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Hair Problems

It can be long and wavy, short and straight, frizzy and unmanageable, or smooth and shiny. Hair comes in many different lengths, styles, colors, and textures. Yet just about everyone -- no matter what kind of hair they have -- falls prey to at least one hair problem at some point in life.

This article covers some of the most common hair dilemmas, from hair loss to greasy hair.

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Gray Hair

Some people consider gray hair as something that makes them looked distinguished; for others, it's a reminder that they're getting older. However you feel about it, gray or white hair is pretty much inevitable with age (if you're fortunate enough to still have hair in your later years).

Scientists have put a lot of effort into investigating the cause of gray hair, and they believe they've gotten to the root of the problem. Hair gets its color from a pigment called melanin, which is produced by melanocyte cells in the hair follicles. Researchers have discovered that melanocytes endure cumulative damage over the years, which eventually leaves them unable to produce melanin. Studies have cited DNA damage and a buildup of hydrogen peroxide in the follicles as possible causes of this disruption in melanin production. Without melanin, the new hair that grows in has no pigment, which makes it appear gray, white, or silver.

Some people start to go gray young -- as early as their teens. When graying begins usually is determined by genes, so if your mother or father became gray early, you may too. If you are one of those people who don't find gray hair distinguished, you can easily cover your gray with one of the many different hair dyes available.

Hair Loss

Normally, hair goes through a regular growth cycle. During the anagen phase, which lasts three to four years, the hair grows. During the telogen phase, which lasts about three months, the hair rests. At the end of the telogen phase, the hair falls out and is replaced by new hair.

The average person loses about 100 hairs each day. Hair loss also can have other causes, including drugs or disease.

As they age, men tend to lose the hair on top of their head, which eventually leaves a horseshoe-shaped ring of hair around the sides. This type of hair loss is called male-pattern baldness. It's caused by genes (from both parents -- the idea that men take after their mother's father is a myth) and it's fueled by the male hormone, testosterone. In female-pattern baldness, the hair loss is different -- it thins throughout the top of the scalp, leaving the hair in front intact.

A number of disorders can cause the hair to fall out. People who have an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata lose hair on their scalp, as well as on other parts of their body. Other health conditions that can cause excess hair loss include:

  • Medications such as antidepressants, retinoids, NSAIDs, blood thinners, birth control pills and other hormonal treatments, high blood pressure medications, chemotherapy, and radiation
  • Severe infections
  • Major surgery
  • Overactive or underactive thyroid
  • Other hormonal problems
  • Severe stress
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus
  • Fungal infections of the scalp
  • Pregnancy and childbirth

WebMD Medical Reference

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