What Causes Hair Loss?

What is normal hair loss?

On average, the adult head has 100,000 individual strands of hair and most people will shed between 40 and 120 of these per day. The reason for this is that hair growth follows a cycle. Cleverly named the hair growth cycle, it features three phases in which old hairs must be released to make way for new ones.

Your hair grows in three cycles:

1. Growing (Anagen Phase) - The hair actively grows. Normally lasts 2-8 years and grows up to 10 cm a year.

2.Transitional (Catagen Phase) - This is the transitional period where the hair follicle shrinks and the lower part of the follicle is destroyed. Normally lasts 2-4 weeks.

3. Resting (Telogen phase) - The hair no longer grows and after 2-4 months the hair falls out and the follicle enters the anagen/growing phase again.

Hair Loss occurs when the growing phase of the hair becomes shorter and the resting phase becomes longer. There is also an increasing amount of time between the end of the resting phase and the next growth phase, meaning that fewer hairs regrow.

What is abnormal hair loss?

Abnormal hair loss means you're losing more hairs than are being replaced. If this is the case, you'll probably be able to see more of your scalp than you used to, or you'll notice more hair than normal clogging up the plughole.

There are many reasons that could be to blame - a medical disorder, prescribed medication, poor nutrition, bad hair care techniques or severe stress such as emotional anxiety, surgery or prolonged illness.

But the most common cause – representing 95% of hair loss is a hereditary condition known as hereditary hair loss, male pattern baldness, female pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia. This is where the genes and hormones in your body have a shrinking effect on your hair follicles, making them ineffective at growing new hairs.

However, research into hair loss solely in relation to women suggests that it can often be directly related to a low level of oestrogen within the body, which is very apparent during menopause. The symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, osteoporosis and hair thinning are due to the loss of oestrogen from the body. As soy isoflavones actually mimic oestrogen within the body, it is possible that consuming soy products or supplements containing soy isoflavones could help reduce hair loss in women with low levels of oestrogen.

For other types of hair loss you should visit your GP for advice.