidil: this is a topical hair loss treatment found in Regaine Foam and Regaine Solution that works by increasing blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles. This stimulates the hair’s growth phase and strengthens the remaining strands of hair by increasing their size and diameter. There are separate Regaine treatments available for men and women.
- Finasteride: this is an oral solution that works to reduce hair loss by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha reductase from converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) - an androgen that causes the hair to thin and slows hair growth.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association, 2022. Hair Loss Types: Alopecia Areata Causes
- K York et al, 2020. A review of the treatment of male pattern hair loss. Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy 21(5), 603–612.
- Men’s Health Forum, 2014. Hair Loss FAQs
- Marsh JM, Whitaker S, Felts T, Shearouse W, Vatter M, Määttä A, Thompson M, Hawkins TJ, 2018. Role of Internal Lipids in Hair Health. J Cosmet Sci. 69(5):347-356. PMID: 30767883.
- Kang JI, Yoon HS, Kim SM, et al, 2018. Mackerel-Derived Fermented Fish Oil Promotes Hair Growth by Anagen-Stimulating Pathways. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(9):2770. doi:10.3390/ijms19092770