What could have been excused as a bad hair day has worn out its welcome. Much like stray strands to your pillow, they’re sticking around. You are dealing with hair loss.

Take a measure of comfort in the fact that what you’re going through is common. About 60 percent of us experience hair loss. Throughout our lives, we tend to lose about 50 to 100 hairs a day—and up to 250 on the days we wash our hair—but the losses can become more prominent as we get older. Most women notice it in their 50s and 60s, but hair loss, or alopecia, can happen at any age.

Reasons can range widely. Among the causes of hair loss are:  

  • stress
  • childbirth
  • trauma
  • side effects of medications
  • infection
  • metabolic syndrome
  • hormonal shifts
  • illnesses
  • chemical sensitivities
  • hairstyles that pull on the hair
  • the genetic lottery

The most common cause of alopecia is genetic. This type of hair loss is divided into male-pattern baldness (receding hairline from the front through and beyond the top of the scalp) and female-pattern baldness (diffuse thinning hair that begins on all areas of the scalp). Pattern hair loss typically begins at the age of 50 and affects half of men and a quarter of women.

Stress can lead us to shed hair, too. When scientists exposed hair follicles to substance P, a stress-related neurochemical, theybecame dormant. In another experiment, researchers exposed healthy mice to repelling sounds every 15 seconds for 24 hours. Their follicles became inactive at much higher rates than the follicles of relaxed mice. According to the American Hair Loss Association, when we go through a traumatizing event, like childbirth or surgery or malnutrition, many of the 90 percent of hair that are normally in the anagen (growing) or catagen (resting) phase can shift into the telogen (shedding) phase between six weeks to three months after the stressful event.

Take heart though: The American Academy of Dermatology reassures us that most causes of hair loss can be stopped or treated. Even hereditary-style baldness can improve with treatment.

Whatever the reason for your hair loss may be, there are steps you can take to control it.

  • Inform yourself. Knowledge is power. Get it from the helpful guides
  • Consult your physician or a dermatologist. Determine what may be causing your hair loss and determine a suitable treatment. Treatments can include taking a medication, discontinuing alopecia-causing medications, or changing your hairstyle (for example, you can consider an attractive wig.

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