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3 common causes of thinning hair and how to treat it

Hair loss isn't something you have to resign yourself to.

Written by
Sophie Overett
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
January 16, 2024
min read
3 common causes of thinning hair and how to treat it
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Whether you're rocking a modern hipster mullet or a man bun, afro, dreads, a military shave or a quiff, your hair can often feel central to your identity.

After all, hair is more than just vanity, just as it's about more than keeping your head warm — it's what helps you to feel like yourself and project the image that you want to the world around us. This is why when hair loss begins to happen, it can hit you hard.

Thinning hair is common for both men and women as they age, but that doesn't mean it's something you have to resign yourself to. Identifying the causes of hair loss and finding ways to promote hair growth will help you to curb your thinning hair and keep yourself feeling like yourself.

How does hair grow?

Understanding how hair grows is crucial to understanding why we lose hair. So, let's start at the top. Literally!

We're born with hair. In fact, people are born with roughly five million hair follicles all over the body, and it has both a sensory function — protecting us from cold and UV radiation — and acts as a physical indicator of health and youth [1].

Every hair, no matter where it grows on the body, has the same structure. A hair shaft, which is the hair itself, and the hair follicle, which is essentially the root of the hair.

Interestingly, hair follicles are the only part of the hair that's alive, while the hair shaft itself isn't living. That means all hair growth comes from the hair follicles [1].

Hair grows and sheds naturally in a cycle lasting between 3-6 years [2]. This cycle is broken into 3 phases: the anagen phase, the catagen phase, and the telogen phase (also known as telogen effluvium).

The anagen phase is the longest, lasting about 3 years on average, and it marks the period of hair growth. During this phase, new hair sprouts and grows at a steady pace, before the catagen phase stops the hair growth, creating what's known as a 'club hair' until finally, the telogen effluvium phase happens, which is where the hair falls [2].

Following the hair shedding, the anagen phase recommences, and the cycle starts over.

How much hair loss is normal?

Quite a lot! It's normal to lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day [3]. This type of hair loss is considered a natural part of life, and shouldn't cause emotional stress. A hair's natural cycle has simply come to an end and is set to restart.

That said, further hair loss could mean that there is an underlying medical condition that is impacting overall hair thinning.

What causes hair to start thinning?

There are many reasons hair loss occurs and the reasons range from lifestyle to medical factors to a family history of hereditary hair loss.

Sometimes these factors work in tangent with one another, and sometimes in isolation, but when looking at hair loss treatment, it's important to understand what it is that's causing your thinning hair.

After all, there's no point assuming that you're destined for complete baldness if you only have something like, say, traction alopecia.

Lifestyle causes of hair loss.

Often temporary hair loss is really just a matter of changes to your lifestyle, meaning that once the shock of the change has worn off, you should regrow hair naturally. These reasons can include:

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Tight hairstyles or helmets, which create a condition called traction alopecia
  • Recovering from an illness, particularly one involving a fever
  • Recovering from surgery; and
  • Extreme stress [3].

If you develop noticeable hair loss, it's important to ask yourself questions about your lifestyle first.

If any of the above is relevant to your life, they could very well be the cause of your losing hair. If you're unsure, speaking to a medical professional can help put your mind at rest.

Medical factors

Many medical conditions and medical treatments can cause hair loss and thinning hair in equal measure.

In most cases, these are the result of hormonal changes that are caused by either illness or treatment and are most commonly found in men in cancer treatment and radiation therapy.

Hereditary hair loss

Also known as androgenic alopecia and pattern baldness, hereditary hair loss is an autoimmune disorder affecting over 50% of men and women [2]. It's the result of a range of genetic and hormonal factors and occurs when male hormones interfere with healthy hair follicles.

Male pattern baldness is extremely common, particularly in caucasian men, and is considered the most common reason for thinning hair, a receding hairline, and hair loss [2].

What are the first signs of hair thinning?

As every person is unique, the types of hair loss people experience can appear very differently, and in different ways and places. In most cases though, hair suddenly thinning generally appears either as:

  • Temporal thinning, where you start to see hair thin at the temples.
  • A receding hairline
  • Frontal baldness; or
  • Patchy hair loss such as vertex baldness at the crown of the head [5].

Can thin hair become thick again?

Depending on the type of hair loss, and the reasons for it, hair can regain some of its density, but it's important to remember that there's no cure for medical conditions like androgenetic alopecia, only treatments that can slow hair loss down.

As a result, to prevent hair loss, the best thing you can do is look at early treatments, particularly if you know that hair loss runs in your family.

How to treat thinning hair

There are many ways to slow hair loss and encourage hair growth, and what treatment works best for you will depend on a multitude of factors including the type of hair loss you have, your lifestyle, your gender (as male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss can respond quite differently to medical treatments), your family history and your health.

In particular, hair loss treatment can include:

Oral medications

There are certain oral medications that are very successful in stopping hair loss and Pilot's keep your hair program does just that. This medication works by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) – a hormone that stops hair growth.

Our Australian practitioners get to the root cause of your hair loss and create a personalised treatment plan that will work for you. And, with this course of treatment, 83% of people keep their hair [6].

Topical treatments

Often appearing in the form of a cream, oil or shampoo, topical treatments are the least invasive of these hair loss treatments.

Topical treatments encourage hair growth by reopening closed hair follicles, extending the anagen phase and shortening the telogen phase, ensuring your hair stays growing for longer [7].

Pilot's keep and regrow your hair treatment plan combines oral medications and topical treatments to both stop hair loss while also improving the delivery of vital nutrients to the follicles.

66% of people using this topical treatment regrow their hair and when coupled with oral medications, it can make a real difference to your hair [8].

Low-level laser therapy

This therapy has been found to stimulate hair follicles and encourage your body to regrow hair. It also increases blood flow and functions as an anti-inflammatory.

Microneedling or derma rolling

Microneedling, also known as derma rolling, is a treatment that involves rolling tiny needles over your scalp in a way that generates blood flow, stimulates hair follicles and promotes hair growth.

A recent peer-reviewed study found that microneedling was the most effective hair growth treatment, with 82% of people in the study finding over 50% improvement over twelve weeks [9]. A microneedling Derma Roller can be found in Pilot's Hair Growth Booster Kit.

If you are experiencing hair loss, it's best to speak to a medical professional help you to identify the best pathway forwards. Our Pilot practitioners are ready to assist you when you need it.

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