In a perfect world, hair follicles would follow the growth cycle exactly as planned. At any moment, over 90% of your hair follicles would be enjoying more than two years in their growth phase before gracefully transitioning to a few months of resting. And then finally, five to 10 percent of your hair would gently shed away, making room for more growth and leaving you with tons of thick, healthy hair.
But thanks to the sensitivity of our hair follicles, a number of influences can to put so much stress on the hair growth cycle that the whole business is derailed, leaving you with sudden, noticeable hair changes like thinning and loss.
Get Hair, Health & Science News
Unfortunately, there’s not a single influence responsible for sudden hair thinning, but rather a handful of root causes. Keep reading to learn the five root causes of hair thinning, as well as tips for combatting this multifactorial problem with a multi-targeted solution.
Root Cause #1: Stress
It may surprise you to hear that your emotional stress has a big impact on the hairs growth cycle. We tend to think of our hair follicles as little factories of hair production, but in truth, they’re also sensory organs. Because of this, they can be incredibly sensitive to stress and changes in their environment. When we feel stress in our body, this sends the stress hormone cortisol shooting around. When it comes to your hair follicle, too much cortisol can derail the growth phase and send it on the road to premature hair shedding. When this keeps happening, you’re left with a cycle of lots of hair shedding with very little hair growth in between. For relief, stress can be supported with the use of adaptogen herbs such as ashwagandha and rhodiola, which support the body in its resilience to daily stressors.
Root Cause #2: Hormones
Hormones have a lot of pull on how our body functions and can cause a big stir with our hair growth. For women, natural fluctuations in hormones of pregnancy can impact hair after giving birth. Usually, this change passes on its own with a bit of time. But for both men and women, the androgen hormone DHT, a form of testosterone, can cause long-term effects on hair, leading to thinning and loss. Too much DHT causes unnecessary binding to receptors of our hair follicles, influencing our hair shafts to miniaturize and thin. While DHT commonly shows a greater and earlier influence on men, women with higher amounts of androgens than others, as well as hormonal shifts during menopause, can be more susceptible to its influence later in life. Popular DHT-inhibiting support can be found in herbs such as saw palmetto and ginseng and plants such as kelp.
Root Cause #3: Environment
Our everyday environment has the power to wreak havoc so deeply in us that it can impact the machinery of our cells and gene expression. Stressors from our environment can cause oxidative stress, the culprit blamed for various signs of aging. These environmental stressors can come in the form of air pollution, exposure to heavy metals like mercury, or UV radiation from too much sun or use of tanning beds. It doesn’t help that our natural ability to produce antioxidants decreases as we get older. This, coupled with the fact that environmental damage impairs our hair follicles’ ability to keep renewing themselves, can lead to hair thinning and loss. Amping up internal support of antioxidants and using supplements that include vitamin C and astaxanthin may help in this daily battle with your environment.
Root Cause #4: Metabolism
The importance of the everyday processes that enable you to get energy from your food to fuel cells (like those in your hair follicles) can’t be stressed enough. You may have heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” but it should actually be, “you are what you absorb.”
Our digestive function needs to be fully up to the task of breaking down our food choices in order for us to absorb those important nutrients. An imbalance in your gut flora is one of the things that can easily throw off digestive function. Your flora are the beneficial bacteria that live in your digestive tract, helping to co-digest your food, support your immune system, and even create some very important nutrients that help your hair health. And unfortunately, your flora are sensitive to both physical and emotional stress. Imbalances in your flora pave the way for inflammation, decreased security on what can travel through your intestines and into your greater body, and systemic disease. Taking a probiotic can help balance out your own gut flora, saving you from these unpleasant downstream developments.
It’s also important to make sure nothing is getting in the way of the signals needed to tell your body, “Alright, time to go into digestion mode.” If you’re too stressed to relax, or other influences like illness get in the way of your body signaling your gastrointestinal (GI) track to get your digestive juices flowing, you may not be able to get what you need from your meal. If your digestive functioning needs a little help, it may be beneficial to support it with oral digestive enzymes to ensure your GI has everything it needs to properly break down your nutrients.
Root Cause #5: Nutrition
Not getting the proper nutrition to fuel the hair growth cycle can have a big impact on hair. Our follicles are incredibly active organs requiring sufficient nutrients and energy to keep sustaining hair growth. Not getting adequate amounts of calories, or skipping on important components to your hair (like minerals, essential fatty acids, and vitamins), can lead to changes in your hair’s structure and even hair loss. Nutrients of specific importance include zinc, selenium, biotin, B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E. As our hair is largely made from the protein keratin, ensuring your diet contains rich sources of protein is also important to support optimal hair growth
How can I stop my hair from thinning?
Because hair thinning can stem from so many different factors, a multifactorial approach is the way to go. Research has shown that taking daily support from a supplement formulation targeting each of these potential offenders is your best bet for supporting an unhealthy inflammatory response, stress, unmet nutrient needs, and oxidative damage that can be behind hair thinning.
In Nutrafol products, high-quality, standardized extracts of the most clinically-active components of ingredients are combined to address all the major root causes of poor hair health. Care is taken to source ingredients from potent, nutrient-rich sources, such as vitamin C extracted from camu-camu fruit and saw palmetto extracted with practices ensuring superior activity of the desired constituents.
Click here to learn about Nutrafol’s formulations for women, men, and women experiencing menopause.