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5 Hair Loss Causes That Have Nothing To Do With Underlying Health Conditions

By Marta Manning
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer T. Haley, MD, FAAD on November 18, 2020
Hair loss is not always a symptom of disease. Learn how lifestyle factors and family history can contribute to losing your hair.

Pinpointing what is causing your hair loss symptoms can be difficult. There are many different types of hair loss,  and some can arise without any underlying medical condition. Your primary care provider and dermatologist can help you identify hair loss causes and develop a treatment plan specifically for you that may include lifestyle changes.

The following are contributing factors that can lead to hair loss:

1. Medications

Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause hair loss as a side effect. This can happen when the medication forces actively-growing hair follicles to go into the resting phase and shed (telogen effluvium) or prevent developing cells from dividing (anagen effluvium).

Pharmacist Jessica Nouhavandi, PharmD tells WebMD Connect to Care that a wide range of medications can contribute to hair loss. The list includes:

  • Blood pressure medications
  • Antidepressants/mood stabilizers 
  • Birth control pills 
  • Gout medications
  • Vitamin A and E

2. Diet

Dietary deficiencies, including low levels of protein, iron, zinc, selenium, Vitamin D, and biotin can also cause your hair to become thinner and fall out. According to a 2019 study in Dermatology and Therapy, micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals, keep hair healthy by assisting cellular turnover and boosting immune cell function. Luckily, hair loss caused by gaps in your diet and the lack of these nutrients is usually reversible.

3. Genetic Hair Loss

Hair loss is not always a symptom of a disease. It could also be due to your genetic makeup. Androgenetic alopecia, also known as male and female pattern baldness, is known to run in families with genetic contributions from both the mother and father's side.  

“Androgenetic alopecia is hormone related for men, which causes their hair follicles to have a shorter than average life span making the hair shafts thin and short,” dermatologist Alain Michon, MD tells WebMD Connect to Care. “For women, it's due to abnormal levels of hormones in the blood. Experts believe that it is due to genetics and many other unknown factors for both men and women.” Even though it is genetic, it can be treated if addressed early with your board-certified dermatologist.

4. Stress

“Stress is a known cause of hair loss and it is very commonly seen after someone goes through a big emotional or physical stress,” OB/GYN Wendy Askew, MD tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“Having a baby, having surgery, being in an accident, experiencing a serious illness, or a loss such as the death of a family member can often cause hair loss – telogen effluvium.” The hair loss will usually occur 3-6 months after the trigger.

Stressful situations lead to spikes in the stress hormone cortisol, which can disrupt hair growth at the follicle level, according to a 2016 article in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology entitled "Stress and the Hair Growth Cycle: Cortisol-Induced Hair Growth Disruption. A 2017 study in PLOS One suggests that stress can also lead to temporary changes in the immune system that can hinder hair growth.

5. Damaging Hairstyles

Wearing your hair pulled back tightly in hairstyles like buns, ponytails, or braids can cause a condition called traction alopecia. The pulling weakens hair strands and can eventually damage the scalp. In this case, you may begin to see broken hairs, hair thinning, and bald spots along the frontal hairline.

“The condition can be reversed if the hair styling is discontinued earlier on in the process,” dermatologist Robin Evans, MD tells WebMD Connect to Care. “If the hair styling continues for many years, the follicles can be permanently destroyed and the hair will not regrow.”

Get Help Now

Don’t wait. The sooner you address the symptoms of hair loss, the more likely you are to prevent irreversible damage. Speak to a medical professional today to begin your journey to a fuller head of hair.