Nothing is worse than running your fingers through your hair, only to find that your hair is thinning, breaking, or worse, falling out. Most of us know that things like bleach or using heat products can weaken hair, but there are a number of surprising habits that cause hair loss. Staying away from these habits can help ensure your locks stay thick and healthy — and more importantly, remain on your head.
"Hair loss can be due to a variety of reasons, but most commonly occurs as a result of your genetics," Dr. Shereene Idriss of Union Square Laser Dermatology tells Bustle. "If most women in your family have thinned out hair, it may be because they have higher levels of androgens [hormones like testosterone] circulating in their system. The cause is often hereditary, but can also happen due to a hormonal imbalance brought on by pregnancy, birth control pills or even menopause. If, however, you suspect you are losing your hair, but all the women in your family have a full head of hair, it is important that you be evaluated for anemia, thyroid dysfunction, vitamin D deficiency, and autoimmune disorders."
Some hair loss occurs normally as part of the typical hair growth cycle: Daily hair loss of about 50 to 100 hairs is considered the usual amount. However, if you start to notice thinning hair across your scalp or an uptick of hair present on your morning pillow do not fret — a visit with your dermatologist may be able to help find solutions to the issue.
Here are seven surprising habits that can lead to hair loss over time.
1. Wearing Tight Hair Styles
Tight ponytails and french braids may be easy hair styles, but excessive tugging on the hair can lead to hair loss over time. "Wearing braids or extensions that are too tight for a long period of time can lead to permanent hair loss," dermatologist Dr. William Kwan tells Bustle. "This is called traction alopecia." The solution? Keep braids or ponytails a bit looser, this way your hair isn't tugged too tightly from the roots.
2. Extreme Changes To Your Eating Habits
If you are currently undergoing a lifestyle change, while also changing your eating habits, dramatic shifts could cause hair loss because you are not getting the nutrients necessary to nourish your hair. "Hair is mostly made up of protein, and as such, your body requires enough of it in order to make it," says Idriss. If you are at risk for not getting enough protein, discuss with a doctor or a nutritionist ways to integrate protein back into your diet in a way that suits your lifestyle.
3. Stressing Out
"Our body is very protective of our most important functions for sustaining life," dermatologist Shari Hicks-Graham, MD, FAAD tells Bustle. "If it realizes that we need more energy (blood flow) to go to our heart, lungs, or brain as a result of stress of any kind, our body won't send as much nutrition through blood flow to the scalp. As a result, our hair growth may slowed down, or we may experience a large amount of hair loss as a result." Luckily, once your stress is managed, your hair will grow back. But if you are having difficulties managing stress, speaking with a loved one or a professional, like a therapist, can help you develop self-care strategies for yourself throughout the day.
4. Taking Medications
Certain medications interact with people's chemistry in a different way, and may cause hair loss as a result. "An [extreme] example is with chemotherapeutic drugs for cancer, but it can happen as a result of high blood pressure meds, antidepressants or even birth control meds," says Hicks-Graham. If you are noticing hair loss as a side effect of a new medication you are taking, talk with your doctor about dosage or alternatives to help solve this issue.
5. Twirling Your Hair
Many of us play with our hair, but all that unconscious pulling of the hair can weaken your tresses. "We may not realize that twisting or pulling on the hair as a habit can result in hair loss, but it can," says Hicks-Graham. "An extreme form is called trichotillomania," an impulse control disorder that causes a person to pull out their hair. If you think your hair twirling or pulling has become a habit that is hard to control, speaking with a loved one or a therapist may help you find ways to alleviate the compulsion.
6. Not Getting Enough Iron
If you're not eating a balanced foods and your body is low in iron, your hair can suffer. "Other triggers of hair loss are low iron storage, common in menstruating women who don't eat a ... diet rich in nutrients," Dr. Lisa Rhodes, chief of dermatology at Westlake Dermatology, tells Bustle. If you are iron deficient, your doctor can help you find ways to incorporate iron more into your lifestyle.
7. Scratching Your Scalp
Scratching your head may feel like no big deal, but excessive scratching can affect your hair growth. "Dandruff is common on the scalp and may lead to dry, itchy scalp," dermatologist Dr. Jordan Carqueville tells Bustle. "It is important to take care of this condition to avoid trauma and irritation to the hair follicles by repeated scratching or picking. Anti-dandruff shampoos can help."
It can be hard to tell what has caused hair loss, so if you're wondering what's happening with your health, consult your dermatologist to get to the bottom of it.